The Giants may have just thrown their season away.
Not only did they lose to the Atlanta Falcons, 17-14, on a 40-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo with no time remaining, and not only did they fall to 0-3 on the season just before entering an absolutely brutal, seven-game stretch of their schedule, but they absolutely did this to themselves. They out-played the Falcons in nearly every aspect of the game.
But they couldn’t stop making dumb and crucial mistakes. They simply couldn’t get out of their own way.
That includes three dropped interceptions – two by Logan Ryan and one by Xavier McKinney. That includes a crucial unnecessary roughness penalty on McKinney that kept the Falcons’ first touchdown drive alive, and a defensive pass interference on Ryan in the end zone on the second. It includes a fumble and a drop by tight end Evan Engram. It includes a ton of missed tackles in the second half.
And it includes eight penalties for 53 yards, all of which seemed to come at the absolute worst times.
That was it, really. It was hard to find fault with a Giants offense that otherwise had 346 yards, including 266 from quarterback Daniel Jones on 24-of-35 passing. And the defense was outstanding, after two brutal weeks, right up until the Falcons’ two fourth-quarter drives.
The Giants aren’t a good team. But they are good enough to win when they’re not making stupid, costly mistakes. If they keep making those, they simply won’t win many games this season at all.
Here are some more takeaways from what really is a killer loss for the Giants …
- The defense actually was really good, but it looked like they were suddenly playing a “prevent defense” in the fourth quarter. The Falcons had the ball twice and went 125 yards on 22 plays. The field goal drive to win the game was absurdly easy. Two big passes for a total of 53 yards by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was otherwise unimpressive (27-of-36, 243 yards, 2 touchdowns) was all it took to set up the game-winning kick.
- Welcome back Engram. After all those drops last season, the last thing he needed was what could’ve been a costly fumble late in the first half in Giants territory. He was lucky that Giants rookie LB Azeez Ojulari caused a fumble a few plays later to give the Giants the ball and bail him out. Engram finished with two catches for 21 yards, but that was on six targets and he had another key drop in the fourth quarter. By then, he was being serenaded by boos from the angry crowd, though that changed to cheers when he came off the field.
- Saquon Barkley looked a lot more like the vintage Saquon Barkley. He finished with 16 carries for 51 yards and a beautiful, leaping, flying, one-yard touchdown dive. He also had six carries for 43 yards. He showed the ability to bounce outside, flashed some of his speed and his old quick burst, and made some nice moves to avoid tackles. And all that didn’t include what would’ve been a 23-yard catch-and-run in the second half which was called back because G Will Hernandez was an ineligible man down field.
- Jones was really good for a second straight week, but he was clearly hampered by the loss of two of his top receivers early on – Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, both of whom left with hamstring injuries. Those are tricky, of course, and they could be out a while. Once they were gone, the Giants offense was still OK, but clearly wasn’t the same.
- Finally, a big play from Kadarius Toney, the Giants’ first-round pick. It came in the first half on a 3rd and 7. Jones threw him a short pass that was a little high and behind him. Toney reached back and made the catch, stopped, and then cut back away from a tackle and ran for the first down. That was great, but in a game where Shepard and Slayton were lost early and Kenny Golladay (4-64) was limited by a hip injury, why was Toney targeted only three times? Worse, Collin Johnson, claimed off waivers from the Jaguars at the end of training camp, was targeted seven times. Really?
- The Giants’ offensive line has now had two pretty decent weeks in a row. Jones was only sacked twice and the Giants ran for 100 yards. Really, their biggest issue was that center Billy Price continues to have some issues with shotgun snaps. But their blocking was pretty good.
- Midway through the third quarter the Giants punted on 4th and 3 from the Falcons 39, down 7-6. It actually looked like it worked, after Keion Crossen managed to save the ball from going into the end zone and down it at the Falcons 5. I get it. Judge is playing for the field position and trusting his defense, which was playing well. But with this offense, it’s really hard to justify passing on any chances to score.
- The loss of LB Blake Martinez in the first quarter is a huge one for the Giants. He was attempting to make a tackle on Falcons WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson, but he went down before he got there with a knee injury. It was a non-contact injury and the Giants were very quick to declare him out, which is an ominous combination. The Giants’ linebacker corps is arguably their thinnest position and Martinez was their defensive leader. Veteran Reggie Ragland took over for him, and likely will keep that role for a while.
- McKinney got called for a rough, but accurate unnecessary roughness penalty late in the first half when hit Falcons WR Olamide Zaccheaus in the helmet. It actually even appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit, even though he tried to get his shoulder in first. Regardless, any time a defender goes at a receiver’s head, it’s going to be a penalty. That is just the rule.
- Interesting decision by Joe Judge to add RB Devontae Booker to the inactive list before the game. That left him with Barkley, three games into his comeback from ACL surgery, and only rookie RB Gary Brightwell and FB Eli Penny to back him up. The Giants haven’t really used their backup running backs the first two games and were caught in a numbers game at receiver with Golladay limited and on special teams with Nate Ebner out. But still, it was a risk. Also, Booker got a two-year, $5.5 million deal with $2 million guaranteed at the start of free agency, and now he’s a healthy scratch three games into his Giants career? That’s not good.