Playing It Safe, Giants Steal a Win From the Raiders
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Time is a flat circle, but we want to help you break it. To that end, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s professional football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a weekly service to readers: Are the Giants good yet?
Devin Gordon, the author of “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets, the Best Worst Team in Sports,” observed the Giants from a locally focused perspective.
Diante Lee, an N.F.L. analyst at Pro Football Focus, offered a national view.
The Giants (3-6) eked out a 23-16 win over the Las Vegas Raiders (5-3) behind game-turning interceptions by safety Xavier McKinney, including one returned for a touchdown.
Thanks to the N.F.L.’s new prime number, 17-game schedule, the Giants finished the first half of their 2021 season at halftime of Sunday’s game at MetLife Stadium against the Las Vegas Raiders.
They came into the afternoon with a 2-6 record, still missing running back Saquon Barkley, who sat out after testing positive for the coronavirus, which at least provided some variance from his missing games because of an ankle injury.
Coming out of Sunday’s game, the N.F.C. East cellar-dwelling Giants had reason to think the future might be brighter.
Once again, quarterback Daniel Jones, who has turned into a chunk-play machine — with his arm and with his legs — provided reason to hope. Against the A.F.C. West-leading Raiders, Jones completed 15 of 20 passes for 110 yards and no interceptions and continued to show that he has taken major strides in improving three of his weakest attributes: accuracy, decision-making and ball security.
Look, the Giants are not going to make the playoffs. The blossoming of Jones is the story of this season. It has been the only reason to watch the Giants so far, and it will most likely continue to be as the front office figures out his potential contract extension. A new nemesis, though, is emerging for Giants fans, adding another dimension to viewing games in the weeks to come: the milquetoast offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, whose tepid playbook is infuriating Giants fans desperate for some fun and fireworks.
First, the obvious: This is a franchise that has been focused on building for the future by hiring “football guys,” those hardened lifers who fit the bill of every coaching platitude meme.
The hiring of General Manager Dave Gettleman sought to recapture the Tom Coughlin era, with a few less wrinkles.
Bending, but not breaking. Establishing the run. Controlling the line of scrimmage. “Affecting” the game on special teams. Winning the possession battle and the “game within the game.”
That often manifests into the most boring football product on the planet. My eyes glazed over just typing it. But it was enough to get by the Raiders and keep a pulse in the N.F.C. wild-card race — a damning indictment on the state of the conference.
Daniel Jones early on appeared to be reverting to the turnover habits that sabotaged the Giants last month when he lost a fumble on a strip sack by Maxx Crosby late in the first quarter with the score tied, 7-7. Jason Garrett, the Giants’ offensive coordinator, has done everything possible to minimize Jones’s all-or-nothing playmaking, which resulted in Jones’s fewest pass attempts of the season (excluding his early exit with a concussion against Dallas). Running back Devontae Booker, 99 yards on 21 carries, nearly matched Jones’s passing yards (110 yards on 20 attempts) with his legs.
The Giants’ defense won the game by forcing key turnovers. Safety Xavier McKinney opened the second half with a 41-yard pick-6 and intercepted another putrid throw from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr midway through the fourth quarter. Outside linebacker Quincy Roche forced a fumble on the Raiders’ final drive with 44 seconds remaining to put the game away.
Now, was a single moment of that entertaining? Of course not!
Coach Joe Judge can take glee at the ugly nature of this victory, but is that truly what anyone wants to watch?
Verdict: Put the ball back in Jones’s hands and let it rip!