EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the third time in his three Giants seasons, Daniel Jones will face a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady. And once again, the game will be played in prime time, giving Jones an opportunity to earn a pair of career firsts.
The Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions, will meet Monday night in Raymond James Stadium. Despite losing their last two games, including a 29-19 defeat Sunday in Washington, the Bucs lead the NFC South with a 6-3 record. The Giants, winners in two of their previous three games, come out of their bye at 3-6.
Jones is 0-2 against Brady-led teams. On Oct. 10, 2019, in his fourth career start, Jones threw one touchdown pass and three interceptions in a 35-14 loss to the New England Patriots on a Thursday night in Gillette Stadium. Brady did not throw a scoring pass, but the Patriots shut out the Giants in the second half to pull away for the victory.
The quarterbacks matched up again in Brady's first season in Tampa Bay in 2020. In a Monday night game in MetLife Stadium on Nov. 2, an eight-point Giants halftime lead dissolved into a 25-23 defeat. The Giants pulled to within two points with 28 seconds remaining on Jones' 19-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. But the potential tying two-point conversion pass to Dion Lewis fell incomplete.
"That was a tough loss, a really tough loss," tight end Evan Engram said. "It came down to that crazy two-point play at the end – a little controversy there, but it was just a crazy game. That was a Monday night, too, so going to run it back again. It's going to be good."
Jones and Brady each threw for two touchdowns in the game. But while Brady did not commit a turnover, Jones threw a pair of second-half interceptions that Tampa Bay converted into 10 points.
"When you look at that game, it was back and forth, it was a four-quarter game down to the end," Jones said. "We made plays, they made plays. I think when you look at it, there were a couple of costly turnovers in the second half that hurt us, and you see how important those plays are in a game that goes down to the wire. So, we've got to do a good job protecting the football and making plays when they come. There are things we'll be able to learn from how they played us and how they game planned and what we were able to do. We'll certainly look to that game."
Jones responded to the turnovers by throwing a career-high 177 passes without an interception, a streak that covered more than five full games. He has thrown just five picks in 190 passes this year.
"Obviously, you've got to learn from mistakes and as he's made mistakes or had plays he wants to have back, you can't go back in a time machine, so you've just got to go ahead and carry it forward and make sure that you don't repeat those mistakes," coach Joe Judge said. "He's done a good job of that for us. I think when you look at last year, that was obviously a line that you can say before this game or after this game there were distinctively different results. Whether there was something that happened distinctly in that game – obviously, we make the emphasis every week of what we have to do and correct. He's improved as a player every game we've had him and that was a significant part last year for him in terms of progressing in his career."
Another issue garnering much attention this week is the Giants' recent struggles in prime time. They have lost nine consecutive night games, beginning with the loss in New England two years ago. Their most recent defeat under the lights was just 16 days ago when they were on the wrong side of a 20-17 decision in Kansas City on Nov. 1.
The Giants' last victory at night was a 27-23 triumph in San Francisco on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, when Eli Manning played quarterback and Jones was in his final season at Duke. They've since lost five games on Mondays, three on Thursdays and one on a Sunday night. The Giants are 0-7 in prime time in games Jones has started and 0-6 under Judge.
"I really haven't thought about it," Jones said. "I didn't realize it until recently, but we're preparing for this week. Each game is different. Each game is a different opportunity, so we'll look to prepare for this one."
Jones was candid in assessing one reason the Giants haven't had the nighttime success they've desired.
"We haven't won enough games here recently, period, so you look at whatever the situation is," he said. "We've got to look at this game individually and preparing for that game."
It was suggested to Judge that a change in the preparation schedule prior to a night game might be beneficial.
"We've looked at that before in different places we've been and there's been times we've altered maybe the time of day we've practiced," Judge said. "To be honest with you, we're all kind of creatures of habit when you get to football. We talk a lot about specialization of training. Everyone's got different ways of how they want to practice and do things. If you're an Olympic sprinter, there's a little bit different build up to a game. There's different things that lead into it."
"Really, in the world of football, we've kind of found it best to just stay consistent with our plan in terms of they know what to expect on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. This week we have Saturday, so it's important for us to keep the schedule as close as we did before for our guys to have a mode of what they have to do throughout the week and that really ties into the preparation on the field, but then it also ties into recovery off the field, their sleep, the tape study, how they structure their week in general. We have not changed anything specifically because of prime-time games. I've been a part of that, it hasn't always really made the biggest difference either way, to be honest with you. To me, it's we'll get prepared and we'll get out there."
And try to show the entire nation they can defeat the defending champions under the bright lights.
*Left tackle Andrew Thomas, who has been on injured reserve since Oct. 19, returned to practice today and hopes to play in Tampa. Thomas missed four of the last five games with ankle and foot injuries.
"We expect him to be on the field with us this week, at least starting practice with us," Judge said.
*Saquon Barkley, sidelined since Oct. 10 with an ankle injury he suffered in Dallas, participated in both of the Giants' walk-throughs today.
"We'll see how he progresses with the team throughout the week of practice," Judge said. "That will obviously give us the answer we need as far as him going to the game. Couldn't give you an answer yes or no right now, but we will be able to have him out at practice with us."
*Linebacker Lorenzo Carter and kicker Graham Gano were not with the team today. "(They) have a stomach bug type of thing, so we kept them out of the building to keep it away from everybody else." Judge said.