Fans were rightfully upset following a season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos that wasn’t as close as the final score. But this loss might be one of the most frustrating and painful in recent memory. The game itself was an emotional roller coaster, starting on a high, followed by a precipitous drop, then another high, followed by twists, turns, and some bunny-hop hills to make sure your stomach was in your throat.
And then the train derailed.
This is a game that fans will probably want to move on from, enjoy the free weekend, and then hope to get healthy against the Falcons.
But we should probably take a look back to see what we can take away from the game.
Get well soon, Nick Gates
This isn’t really a “thing we learned”, because it was obvious as soon as it happened that Gates’ injury was a bad one. Even if you missed the injury itself (which... That’s for the best), the sight of another lineman frantically shouting for trainers and the cart immediately coming out is never a good sign.
Personally, I just feel terrible for Gates, who has improved tremendously since becoming a starter last year and earned a Captain’s “C” this year. And while I’m not blaming the turf at FedEx Field for Gates’ injury, could they do something to improve those field conditions?
Injuries are part of the game, but I think every football fan just hates to see a player (any player) go down with an injury. The NFL is temporary, and its moments like these that remind us that these are real people putting their bodies on the line for our entertainment.
It was reported after the game that Gates was transported to a local hospital and will be undergoing surgery Friday morning.
Injury Update: OL Nick Gates, who suffered a fracture to his lower left leg in the first quarter of tonight’s game at Washington, was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital.— Dan Salomone (@Dan_Salomone) September 17, 2021
Gates will remain at the hospital overnight and undergo surgery in the morning to repair the fracture.
Hopefully Gates heals quickly and well.
The Giants played well enough to win...
This was an incredibly frustrating game to watch.
For much of the game we saw such positive signs from the Giants. Daniel Jones played some of the most efficient football we’ve ever seen from him, completing 22 of 32 for 249 yards and a touchdown. He was also the teams leading rusher, racking up 95 yards and a touchdown (that probably should have been more), on 9 carries.
Sterling Shepard continued the hot streak he got on against the New England Patriots in preseason. Shepard backed up his 7-for-9, 113 yard, 1 touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos with a 9-for-10, 94 yard performance against Washington.
James Bradberry took advantage of a huge mistake by Heinicke for an interception which probably should have ended the game.
The Giants showed some signs of trending in the right direction as they get 10 days before facing the Atlanta Falcons in week 3.
This was was a game the team should have won...
...Except for those stupid mistakes
Both teams made their share of dumb mistakes. All told, there were 20 penalties for 181 yards between the two teams, and this game was as the field at FedEx stadium (Washington should be ashamed of that).
But while The Football Team shot itself in the foot early on — and with one really costly interception by Taylor Heinicke when he had the chance to seal the game with 2:22 left. But it was the Giants who collapsed in the clutch.
An unnecessary hold erased one touchdown, a brutal drop by Darius Slayton erased another. Back-to-back false starts from offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Nate solder made the team lucky to get a field goal to go up 26 20 before Washington’s 2-play touchdown drive.
And then there was the sequence to end the game.
The Giants’ clock management allowed Washington to have a time-out as well as the 2-minute warning to move into field goal range. The defense gave up an easy 4th down conversion before Lorenzo Carter jumped offsides to give Washington a free first down and move them across mid-field. Then the defense let Adam Humphries not only pick up another first down, but get out of bounds to stop the clock.
And then there’s Dexter Lawrence II, who jumped offsides on a missed 48-yard field goal attempt, erasing the miss and giving Dustin Hopkins a second try from 5 yards closer. Lawrence will (rightfully) get dragged for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but this really was a team effort.
This wasn’t a case of the Giants playing well and the other team making one more play, they lost this game.
Jason Garrett has a bag of tricks
The Giants’ offensive coordinator has taken his fair share of criticism since being hired. And their scheme certainly leaves some things to be desired (to be charitable), and they haven’t done a good job of putting anyone besides Sterling Shepard in position to succeed.
But I do want to give Garrett just a bit of credit for the adjustments he made after the injury to Nick Gates.
At that point the Giants’ offensive line was in complete disarray and it looked like Washington’s pass rush was going to completely take over the game. But rather than doubling down and just sticking with the game plan, Garrett turned to the end of his playbook. For the first time in a long while, the Giants schemed their way around a pass rush. A combination of quick passes, play-action, RPOs, Read-Option plays, and designed quarterback runs served to slow down Montez Sweat, Chase Young, and the utter force that was Jonathan Allen.
Garrett did just about everything he could to keep Jones upright long enough to find Sterling Shepard in the second half.
It was very nearly enough.
What happened to the defense?
This is a question we just have to ask, because right now we’re learning that the giants can’t count on their defense.
The Giants’ defense, and their secondary in particular was the unquestioned strength of the team a year ago. It was expected to be the same again this year, but even better with the additions of Adoree Jackson and Azeez Ojulari. But in many ways, they have taken strides backward in the first two games.
Things got off to on the right foot with a three-and-out (with a sack) to start the game. It looked like things had clicked for the defense and returned to their 2020 form. But really, the entire pass rush disappeared after the first quarter. Leonard Williams was all but invisible this game, and Dexter Lawrence wishes he stayed invisible for just a couple more minutes. The Giants only got 1 sack and 2 quarterback hits all game long, while Heinicke completed 34 of 46 passes (73.9 percent) for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns.
This is the second game in a row where a quarterback has completed well over 70 percent of his passes. Last week Teddy Bridgewater completed 77.8 percent of his passes for 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. At first blush it would appear that the Giants’ man coverage is being picked apart and teams are finding gaping voids in coverage zones. Where I expected Patrick Graham to be aggressive in the final minutes of the game, he seemed content to rush four (or maybe five) and play coverage.
Perhaps a second look at the tape will reveal more, but the Giants’ defense doesn’t appear to be on the same page as it was a year ago.
Just one more thing for the team to work on over the next 10 days.