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Giants-Jets ‘things I think’: Final fourth-down decision by Brian Daboll was the wrong move

Graham Gano’s missed field goal was the beginning of the end for the Giants in a game they should have won

New York Jets v New York Giants
Graham Gano reacts after his missed field goal in the fourth quarter.
Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After Kayvon Thibodeaux’s third sack of the game, which came with 2:19 to play and the New York Giants leading the New York Jets 10-7 in a slog-fest at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, yours truly took to Twitter/X with a take that definitely did not age well.

Apparently, I forgot that these are the ‘Bad News’ Giants, a team that has now snatched defeat from the jaws of victory twice in three weeks.

After Thibodeaux’s seemed to salt the game way, the Giants, futile on offense all day with backup to the backup quarterback Tommy DeVito forced into handoff duty, faced a fourth-and-1 at the Jets’ 17-yard line with a three-point lead and :28 to play.

Coach Brian Daboll faced a decision.

Option 1: Attempt a 35-yard field goal and try to leave the Jets, with no timeouts, needing to go the length of the field for a touchdown and extra point to try and win the game. With Zach Wilson at quarterback, that seemed unlikely.

Option 2: Go for the first down and try to end the game right there. Make it, game over. You don’t have to run another play. Even if you don’t make the first down, you likely run the clock down to close to :20.

Daboll chose option 1. Gano, of course, missed the field goal. At that point, even with the feeling of unease that was settling over Giants fans in Metlife, numberFire gave the Giants a 92.44% chance to win the game.

The Jets, though, capitalized. After generating next to no offense all day with the struggling Wilson at quarterback, they suddenly found life. Wilson hit Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard on back-to-back 29-yard completions, spiked the ball with :01 left and Greg Zuerlein hit a 35-yard field goal to stun the Giants and force overtime.

Daboll’s decision was obviously a major point of discussion during his post-game media conference.

“Kick a field goal there, and they have 24 seconds with no timeouts, and they need a touchdown,” Daboll said. “So, counted on making the field goal, and then they’d have 24 seconds with no time outs, still have to drive it the length, and our defense was playing well all game. That’s why I made the decision.”

Daboll was asked why he didn’t try to gain the yard and end the game.

“In hindsight, I understand the question,” he said. “Completely legit question, but it’s a decision that we made to try to kick a field goal with Graham. Our defense was—they were like, 0-for-12 on third down. They were playing well. That’s the decision we made. It didn’t work out.”

In my view, attempting the field goal was clearly the wrong choice.

Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post defended kicking the field goal.

I know that Daboll and the Giants’ analytics staff spend a lot of time going over these scenarios. In this situation, though, I can’t disagree more strongly with the choice to try the field goal.

First of all, making the field there does not win you the game. It would, at best, put you up six points. It still leaves the Jets with the ball and a chance to drive the field and win the game with a touchdown and an extra point. Obviously unlikely, but still a chance.

Secondly, and probably just as important, there seems to be something going on with placekicker Graham Gano.

Gano, who has been on the injury report the past couple of weeks with a left knee issue and is said to perhaps be facing surgery on that knee eventually, missed wide left from 47 yards earlier in the game. At the same end of the field he needed to kick the 35-yarder from. He again missed wide left.

Daboll said after the game that Gano is “fine.” Gano refused to make any excuses for his “nightmare game.” Still, he has missed six of 17 field goals this season after missing only eight of 97 the previous three years combined. So, something is amiss.

Back to the decision, though. ESPN Analytics was even more bullish on the Giants’ chances to win despite the Gano miss, putting them at 96.1% win probability even after the miss.

Still, I can’t agree with Daboll here. Make the first down and there is a 0% chance the Jets win. The clock would have expired before the Giants had to run another play.

Daboll also chose field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Jets’ 29-yard line in the second quarter. It is easy to say now since Gano missed on that kick, as well, but I also disagreed with that choice.

Vote in the poll and let us know what you think of the fourth-quarter fourth-down decision.


Should the Giants have gone for the first down or kicked the field goal with :28 left in the game?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Kick the field goal and trust the defense
    (820 votes)
  • 57%
    Go for the first down and try to end the game
    (1118 votes)
1938 votes total Vote Now

More thoughts

  • I’m going to agree with Tony DelGenio. I get their reticence to do so up to this point, but the Giants just need to pay Saquon Barkley already. Barkley was the entire offense on Sunday, and has been that far too often in his career. Even if it’s a short-term deal of just a couple of years, the Giants need to reward the star running back. He carried a career-high 36 times against the Jets. Twenty-five of those carries came in the second half. Barkley only had three 25+ carry games in his career before Sunday.
  • The ‘Kayvon Thibodeaux is a bust’ talk needs to be over. Thibodeaux had three sacks on Sunday, one of which forced a fumble. His final sack should have ended the game. He had nine tackles, three loss, and three quarterback hits. Thibodeaux was great against the Jets.
  • There were justifiable questions for Daboll after the game about why the Giants did not add a veteran quarterback to the roster after Daniel Jones was injured. Daboll admitted that the second-half plan was “we’re going through 26 ... we’re going to hand it off a bunch.” Tommy DeVito was allowed to throw one pass in the second half and two swing passes behind the line of scrimmage in overtime. Daboll obviously did not think DeVito was capable of being successful against a good NFL defense. If that is the case, why is DeVito on the roster and someone like journeyman Matt Barkley, who has played for Daboll before, still on the street?
  • I am still struggling to understand how the Giants allowed Wilson to complete back-to-back 29-yard passes in the final 24 seconds of regulation. I think that put a big damper on what had otherwise been an excellent defensive performance.
  • I think Gunner Olszewski (six returns for 56 yards, 9.3 yards per return) showed the Giants what competent punt returning looks like.
  • I think the trade deadline is going to be interesting. That pass interference in overtime that set up the Jets’ game-winning field goal might be the last time we see Adoree’ Jackson as a Giant. I also would not be surprised in the least if defensive tackle Leonard Williams is an ex-Giant by Tuesday night.
  • All-in-all, I think this was a ridiculously awful football game. The Jets tried ... and tried .. and tried to give the Giants the game with penalties and poor play. Ridiculously inept on offense, struggling in the kicking game, and breaking down on defense at the worst possible time the Giants refused to accept the gift. The Giants now have nine games remaining in a season that shows almost no signs of getting better.