The Giants stumbled out of the gate at the start of the 2020 season and are now doing everything to get to the finish line. But individual game results will not cloud Joe Judge's view of the big picture or the progress he has seen in his team over the last three months.
That was apparent on Sunday, when the Giants lost their third consecutive game by at least 14 points, 27-13, to the Baltimore Ravens in M&T Bank Stadium.
"I am not trying to take shortcuts, but we are trying to do it the right way," Judge said after his team fell to 5-10. "The results of the last three games are what they are. We are paid to win games. That is what it is, professional football. We have to do a better job coaching, better job playing, we have to do more things to help us win the games. Ultimately, in terms of the character of the team, the work ethic of the team, the toughness of the team, we have the right start to who we are working with and the direction we are going right now. We just need to make sure we do more on the field to get the tangible results."
They didn't get them Sunday, particularly in a first half dominated by the 10-5 Ravens. The Giants owned the ball for only 24:51 and were outgained, 432-269. Baltimore rushed for 249 yards, the most yardage on the ground allowed by the Giants in more than six years. The Giants did not record a sack for the first time in 19 games and converted only one of 10 third-down opportunities.
"Obviously, we didn't do well enough to get the job done today," Judge said. "We give credit to Baltimore. It is a well-coached football team. They are very talented. They play very hard, and it presents a number of issues that we start the game faster and handle it on all phases of the ball. I am proud of the way our guys fought."
Despite their record, the Giants will have a chance to win the NFC East title next week, when they host the Dallas Cowboys in their season finale.
Victories on Sunday by Carolina in Washington and the Cowboys against Philadelphia left Washington and Dallas tied for first place with 6-9 records. The Giants are a game behind. The Eagles were eliminated.
Because it twice defeated the Cowboys, Washington controls its destiny and will win the division with a victory next week in Philadelphia. But if the Giants beat Dallas and Washington loses to the Eagles, there will be a three-way tie atop the NFC East. The Giants would then win the division by virtue of their 3-1 head-to-head record against Washington and Dallas.
Baltimore led, 20-3, at the end of a first half in which they scored on each of their four offensive possessions – two touchdowns followed by a pair of field goals.
The Ravens traveled 82 yards in 13 plays while owning the ball for the game's first 8:12. Marquise Brown scored the game's first touchdown on a six-yard pass from Lamar Jackson. After the Giants went three-and-out, Baltimore moved 65 yards in 10 plays, the last a two-yard touchdown run by rookie J.K. Dobbins.
The Giants ran just three plays in the first quarter, their lowest total in at least 40 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"We didn't start the game like we needed to," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "We shot ourselves in the foot. On a couple plays, we weren't able to convert on third down, and that threw us behind. It dug a little hole for us. We've got to look at that stuff. We've got to clean it up. It makes it tough when you put yourself in that position."
"It's frustrating," said wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who had game and season-high totals of nine catches for 77 yards. "We have to get off to better starts. We're not the type of team that can afford to get off to this type of start, especially against a good team like Baltimore. We have to figure out what it is and how to get into a better groove early next week."
The defense had its own issues. Baltimore averaged 6.2 yards on its 40 rushing attempts and converted eight of 11 third-down chances. Three Ravens accounted for 242 of their yards on the ground: Gus Edwards (85), quarterback Lamar Jackson (80) and Dobbins (77). Jackson also completed 17 of 26 passes for 183 yards and no interceptions. Brown and Dez Bryant – who scored on an eight-yard reception in the fourth quarter – were solitary figures in the end zone when they caught their touchdown passes.
"I think schematically they're good play calls," safety Logan Ryan said. "They put a stress on our defense. They were running the ball really well. Sometimes you call calls to stop the run and they have a pass that puts you in a tough position. That's what makes the Ravens a good offense when they're running and throwing, so ideally you want them to play left-handed, you want to take away one thing so you can get a grip on it. But sometimes in football they have a good call and it puts us in a tough position. It's something that we need to be prepared for, which we are, and it's something that we need to play better. Hats off to them."
After falling behind by 14 points in the first quarter, the Giants played the Ravens to a 13-13 standstill over the final three periods. Jones, who returned to the field after missing last week's loss to Cleveland with hamstring and ankle injuries, completed 24 of a season high-tying 41 passes for 252 yards and a fourth-quarter three-yard touchdown to Shepard. But he was sacked on three consecutive plays in the fourth quarter (the Giants still scored a touchdown on the drive, which was kept alive by a roughing the kicker penalty on a punt) and six times overall. Jones had just one rushing attempt, for three yards in the final minute.
"(The Ravens) deserve the credit," Jones said. "They were pressuring and found different ways to bring it. I've got to do a better job of seeing it and getting the ball out in a lot of those situations whether they're exposed in the back end and in coverage. We'll look at that and learn from it. I certainly have to do a better job."
Jones said he sustained no physical setbacks in the game.
"I'm not sure I have a percentage, but I do feel a lot better," Jones said. "I'll continue to work through it and continue to work with the trainers, with the doctors and do what I'm told. I'm going to work as hard as I can to continue to improve. I feel good. I felt like I could move and get out of the pocket and do what I needed to do. I felt good about that."
"I think Daniel looked the way I expected him to look out there," Judge said. "He played confidentially, didn't look hesitant with anything he did. He had some chances out there. I thought Daniel did a lot of nice things today. Ultimately as a team, it was not enough. But in terms of how he moved around coming off of the injury, I thought he looked better."
When Judge spoke to the media after the game, he did not know whether his team was still alive in the division race or had been eliminated. But that knowledge would not have changed his outlook or his remarks.
"Our focus is on getting ready for the Cowboys next week," Judge said. "We don't have any control over what happens with other teams, other games played today. We had that control in our first 15 games, the results of those games are what matter. In terms of where this team is headed and what we have been able to accomplish this year, in terms of the foundation, the culture – we have improved a lot of playing across the board. A lot of players, a lot of development from young guys and new guys in this program. So no, the end result is where we are looking to get going in this program, I feel that we are on the right track and moving in the right direction."
View photos from the Week 16 matchup between the Giants and Ravens in at M&T Bank Stadium.