EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Daniel Jones knew his debut NFL season was going to be challenging and revealing, so he understands tough losses and plays and decisions he would like to have back are part of the deal. That's not to say he doesn't wish it was easier, or more successful.
The Giants' rookie quarterback was asked on a conference call today if winning a single game is more difficult than he imagined. Considering the Giants' 19-14 loss in Chicago yesterday was their seventh consecutive defeat, it would not have been surprising had Jones responded with a resounding "yes". But his response was typically more nuanced.
"You understand you don't know exactly what it's like, because you have never played an NFL game before," said Jones, who is 2-7 since taking over as the starter in Week 3. "You hear all the time people talking about the margin for error and how close these games are with everyone being so evenly matched talent-wise. It's about who can make a couple more plays. I think that's something you hear about. The older guys will tell you how fine the line is between winning and losing. It's been tough and we're all looking for ways to improve, ways we can figure it out and get back on track. I think that's part of this game."
Jones is not the first young quarterback to bear a bumpy first season. Fifteen years ago, his predecessor, Eli Manning, lost his first six starts before leading the Giants to victory against Dallas in their season finale. Manning is Jones' backup and has offered advice on navigating the tough times.
"Just to be consistent in how I prepare and how I carry myself." Jones said of Manning's counsel. "Certainly, there is a lot to learn and he's been very helpful with me in that sense and learning from the mistakes and correcting things. His message has been to be consistent and continue to move forward and not let the last mistake affect the next play."
Jones has taken that to heart. He has thrown just one interception in the last four games, and none in the last two, a career first. But he has lost a fumble in each of the last five games. Yesterday, he had virtually no chance to avoid Khalil Mack, an All-Pro linebacker who was charging from his blind side. Jones also led the Giants back into the game by throwing for 45 yards and running for 26 more on a 97-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that ended with his pinpoint 23-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
But when the Giants got the ball back at their own six-yard line with 3:37 remaining and trailing by five, Jones helped them advance to the 35 before three consecutive incompletions ended their comeback bid.
For coach Pat Shurmur and his staff, the challenge is coaxing improvement out of a roster with 21 first or second-year players without the thrill of victory.
"I think when you look at it, you're always looking for ways to improve in everything you do," Shurmur said. "You try to tweak and change things within the way you do things. Our guys practice extremely hard. There's good attention to detail. Some of these guys are doing it this year for the first time at this level. The challenge then is to make it happen on Sunday.
"There was a lot of really good things that happened yesterday in the game, especially against a team that was a playoff team a year ago. Defensively, we did a lot of good things. We still gave up some big plays and there are areas that we need to improve. We had some critical errors that affected us. But we had a couple of turnovers and got a stop at the end that gave us the ball with a chance to go down and score. Offensively, they're a tough team to throw against. We knew that, but I thought we created opportunities for ourselves, and some of them we didn't take advantage of. But you have to put that all together and do it in a way where you win a football game. That's obviously the challenge."
Jones conceded a Giants team that has not won since defeating Washington on Sept. 29 yearns for the validation of a victory.
"I think we're all looking for that, and I think obviously at this point with the results," he said. "But I think as a team and as a group, we're focused on making sure we can correct those mistakes and trying to do all we can to get back on track. So, I think, yeah, we need a win and we're working as hard as we can to get back on track."
Their next chance to do that is Sunday at home against the 8-3 Green Bay Packers. Despite their disappointing record, the Giants insist they have much to play for.
"We are playing for our Giants pride," tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said. "Just coming out here to try and get some wins under our belt, keep working and playing for each other."
*The Giants announced that safety Jabrill Peppers has a transverse process fracture and Tate is in the concussion protocol. Peppers was hurt returning a kickoff late in the first half and Tate suffered his injury when he absorbed a hard landing on his touchdown reception.
Shurmur said he does not expect Peppers' injury to be season-ending.
"My understanding, his too, in terms of the evaluation of it, as I knew yesterday he had a sore back," Shurmur said. "I guess he can return, it's kind of relative to pain tolerance. So, I would say no.
"Today, obviously, we're less than a day removed from the game, so he's sore today. We don't practice until Wednesday, so we'll just have to see what the week brings."
*First-year defensive backs Corey Ballentine (64 snaps), Julian Love (42) and Sam Beal (28) saw their most extensive action of the season in Chicago. Love's playing time increased because of Peppers' injury, which prevented him from playing in the second half. Beal's increased playing time resulted in a decrease for starting rookie DeAndre Baker.
"Some of those changes in the secondary were intentional coming off the bye," Shurmur said. "I thought Sam had some good plays and I liked the fact that he was healthy and able to be in the game playing corner. We get to see some of what we really liked about him. He had some good reps. He certainly, they caught the deep in-ball on him and it ended up being a penalty, but I thought he battled and for the most part was pretty effective."
*Will the Giants bring in another kicker to "pick up the intensity" on kicker Aldrick Rosas, who has missed a field goal attempt or extra point in each of the last five games, including two field goal tries yesterday.
"We'll talk about that as we go," Shurmur said. "I'm sure if we do bring any kickers in, it'll be made public. Certainly, it's unacceptable to miss the kicks like we did. But I think it's important that the guys that are here continue to improve. In all areas, become more consistent with what they do. I think that's the focus with Aldrick at this point."