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Giants were good Saturday, just not quite good enough

The resilience they have played with all year was there, and so was the evidence of how perfect they have to be against good teams

NFL: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

I think I’m conflicted in terms of how to feel about the New York Giants’ 27-24 loss on Saturday to the Minnesota Vikings.

This was a hard-to-stomach loss, coming as it did on a last-play career-long 61-yard field goal by Vikings’ placekicker Greg Joseph.

With the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions both losing on Sunday it was a missed opportunity for the Giants to clinch their first playoff berth since 2016.

This ends up feeling like a game that tells you two things simultaneously.

  1. The Giants are a team on the rise. A resilient team that simply keeps coming and promises to be a tough out for whoever they face if and when they do ultimately reach the playoffs.
  2. They are a team that still has work to do to truly reach a championship level.

This loss was largely self-inflicted.

  • The Giants fumbled away almost certain points when tight end Daniel Bellinger lost the ball at the Minnesota 23-yard line on the first play of the second quarter.
  • They threw away likely points when quarterback Daniel Jones threw slightly behind Isaiah Hodgins and was intercepted by Minnesota cornerback Patrick Peterson at the Vikings’ 18-yard line in the fourth quarter.
  • They handed the Vikings seven points when the punt protection broke down and Minnesota blocked a Jamie Gillan punt to take possession at the Giants’ 29-yard line with 4:02 to play.
  • Richie James dropped a pair of fourth-quarter passes that would have given the Giants first downs, one forcing them to settle for a 55-yard Graham Gano field goal.
  • The Giants committed seven penalties, costing them 63 yards, to two penalties and 14 yards for Minnesota.
  • With a chance to force overtime, the Giants allowed the Vikings to complete a 17-yard screen pass to Justin Jefferson on third-and-11 from their 41-yard line with :17 to play, giving Joseph a shot at the game-winner.

Watching a 61-yard field goal sail through the uprights as time expires is undoubtedly a tough way to lose.

“You never feel good after a loss,” said Giants coach Brian Daboll.

No, you don’t. There are no moral victories. Still, it is hard not to look at some of the terrific things that happened for the Giants.

Some will disagree but the view here is that Daniel Jones was fantastic on Saturday. From the Giants’ opening drive, it was apparent they were going to be pass-first and put the game in Jones’ hands.

He completed 30 of 42 passes for 334 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Yes, the interception wasn’t a perfect throw, just a smidge behind Isaiah Hodgins. Still, Jones threw the ball 42 times, he was sacked three times and ran the ball four other times. I can’t kill him for one imperfect throw in 49 drop backs.

Jones’ 7-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Hodgins was fantastic quarterback play, patiently buying time before Hodgins came open in the end zone.

Jones led a game-tying drive, taking the Giants 75 yards in :59. The two-point conversion throw to Daniel Bellinger was, again, excellent, patient quarterback play. It was also a perfectly-placed throw.

Jones was let down by the Bellinger fumble. By two Richie James’ drops, one on a crushing third-and-5 that would have given the Giants a first down inside the Minnesota 30-yard line and instead forced a 55-yard Graham Gano field goal.

He was let down by Evan Neal’s leaky pass protection.

I don’t know how you come out of that game being critical of Jones. I come away seeing a quarterback Giants fans should feel good about.

For me, this game was more evidence that the Giants don’t need to go searching for a quarterback this offseason. They already have one. They just need to sign him without breaking the bank.

Hodgins impressed with eight catches for 89 yards, including a brilliant 29-yard catch. The Giants, by the way, had five plays of 20+ yards, four of them passing. They also had an 18-yard pass to Saquon Barkley.

The Giants had four sacks and 11 quarterback hits. I know Jefferson (12 catches, 133 yards) and T.J. Hockenson (13 catches, 109 yards) had big numbers, but I thought the defense played well overall against one of the league’s best offenses. Wink Martindale’s group needed just one more play to force overtime, and couldn’t get it against the best wide receiver on the planet.

“We went up against possibly number one, number two seed in the NFC,” Barkley said. “Just gotta lock in the little details. Learn from this. I think that’s important if we can learn from this against a really good team. Take that and use that momentum for the rest of season.”

For me, I think we learned that the Giants are indeed a good football team. They slugged it out on the road against a team that is now 12-3.

We also got a reminder of something that we discussed earlier in the season. The Giants’ path to victory remains a narrow one in which they cannot be the team making the majority of the mistakes — as they were on Saturday.

“I think in games like this against a good team, those three, four plays, you’ve got to make them. You’ve got to be able to make the big play at the critical point in the game, and we didn’t do that today,” Jones said. “We did do a lot of things well. We moved the ball well. We did make some plays. But not enough, and against a good team like that, you’ve got to make those few plays.”

We also saw the obvious areas where the Giants still need to improve their talent level — inside linebacker, the secondary, wide receiver even with Hodgins’ career game — were still problematic in at least some instances.

As you head into Christmas, though, try not to let this one drag you down.

This was a setback on the scoreboard for the Giants. It’s a bummer that the Giants didn’t find a playoff berth under their proverbial Christmas tree.

I can’t, though, let the disappointment of this one linger. The playoffs are still out there for the Giants, and it is still highly likely they will get in.

To summarize my thoughts quickly, here they are. I thought the game showed:

a) The Giants have come a long way since 4-13 a year ago and they are a good team.
b) Jones really is a good player who still doesn’t have enough support.
c) The Giants’ path to victory remains narrow, and they MUST be the team that makes the fewest mistakes.

Daboll doesn’t want to hear any of that right now.

“Give them credit. They made a few more plays than we did,” Daboll said. “You have two turnovers, a blocked punt, to be in the game at the end of the game, the guys were resilient, but you can’t have those mistakes. The fumble took away three points, interception took away at least three points, that’s minimum, and then we give the ball back to them in our end zone or in our territory [on the blocked punt] where they hit Jefferson there.”

Many of you probably don’t want to hear it, either, but as we head into Christmas I still can’t help but look at Saturday as more affirmation that the Giants are moving into a better future.

They just aren’t quite there.

Merry Christmas, everyone!