EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In the quiet of the Giants’ postgame locker room late Sunday afternoon, a reporter offered Saquon Barkley several choices when asking, “what’s the emotion for you right now?”
“Frustration, disappointment, anger, everything you said,” Barkley replied. “No one wants to be 2-8, no one wants to have a losing record. Everyone’s upset, everyone’s frustrated.”
The Giants can’t escape those feelings now. They head into their bye week with a six-game losing streak after their 34-27 loss to the Jets in MetLife Stadium. The Giants fell behind early, 14-0, rallied to take a six-point lead, but surrendered the final 13 points of the game – 10 in the fourth quarter - to a team that was last in the NFL in both scoring and yardage. The Giants have been outscored in the fourth quarter this season, 68-38.
“We all understand the importance of every game, especially this game,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “It was a hard-fought game. We found a way to be down 14 points, and then we found a way to be up. Then we found a way to be down and we lost it. That’s the reality of it.”
“It’s tough and it hurts,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “The way we planned it, obviously, is a lot better than that. We struggled when we needed to make some plays in crucial moments late in the game.”
The Giants opened the game with four offensive starters inactive because of injury: wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion), tight end Evan Engram (foot), center Jon Halapio (hamstring) and right tackle Mike Remmers (back). In the second quarter, they lost left tackle Nate Solder to a concussion. That left a line, which collectively had missed one snap in the first nine games, playing with three substitutes - Spencer Pulley at center, Nick Gates at right tackle and Eric Smith at left tackle. It was Gates’ first career start and Smith’s first career appearance.
Even with three substitute linemen, the next few words are hard to fathom: Barkley, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, carried the ball 13 times and gained just one yard.
“To us, that’s just unacceptable,” said left guard Will Hernandez. “That’s one of the areas we have to get better, and that’s what we’re going to do this bye week. I guess the positive thing about that is it’s solely on us. It’s up to us to do it. If it was up to anybody else, then I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s panic.’ But it’s all up to us. I know we have the guys to get it done and switch it all around. It’s not over.”
The Jets entered the game allowing an NFL-low 3.1 yards a carry.
“We just have to get better,” Barkley said. “The Jets played a heck of a game. We get to go on a bye week, get to reflect on myself and move on.”
When it was mentioned at Shurmur’s postgame news conference that it’s unusual for a back of Barkley’s caliber to have one rushing yard, the coach said, “it’s very unusual of anybody’s caliber in any game.”
The Giants did have several noticeable positive contributions. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones continues to pass the ball like a veteran. He completed 26 of 40 passes for 308 yards – his third 300-yard game – four touchdowns and no interceptions. Darius Slayton caught the first two touchdown passes (five and 39 yards in the second quarter) and Tate the second two (61 and 15 yards in the third).
But with the running game contributing nothing – Jones led the Giants with 20 rushing yards – the Jets focused their efforts on getting to the quarterback and sacked Jones six times, including once when Jamal Adams forced a fumble and scored a touchdown on a 25-yard return.
“Unfortunately, no matter what we did, we couldn’t get it done,” right guard Kevin Zeitler said. “There’s no way around it. It’s on us.”
Despite the injuries, the slow start and the inefficiencies, the Giants put themselves in position to win the game. But they couldn’t finish it as they wanted, a too-familiar scenario this season.
The Jets jumped in front in the first quarter on quarterback Sam Darnold’s two-yard run and his 23-yard pass to Jamison Crowder.
The second quarter belonged to the Giants, who climbed within a point on Slayton’s two touchdown catches. The rookie finished with season-high totals of 10 catches for 121 yards. But the Giants failed to tie the score when Zak DeOssie’s low snap on the second extra point try was low. The ball was scooped up by punter/holder Riley Dixon, whose two-point pass attempt to tight end Kaden Smith fell incomplete.
Adams’ touchdown just 47 seconds into the third quarter interrupted the Giants’ surge – but only briefly. Jones responded on the next two possessions with his touchdown passes to Tate, the second giving the Giants a 27-21 lead with 5:21 remaining in the second quarter.
That was the end of the good times for the Giants. Sam Ficken’s 53-yard field goal cut the Jets’ deficit to 27-24 entering the fourth quarter. DeAndre Baker was penalized 33 yards for pass interference on the first snap of the period, setting up Le’Veon Bell’s go-ahead one-yard touchdown run. Ficken later added a 35-yard field goal.
While the Jets rallied, the Giants fizzled. In their final five offensive possessions, they punted four times and lost the ball attempting a desperation multi-lateral play on the game’s final snap.
“It was a slow start for us, which I thought hurt us,” Jones said. “We kind of dug ourselves a hole a little bit there in the beginning, but we fought back there in the first half. Then second half, we scored a couple touchdowns to take the lead. Then they came back. You realize you need to be able to sustain that energy or the momentum or what you’re doing consistently enough to handle their punches, handle their drives or their scores, and we didn’t do that.”
That’s been the pattern for much of the season. So, what can this team do now? The Giants return to action on Nov. 24 in Chicago.
“We have to be better,” Barkley said. “We are going into the bye week. We get to watch film and reflect on ourselves. We have six games left to try to finish the season off strong.”
View the best photos from Sunday's game against the Jets