EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY — The Giants are one of the NFL’s surprise teams for the second year in a row. It’s not nearly as fun this time.
In 2022, they ended a five-year losing record with a turnaround headed by first-year coach Brian Daboll, who not only guided the club to the playoffs but also won an away game. This has raised the stakes for 2023.
However, with the exception of an inspirational and franchise-record-tying second-half comeback in a win in Arizona two weeks ago, this season has not lived up to expectations. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the New York Giants 24-3 on Monday night at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants surrendered a franchise-record 11 sacks, gave the ball over three times, including an interception returned 97 yards for a score, committed six special teams penalties, and went without a takeaway for the fourth consecutive game. The club that opened the season 6-1 last year plummeted to 1-3, including two home defeats.
How does Daboll explain the Giants’ first quarter of the season?
“I’d say every year is different,” he said. “Right now, we’re not playing well, and we’re not coaching well.” So I’ll have to do a lot better.”
He is certain that they will. The Giants will be on the road for the next two weeks, facing AFC East co-leaders Miami and Buffalo, both of whom are 3-1.
“I have a lot of confidence in the guys in the room,” Daboll said. “I realize the results haven’t come in yet. We took some really nasty beatings, but you own it and go on, and I have a lot of faith in the players and coaches, and we have to perform better.
“It’s the first quarter of the season, there is a long way to go, but certainly a lot of things we’ve got to do better.”
Pass protection is towards the top of that list. The Giants were missing All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas for the third straight game due to a hamstring ailment. Early in the game, rookie center John Michael Schmitz had a shoulder injury, requiring Ben Bredeson to swap over from left guard. Bredeson’s replacement, Shane Lemieux, exited the game in the second half with a groin injury and was replaced by Mark Glowinski, who started the season as a starter.
As a consequence, Daniel Jones was under attack all night. According to the official numbers, he was sacked three times in the first half, seven more in the second, and hit 14 times. Parris Campbell, a wide receiver, was meant to make a ball but instead was tackled for Seattle’s 11th sack.
— New York Giants (@Giants) October 3, 2023
Jones did complete 79.4% of his throws (27 of 34), but he also threw two interceptions, lost a fumble that resulted in a Seattle score, and failed to lead the Giants into the end zone.
“Give credit to their defense,” Jones said. “They rush hard and play well together, but I’ve got to do a better job getting through my reads, getting the ball out of my hand, and making quick decisions, so I’ll definitely look to work on that.”
When asked what caused to the failures in protection, Daboll said, “Probably a little bit of everything, had some longer routes at times, got beat at times, reads at times, calls at times.” “I’d call it a collection of everything.”
Anyone looking for positives may concentrate on the defense. Seattle ended with 281 yards and 13 first downs, but just three of 12 third-down attempts were converted.
“I thought defensively, we did a lot of good things,” Daboll said. “We didn’t finish the job, had too many penalties on special teams, and didn’t score offensively.” So we need to find out how to improve it.”
The Giants moved the ball nicely on their first drive for the third time in four games but failed to reach the end zone. They faced a fourth-and-one at the Seattle 27-yard line on the 11th play of the drive. In the backfield, the Giants used eight offensive linemen, including Lemieux and Glowinski. They tried to shove Jones over the line of gain on a quarterback sneak using the increasingly common push play. Jones, on the other hand, was stopped for no gain, squandering a potential for early points and momentum.
“I’d go for it again if we were ever in that situation,” Daboll said.
Jones was sacked from behind late in the third quarter by Mario Edwards, Jr., who separated him from the ball with a strip, which Jordyn Brooks recovered at the Giants’ seven. DK Metcalf scored a touchdown throw from Geno Smith two plays later, on the last play of the quarter, for a 7-0 lead.
Graham Gano’s 55-yard field goal with 3:05 remaining in the second quarter was the Giants’ only point. The Giants hoped to get the ball back for another scoring chance, but on third-and-10 from the Seattle 48, Smith threw down the right sideline for tight end Noah Fant, who eluded two tackles and ran all the way to the one-yard line. Kenneth Walker III scored on a run up the middle to make it 14-3 at the half.
That was the final score until the last seconds of the third quarter. The Giants moved to the Seahawks’ five-yard line after Jason Myers missed a 53-yard field goal attempt. Jones threw to his left on second-and-goal for Campbell. But rookie Devon Witherspoon intercepted the throw for his first career interception and ran 97 yards for the game-winning score.
“I just felt like the coverage was soft, trying to find someone in the zone,” Jones said. “Obviously, terrible decision and awful mistake, so I can’t afford to do that.”
Jones was again intercepted in the fourth quarter by Quandre Diggs, leading to Myers’ 34-yard field goal.
The Giants must now reorganize, maybe reconfigure their offensive line again, and put aside another disappointing game before flying on a short week.
What a difference a year makes, as Daboll often observes.
“No one expected this to be where we were, where we are, so yeah, there’s some shock,” Jones said. “But at the end of the day it’s about what we do from here and getting things corrected and playing better football.”
“I understand the work that we’ve put in,” said safety Xavier McKinney. “I understand how we prepare and, ultimately, I understand our talent.” We simply need to figure out how to put it all together, which we aren’t doing right now. So we simply have to find a way.”