EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the Giants to enjoy a more successful ending, they need to have a more productive beginning.
During their current four-game losing streak, the Giants have faced double-digit deficits before scoring in each contest, trailing 10-0 to Minnesota, 14-0 to New England, 17-0 to Arizona and 14-0 yesterday in Detroit, where a 31-26 loss to the Lions dropped their record to 2-6. They rallied to tie the score only against the Patriots, but that 14-14 deadlock lasted just over four minutes before the Pats took the lead for good. The Giants would have forced another 14-14 tie yesterday had Aldrick Rosas not missed an extra point attempt after Darius Slayton's second touchdown reception with 4:39 remaining in the second quarter.
This season, the Giants have been outscored in the first half, 146-89. They've outscored their opponents in the final two quarters, 72-69.
"I think we just need to play better early," coach Pat Shurmur said on a conference call today. "We find a way through the middle and the later part of the games to make enough plays. Defensively, we get settled down throughout the middle and later in the game and make plays that are significant. Then certainly, you don't like the turnovers that go for scores (as one did for the Lions' first touchdown). That's something that you obviously want to avoid at any point. Because what happens is you have to get away from some of the things that you had planned to do when the game was in the balance. You never want to do that."
Despite the slow start, the Daniel Jones-led offense played one of its best games of the season in Ford Field. The unit totaled 370 yards and converted seven of 12 third-down opportunities, a 58% success rate that was the second-highest of the season (62% vs. Washington on Sept. 29). Most importantly, Jones threw a season-high four touchdown passes, including two to Slayton and one each to Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley.
"I think we consistently moved the ball, and like I said after the game yesterday, that's something that we know we can do and that we've had a lot of confidence in doing," Jones said. "I thought we moved the ball well. Obviously, there were some critical points where we didn't, we stalled out, and obviously that's what we've got to fix, but in terms of just consistently moving the ball down the field and executing our stuff, I thought we did better."
Although the Giants won just two of Jones' first six career starts, he continues to get better, which is vital to the team's short and long-term fortunes.
"I think there's areas in each game where he has shown improvement just playing quarterback," Shurmur said. "Just focused on yesterday, I think we had the play where he gets hit, the ball goes backwards, and it becomes a fumble, but he stays in the moment and he just keeps playing. I keep saying this each week, but he's tough and he's resilient and he competes, and he fights and he tries to do everything right. There's plenty of production, things he did in terms of getting us in the right protection. There were some run checks he executed properly, I think he made some nice throws, he scrambled around, a couple of zone reads. I think the important thing for him is to continue to put more good plays on tape, continue to get the ball off on time and try to eliminate the mistakes that can wrongly affect the game."
Shurmur said there is no one area where Jones needs to make bigger strides.
"I think he can improve in all areas of his game," Shurmur said. "That's what happens with a young player, he goes through the game, there are a handful of throws that he maybe could throw better. There's a couple times maybe he could have done something different with the football. You are always working on your decision making, your timing, your accuracy and just in general what the quarterback has to do to in terms of managing the game. That's constant, that's a continual process for a rookie, as it would be for anybody that's even a veteran."
*Deone Bucannon had just one tackle in his Giants debut, but Shurmur liked what he saw from the newest addition to the roster.
"He had a handful of reps in there," Shurmur said. "I thought he did a pretty good job really for the first time out. Obviously, look forward to giving him more reps as we go. So, pretty good outing for the first time."
*The players-only meeting that was widely discussed in the postgame locker room was held today, but specifics about what was discussed were scarce.
"I'll just leave it at, the players wanted to have our meeting and we had our meeting and accomplished what we wanted to get done," linebacker and defensive captain Alec Ogletree said.
"We're going to keep all that kind of stuff between us as players," Jones said when asked what he took out of the meeting. "I think there's a certain sense of urgency in the building, but in terms of that stuff, we're going to keep that in-house."
Ogletree was asked if he feels like "everybody is together now?"
"We've always been together," he said. "It's only us that go out there on the field and play together, so it's just a matter of making sure everybody is still communicating, still on the same page, and trying to fix the problems."
Shurmur, in his 21st season as an NFL coach, believes such meetings can help steer a team in a positive direction.
"I think it's good," he said. "I think we are all disappointed that we lost, I think it's pretty obvious we fell a couple plays short of winning that football game. I think they are going to get together and discuss it, that's a players-only thing. I think this was addressed after the game with the coaches and the players, we need to keep working, we have to be very intentional with how we do things, which we have been, but we have to find ways to get better at everything we do so that shows up on game day and we make more plays."