CHICAGO – Saquon Barkley is keeping the faith.
He retains it despite the Giants’ 2-9 record. Despite gaining one yard on 13 rushing attempts two weeks ago and one yard on two catches on Sunday, when he also dropped a third-down pass that he might have run a long way. And he keeps it though the Giants lost their seventh consecutive game, 19-14, to the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field.
Barkley doesn’t know when they will arrive, when he is sure the Giants will one day bask in the sunshine he is certain at the end of this long, dark tunnel.
“It’s upsetting,” Barkley said in the Giants’ quiet postgame locker room. “I mean, when you look at our team, you see how much talent we have and the great coaches that we have, too. You wouldn’t expect us to be 2-9 like where we are now. We have so much talent, but things just, I don’t know why, for some reason, things just don’t go our way in games. But hey, those are growing pains. That’s why I keep telling the guys, just live and learn from it. When we do turn this thing around, these are going to be the moments that we appreciate because when we do turn this thing around, which I do believe is going to be very soon, we’re going to laugh at moments like these.”
No one is laughing now, because a two-month losing streak is painful for everyone.
“Losing is not fun for anybody,” sad linebacker Alec Ogletree, who picked off his first pass of the season. “We haven’t won in seven, eight weeks or something like that. It’s frustrating for sure to keep losing. Not win games. We got five more opportunities to try and get a win. We got to look forward to that.”
“It’s tough,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “No one likes to lose. Everyone in this locker room, everyone that’s a part of the organization is trying to do all we can to correct it. We have to keep doing that and look at what we’re doing and get better because right now, it’s not good enough.”
This defeat was like most the Giants have endured this season. They performed well in stretches, including on a 97-yard touchdown drive that gave them hope in the fourth quarter. The defense played one of its best games of the season, holding Chicago to 65 rushing yards and 2.5 yards a carry. The Bears scored all of their points in a 9:48 stretch that spanned the second and third quarters. Their offense otherwise accomplished little.
Had the Giants made a few more plays, they could have won the game. But they hurt themselves, most notably by missing a pair of field goal attempts, converting just one of 12 third-down opportunities, and gifting the Bears a touchdown with a second-half fumble that gave Chicago the ball on the three-yard line.
“The defense did a lot of really good things, kept us in the game,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “A hard-fought game. We didn’t score enough points on offense. Obviously, we didn’t make our kicks, so we didn’t have a good enough contribution in those areas. We kept fighting, but there are no prizes for that. You have to do what you have to do to win the game.”
The Giants scored on Jones touchdown passes of three yards to rookie tight end Kaden Smith (the first of his career, in his first start) and 23 yards to Golden Tate on a fourth-and-18 in the fourth quarter. That score capped a 97-yard drive, the Giants’ longest in seven years.
Between the two scores, the Giants’ offense had little to show for its efforts. On consecutive possessions in the second quarter, Aldrick Rosas pushed a 42-yard field goal attempt wide right and pulled a 43-yard try too far left. He was the first Giants kicker to miss two attempts in a game since Lawrence Tynes on Sept. 26, 2010.
Rosas has missed an extra point or field goal attempt in five consecutive games.
“I would say frustrated,” he said when asked how he’s feeling. “Obviously, we’re not in the position we want to be in at this point of the season. It’s just frustrating.”
“I think it’s pretty obvious what happened today,” Shurmur said. “We just didn’t make them. There are three parts to it. You need to snap, you need to hold and you need to kick. We missed two today. But we just have to move past that.”
The Bears’ Eddie Pineiro missed an extra point try, but Chicago was able to do enough to win the game.
Pineiro’s 26-yard field goal late in the second quarter cut the Bears’ halftime deficit to 7-3. Chicago coach Matt Nagy had deferred after winning the coin toss and the decision paid dividends when Mitch Trubisky threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson on the fifth play of the third quarter. The score gave Chicago a lead it never relinquished at 10-7.
The Bears soon seized control by scoring 10 points in 1:50. After the Giants went three-and-out, the Bears drove from their own six-yard line to the Giants’ six before Pineiro’s 24-yard field goal made it 13-7.
On the Giants’ next offensive play, linebacker Khalil Mack sped around tackle Nate Solder to sack Jones and force a fumble that was recovered by Nick Williams, who returned the ball to the three-yard line.
“We were throwing the ball to Saquon, who had the linebacker beat,” Shurmur said. “By all rights, would have been a good gain. He got sacked and hit.”
Three plays later, Trubisky ran around right end for a two-yard touchdown. Chicago’s two-point conversion was nullified by a penalty and Pineiro missed a 38-yard extra point attempt.
The Giants trailed by 12 points when Cordarelle Patterson downed a punt at the three-yard line with 9:05 left in the fourth quarter. Jones and Barkley contributed runs of 26 and 22 yards, respectively, and Jones connected with Darius Slayton for 19 more to help move the Giants down the field. But when a third-down pass to Smith lost five yards, the Giants faced seemingly dire circumstances at fourth-and-18 from the Bears’ 23. But Tate made a terrific catch of Jones’ pass in the back of the end zone to lift the Giants to within 19-14.
“I just had a one on one opportunity with him and tried to give him a chance there on fourth down,” Jones said. “He went up and made a really good play.”
The Giants used all three of their timeouts while forcing the Bears to give up the ball after just 33 seconds, and 3:37 remained when the Giants took possession at their six-yard line. But they could not recreate the magic, advancing to the 35 before Jones’ fourth-down pass to Slayton fell incomplete, effectively ending the game.
“I missed a couple of throws we have to hit,” Jones said of the last drive. “I have to get the ball moving forward and making sure we’re taking advantage of what they give us. I don’t know. A couple of plays we’d like to have back.”
It’s been that kind of season.