All the good stuff the Giants crammed into their surprising and resurgent season did not make it to the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Perhaps the first cold burst of impending winter blew it all away.
Or, perhaps, the Giants were due to have a stinker.
They accomplished little on offense, as Saquon Barkley was stuffed, repeatedly, forcing Daniel Jones to fling it in the wind. Jones went six consecutive games without throwing an interception but that streak came to a crashing end. On defense, they had to absorb the loss of Adoree’ Jackson, their best cornerback, who went down with a knee injury while returning a punt. The special teams’ units were shaky.
It all combined to produce the worst performance of the season by the Giants under Brian Daboll, their first-year head coach. They led, briefly, in the second quarter but could not sustain quality play on their side of the ball in a dreadful 31-18 loss to the Lions that inflicted a heavy physical toll.
In addition to Jackson, the Giants lost four other starting players to injury: Right tackle Tyre Phillips (neck), center Jon Feliciano (neck), wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (knee) and cornerback Fabian Moreau (ribs). This does not bode well for what comes next, as the Giants have a short turnaround this week before facing the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, on Thanksgiving Day.
At 7-3, the Giants have not lost back-to-back games all season, but they will be undermanned going into a key NFC East matchup.
Barkley came into the game as the NFL’s leading rusher and the Lions were the league’s 31st-ranked rushing defense. Form did not hold, as Barkley was completely shut down, carrying the ball 15 times to gain only 22 yards. His longest run of the day was 4 yards. Jones threw two interceptions and receiver Isaiah Hodgins lost a fumble. For a team with little margin for error, the three turnovers gave the Giants no chance.
This was ugly. The Giants were down 17-6 at halftime and 24-6 after three quarters. The Lions (4-6) won their third straight game. Jamaal Williams ran for three touchdowns.
A sack ended a quick three-and-out on the Giants’ first offensive possession and it was instantly clear the Lions were selling out to contain Barkley. There was a quick adjustment and the second series looked much better. Jones went 4 for 4 for 58 yards, rolling out of the pocket to create passing lanes, before easing into the end zone from 3 yards out to give the Giants a 6-3 lead, with Graham Gano’s extra point deflected wide right.
The Giants had to deal with a significant in-game loss, as Jackson hurt his knee returning a punt for 3 yards early in the second quarter. Jackson was quickly ruled out. The defense forced a three-and-out without Jackson on the field and the Lions were struggling to find a rhythm on offense. That is when the Giants made the critical error they have mostly been able to avoid.
Jones’ best quality this season has been his ball security and the end of his interception-less streak came at a rough time. He got the streak up to 153 consecutive passes, the most in the NFL this season, but he failed to see rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson dropping in coverage. Jones looked for Darius Slayton over the middle but instead found Hutchinson, who reached up to secure the ball and returned it 19 yards to the Giants’ 18-yard line. Three plays later, Williams scored from 3 yards out and it was 10-6.
A poorly hit punt by Jamie Gillan floated only 25 yards to set the Lions up on their 32-yard line and a Goff 32-yard completion to wide-open Amon-Ra St. Brown put the Lions on the move. Williams notched his second rushing touchdown and the Giants were down 17-6. After a poorly run offensive series with 44 seconds left, Jones was sacked on the final play and the Giants left the field at halftime to a chorus of boos.
With Barkley limited to only 18 yards on 10 rushing attempts, the Giants threw it more often than they ran it in the first half, generating yards but few points.
It never got any better in the second half. The Lions took the opening kickoff and had no trouble moving 56 yards on nine plays against a depleted defensive backfield that had Rodarius Williams and Cor’Dale Flott in at cornerback. Williams’ third rushing touchdown put the Giants in a 24-6 hole early in the third quarter.
Jones’ second interception was an overthrow to tight end Lawrence Cager that was picked off by safety Kerby Joseph. Jones finished 27 of 44 for 341 yards.
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