EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the second straight year, the Giants are one of the NFL's surprise teams. This time, it's not nearly as enjoyable.
In 2022, they broke a streak of five consecutive losing seasons with a resurgence under first-year coach Brian Daboll, who not only led the team to the postseason but picked up a road victory in the playoffs. That created high expectations for 2023.
But except for an inspiring and franchise record-tying second half comeback in a victory in Arizona two weeks ago, this season has not met expectations. It continued Monday night in MetLife Stadium, a 24-3 Seattle Seahawks victory over the Giants.
The Giants allowed a franchise record 11 sacks; turned the ball over three times, including an interception that was returned 97 yards for a touchdown; committed six special teams penalties; and played their fourth straight game without recording a takeaway. The team that started last year 6-1 fell to 1-3, including two losses at home.
How does Daboll explain the first quarter of the Giants' season?
"I'd say every year is different," he said. "We're not playing well right now, not coaching well right now. So, got to do a lot better."
He believes they will. The Giants will hit the road the next two weeks, playing AFC East co-leaders Miami and Buffalo, who are each 3-1.
"I have a lot of confidence in the guys in the room," Daboll said. "I know the results haven't shown up. We took some pretty bad beatings, but you own it, you move on, and I've got a lot of confidence in the players and the coaches, and we've got to do a better job.
"It's the first quarter of the season, there is a long way to go, but certainly a lot of things we've got to do better."
Pass protection is high on that list. The Giants played their third consecutive game without All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas, who remained sidelined with a hamstring injury. Rookie center John Michael Schmitz suffered a shoulder injury early in the game, forcing Ben Bredeson to move over from left guard. Shane Lemieux, Bredeson's replacement, left in the second half with a groin injury and was replaced by Mark Glowinski, who began the season as a starter.
The result was that Daniel Jones was under siege all night. He was sacked three times in the first half, seven more in the second and was hit 14 times, according to the official stats sheet. Wide receiver Parris Campbell was supposed to throw a pass, but instead was tackled for Seattle's 11th sack.
Jones did complete 79.4% of his passes (27 of 34) but threw a pair of interceptions, lost a fumble that led to a Seattle touchdown, and didn't get the Giants into the end zone.
"Give credit to their defense," Jones said. "They rush hard and play well together, but I've got to do a better job getting through my reads, getting the ball out of my hand, and making quick decisions, so I'll definitely look to work on that."
Asked what contributed to the protection breakdowns, Daboll said, "Probably a little bit of everything, had some longer routes at times, got beat at times, reads at times, calls at times. I'd say kind of a collection of everything."
Anyone searching for positives can focus on the defense. Seattle finished with 281 total yards and 13 first downs and converted just three of 12 third-down opportunities.
"I thought defensively, we did a lot of good things," Daboll said. "Didn't get the job done, had too many penalties on special teams and didn't score on offense. So, we've got to figure out a way to make that better."
For the third time in four games, the Giants moved the ball well on their opening possession but did not advance to the end zone. On the 11th play of the drive, they faced a fourth-and-one at the Seattle 27-yard line. The Giants deployed eight offensive linemen, including Lemieux and Glowinski in the backfield. They ran the increasingly popular push play with the bulk in the back trying to force Jones across the line of gain on a quarterback sneak. But Jones was stopped for no gain, sapping an opportunity for early points and momentum.
"I'd go for it again if we were ever in that situation," Daboll said.
Late in the quarter, Jones was sacked from behind by Mario Edwards, Jr., who separated him from the ball with a strip, which was recovered at the Giants' seven by Jordyn Brooks. Two plays later – on the final play of the quarter - DK Metcalf caught a touchdown pass from Geno Smith for a 7-0 lead.
Graham Gano scored the Giants' lone points on a 55-yard field goal with 3:05 left in the second quarter. The Giants hoped to get the ball back for another scoring opportunity, but on third-and-10 from the Seattle 48, Smith threw down the right sideline for tight end Noah Fant, who sidestepped two tackle attempts and carried the ball all the way to the one-yard line. Kenneth Walker III immediately scored on a run up the middle for a 14-3 halftime lead.
That remained the score until the waning moments of the third quarter. After Jason Myers missed a 53-yard field goal attempt, the Giants advanced to the Seahawks' five-yard line. On second-and-goal, Jones threw to his left for Campbell. But rookie Devon Witherspoon picked off the pass for his first career interception and raced 97 yards for a touchdown that all but clinched the game.
"I just felt like the coverage was soft, trying to find someone in the zone," Jones said. "Obviously, terrible decision and awful mistake, so I can't afford to do that."
Jones was also intercepted by Quandre Diggs in the fourth quarter, leading to Myers' 34-yard field goal.
Now the Giants must regroup, perhaps again restructure their offensive line, and set aside another disappointing game before traveling on a short week.
As Daboll often notes, what a difference a year makes.
"No one expected this to be where we were, where we are, so yeah, there's some shock," Jones said. "But at the end of the day it's about what we do from here and getting things corrected and playing better football."
"I understand the work that we've put in," safety Xavier McKinney said. "I understand how we prepare and, ultimately, I understand the talent that we have. We've just got to find a way to put it together and right now we are not doing that. So, we've just got to find a way."
View photos from the Giants' Week 4 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.