EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants had to grasp the stakes of Monday night’s game against the Seahawks. They entered the matchup with a 1-2 record thanks to a miraculous second-half comeback against the Cardinals in Week 2 sandwiched between blowout losses to the Cowboys and 49ers.
With road matchups against AFC East powers Miami and Buffalo on deck, the Giants had to win Monday night’s home game against the Seahawks. But they weren’t even competitive.
The Seahawks rolled to a 24-3 win that didn’t even seem that close. The Giants were a sloppy, dysfunctional mess, which is even harder to stomach considering they were coming off an extended 11-day break after their 30-12 loss to the 49ers in Week 3.
This was the type of mismatch that kept the researchers at the Elias Sports Bureau busy examining the historic nature of the Giants’ futility. The Giants allowed 11 sacks, which was the most in franchise history. The Seahawks entered the game with just five sacks in three games.
The Giants have now been out-scored 64-3 in their two home games this season. They’ve committed six turnovers and allowed 18 sacks in those two games. For the season, the Giants have been out-scored 122-46. Their -76 point differential is the worst in the league by 14 points.
The Giants have clung to the fact that the core of the team that won a playoff game last season is still intact. But the reality is this group has been trending in the wrong direction since their magical 7-2 start to last season. The Giants are 4-9-1 in their past 14 games. They’ve been out-scored 382-259 during that stretch.
The truth is most of the Giants’ homegrown players are more familiar with losing than last season’s success. The Giants have started at least 1-5 in four of their past six seasons. A similar slide is staring them in the face with the daunting road schedule ahead.
“It could definitely go sideways,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “I’ve been a part of a team where it has gone sideways. I do understand this league, it’s tough, and you’ve got to be able to respond quickly, or it could go south.”
Making the Giants’ pitiful start more painful is that the whole nation has had a front-row seat to the carnage. The Giants’ three losses — by a combined score of 94-15 — have all come in nationally televised prime-time games.
That exposure has made the Giants easy targets. They were trolled by Arik Armstead after Monday’s game, as the 49ers defensive end lamented Giants quarterback Daniel Jones not giving San Francisco’s pass rushers the same opportunity to rack up sacks.
Daniel Jones I am so disappointed in you… why would you would throw the ball so quick vs us and then let these people have a career day ? ….. why weren’t we deserving ? 😂😂😂😂
— Arik Armstead (@arikarmstead) October 3, 2023
The Giants, who will face the Super Bowl-contending Bills on Sunday Night Football in two weeks, have enough problems without being bothered by shots coming from around the league.
“We have to be better,” McKinney said. “I don’t really care what everybody else is saying.”
The lingering question from a somber locker room on Monday night was how things can get turned around. No one seemed to have an easy solution.
“I don’t have the answers,” tight end Darren Waller said. “I can’t tell anybody else how to do their job. All I can do is do what I am asked to do and go out there and try to execute.”
The Giants better figure something out fast. Otherwise, last season’s trip to the playoffs is going to seem like an aberration mixed into the franchise’s decade-plus stretch of ineptitude.
Here are four more takeaways on the game:
Sack ➡️ Fumble
📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/oCCaWoAVS9
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 3, 2023
Heads will roll?
Daboll said there won’t be any staff changes this week. Though fans want someone’s head on a stake for this abysmal start, it would be premature to start firing coaches four games into the season for a team that made the playoffs in the first year of this regime.
Now, that doesn’t mean coaches shouldn’t be on notice. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey has been with the Giants since 2018, surviving two coaching changes. His units have been inconsistent throughout his tenure and trending in the wrong direction under Daboll.
Monday night was a horrific showing on special teams. The Giants were flagged for a ridiculous six penalties on special teams, including an unnecessary roughness penalty on Gary Brightwell for pushing a Seahawk after the play. That forced the Giants to start a drive at their own 10-yard line.
The Giants were flagged for two penalties when Seattle was punting the ball in the last minute of the first half. A hold on Cam Brown was accepted, which gave the Seahawks a first down and allowed them to drain the rest of the clock.
Rookie Eric Gray muffed a first-quarter punt that the Giants were fortunate Nick McCloud recovered. The Giants had been playing with fire with Gray, who looked uncomfortable throughout training camp in a role he didn’t play much in college.
Gray was replaced for the rest of the game by cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. That decision is Daboll’s, and it’s hard to understand how he could risk his No. 1 corner again after the Giants lost Jackson for seven games last season due to a knee injury he suffered on a punt return.
And it’s not even like Jackson is a game-breaking returner. He, too, looked uncomfortable Monday night, letting multiple punts bounce and roll. It’s hard to comprehend why the Giants don’t use wide receiver Sterling Shepard as the punt returner, since he has no role on the offense.
More coaches in the crosshairs
Offensive line coach Bobby Johnson is also in the crosshairs. The Giants offensive line has been a weakness for more than a decade, and Johnson has done nothing to reverse that trend.
It certainly doesn’t help that All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas has been sidelined for three games with a hamstring injury he suffered on the first series of the season. Thomas suffered a setback during Thursday’s practice, and it’s not clear when he’ll be ready to return.
But the absence of Thomas doesn’t excuse the complete incompetence of the offensive line. Right tackle Evan Neal, who was the seventh pick in last year’s draft, has made no noticeable improvements.
Sack No. 10 on the night!
📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/2VzvbF0BBH
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 3, 2023
Two other members of the 2022 draft class — third-rounder Josh Ezeudu and right guard Marcus McKethan — look completely overwhelmed. Ezeudu was drafted to play guard, and he appeared over his head at left tackle on Monday night. A despondent Ezeudu remained in his uniform and stared into his locker for the entire postgame media availability, as players and coaches checked in with encouraging words.
The Giants lost rookie center John Michael Schmitz in the first quarter to a shoulder injury, forcing Ben Bredeson to shift from left guard to center. There was no word after Monday’s game on the severity of Schmitz’s injury.
The Seahawks were playing with a makeshift line as well, with both starting tackles ruled out before the game and both starting guards lost during the game. But Seattle still resembled a functional NFL offensive line.
Johnson was Daboll’s first hire, which should give him even more security. They worked together for three years in Buffalo before Daboll handpicked Johnson to fill what he knew would be a vital position on his staff.
No magic touch
Daboll needs to do some soul-searching before he can consider making any changes to his staff. Whatever magic touch he had during his debut season has vanished.
The Giants have been out-scored 77-9 in first halves this season. That’s a terrible reflection of the coaching staff’s ability to have the players ready.
The enduring image of Monday’s game was Daboll flipping a tablet in disgust and walking away as Jones kept his eye focused on the tablet in his hands after a crucial interception.
“I was trying to show him — kind of see what he thought and then I tell him what I saw,” Daboll said.
Trailing 14-3, the Giants ran the ball on third-and-11 from their own 24-yard line with just over one minute remaining in the first half. Matt Breida gained 4 yards and the Giants punted, as boos rained down from a restless MetLife Stadium crowd.
Daboll explained the seemingly passive play call as a “miscommunication.”
“Daniel thought he heard one thing, and it was another thing and miscommunication,” Daboll said.
It’s hard to say what’s worse: Being that conservative intentionally in that spot or having a miscommunication that results in the wrong play being run. Either way, it was a emblematic of the mess the Giants were in Monday night.
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Who’s to blame?
There’s a common debate among Giants fans about who is to blame for the offensive woes: Jones or the line. Everyone should be able to unite and agree that both were the problem Monday night.
The offensive line was horrific, and Jones often had to run for his life just keep plays alive. He made an excellent play to evade a free rusher and scramble 10 yards for a first down on fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter.
That play put the Giants, who trailed 14-3, inside the Seahawks’ 10-yard line with a prime opportunity to pull within one score. But the game flipped in an instant when Jones made what he called a “terrible decision,” throwing a pass to wide receiver Parris Campbell that was intercepted by Seahawks cornerback Devon Witherspoon.
DROP THE 🥄 RIGHT NOW Y’ALL
📺 ESPN pic.twitter.com/21UWsZ2Ft9
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 3, 2023
Witherspoon raced 97 yards for a touchdown that sealed the game. It was alarming that Witherspoon, who is a rookie, told NFL Network after the game that he knew Jones “liked to stare down his first target,” which helped him jump the route.
Jones completed 27-of-34 passes for 203 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, while adding 10 carries for 66 yards. He also lost a fumble when he had the ball chopped out of his hand from behind while trying to avoid a sack late in the first quarter. The Seahawks returned the fumble to New York’s 7-yard line and scored a touchdown two plays later to take a 7-0 lead.
Playing a second straight game without running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), the Giants tried to dial up shots in the passing game, with rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt getting the most playing time of his young career. But on the rare occasions when the pass protection held up, Jones didn’t attempt any throws downfield.
Tight end Darren Waller, who was forced to chip block to help the tackles, was invisible. Until he added two catches in garbage time, Waller’s one reception was matched by Bredeson, who hauled in a tipped pass early in the fourth quarter. Waller finished with three catches for 21 yards.
Backup Tyrod Taylor mercifully finished the game, replacing Jones for a few handoffs to run out the clock.
“We’re not playing well right now, not coaching well right now,” coach Brian Daboll said. “So, got to do a lot better.”
(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)
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