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Recap: Giants grounded in 26-7 loss to Cardinals

DEFENSE-1

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The good times were interrupted for the Giants on Sunday.

Despite the return of quarterback Daniel Jones, the Giants' offense sputtered for most of a 26-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in MetLife Stadium that ended their four-game winning streak. The Giants fell to 5-8. Arizona, which had lost of its previous five games, improved to 7-6.

The 19-point margin of defeat was the Giants' second largest of the season. They lost to the 49ers in Week 3, 36-9.

The Giants' seven points marked their lowest total since they were shut out by the Tennessee Titans, 17-0, on Dec. 16, 2018. Their previous low this season was nine points in back-to-back defeats to San Francisco and the Rams on Sept. 27 and Oct. 4.

If Washington defeats San Francisco later Sunday – a game that will ironically played on the Cardinals' home field in Arizona – the Giants will slip to second place in the NFC East.

The Giants finished 1-3 against the NFC West, defeating Seattle and losing to San Francisco, Arizona and the Los Angeles Rams. They scored just one touchdown in the three losses.

Arizona has won the last four games in the series, and in each of its last four visits to East Rutherford.

UP NEXT:

The Giants will play their first Sunday night game since 2018 and their first at home since 2016 when they host the Cleveland Browns next week in MetLife Stadium. The Giants last played in a Sunday primetime game on Sept. 16, 2018, a 20-13 loss in Dallas. Their most recent Sunday night victory was a 23-10 triumph in Denver on Oct. 15, 2017. And they last hosted a Sunday night game on Dec. 11, 2016, a 10-7 victory against Dallas. The Giants won their last two and six of their last seven games against the Browns dating back to 1991. The teams last met on Nov. 27, 2016, when three Eli Manning touchdown passes, including two to Odell Beckham, Jr., keyed a 27-13 victory. The Giants and Browns most recently met in New Jersey on Oct. 7, 2012, when the home team overcame an early 14-0 deficit and rallied to win, 41-27. From 1950-69, the Giants and Browns had one of the NFL's greatest rivalries, playing each other twice each season (except for 1968). Since the Browns moved to the AFC in the 1970 merger, they have played each other only 10 times (the Giants own a 6-4 advantage).

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE:

It is susceptible to off days. The Giants finished with only 159 total yards and 10 first downs, or 71 yards and three first downs lower than their previous worst figures this season. They ran 30 fewer plays (79-49), owned the ball for only 22:08 and converted just three of 12 third-down opportunities.

Jones, who missed last week's victory in Seattle with a hamstring injury, never really found a rhythm. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 127 yards. The 11 completions were the lowest total in his 24 NFL starts. He completed 12 of a career-low 19 attempts for 112 yards in the Giants' first victory of the season, against Washington on Oct. 18.

Jones was sacked six times, which ties the second-highest total of his career. Jones' highest total – eight sacks - was also against Arizona, on Oct. 20, 2019. He was sacked six times at the Jets on Nov. 10, 2019. Colt McCoy substituted for Jones late in the game and absorbed two sacks.

The Giants could not contain Arizona outside linebacker Hassan Reddick, who had 5.0 sacks, six quarterback hits and three forced fumbles. The five sacks were the most ever against the Giants.

The Giants' offense had trouble getting untracked. They trailed at halftime, 13-0, one week after they were behind after two quarters in Seattle, 5-0. It is the first time they did not score a point in the first half of consecutive games since Dec. 4 and 11, 2016 when they trailed Pittsburgh, 14-0, and Dallas, 7-0. They lost to the Steelers, 24-14, but beat the Cowboys, 10-7.

This was the third game this season in which the Giants were shut out in the first half. In addition to the two games just mentioned, they trailed in Chicago, 17-0, on Sept. 20. The Giants lost that game, 17-13.

The Giants scored their first points of the game with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter, when running back Dion Lewis slipped across the goal line from a yard out. It was Lewis' second rushing touchdown and third overall score this season. The touchdown was set up by Jones' 39-yard pass down the middle to wide receiver Golden Tate, who was ruled down at the one. Lewis scored on the next play.

The Giants committed a turnover on the game's fifth play when their former teammate, linebacker Markus Golden, sacked Jones for an 11-yard loss while forcing a fumble that Golden recovered and returned 30 yards to the Giants' nine. The Cards were stopped on fourth down and did not score.

The turnover was the Giants' second on an opening possession this season. On Sept. 20 against San Francisco, Jones' tried to lateral to tight end Evan Engram, who couldn't hold onto the ball, which was recovered by Dion Jordan. Jones was charged with the fumble.

The rushing attack generated only 78 yards one week after finishing with a season-high 190 yards in Seattle.

View photos from the Week 14 matchup between the Giants and Cardinals at MetLife Stadium.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE:

Kyler Murray frustrated the Giants' defense for most of the game. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft completed 24 of 35 passes for 244 yards. He also rushed for 47 yards on 13 carries. Murray's favorite receiver was DeAndre Hopkins, who caught nine passes for 136 yards, with a long of 41 yards.

Kenyan Drake led the Cardinals with 80 rushing yards on 23 carries.

The game's first touchdown was frustrating for the Giants and not just because it added to the Cardinals' point total. With the pass rush closing in, Murray threw a pass that seemed as if it might sail out of the end zone. But tight end Dan Arnold leaped up, caught the ball and came down with his feet inbounds, surrounded by four Giants defensive backs: Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, Isaac Yiadom and Julian Love.

The Giants hoped to close the scoring gap in the third quarter but instead saw it increase. Arizona took the second-half kickoff and drove 77 yards in 11 plays and 6:08, the last a one-yard dive over the goal line by Kenyan Drake. The longest play in the series was Drake's 36-yard run up the left side, which advanced the Cardinals to the Giants' 16. Drake scored three players later.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Giants committed their first special teams turnover of the season when Dion Lewis lost a fumble returning a kickoff with 8:17 remaining in the second quarter. After a 15-yard return, the ball was separated from the ball by linebacker Kylie Fitts, who actually kicked the ball out off his hand. The ball was recovered by Trent Sherfield at the Giants' 16-yard line. Four plays later, Murray threw the touchdown pass to Arnold to give Arizona 10 points in 1:31.

Graham Gano, who has made 25 attempts in a row, did not try a field goal for just the second time this season (also at Philadelphia on Oct. 22).

INJURY REPORT:

NYG: None reported.

AZ: Defensive lineman Jordan Phillips injured his hamstring in the first quarter and did not return. Left guard Justin Pugh, the former Giants first-round draft choice, left the game in the second quarter with a calf injury. Right tackle Kelvin Beachum injured his back recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter.

INACTIVES:

NYG: The Giants' inactive players were cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee), wide receiver Dante Pettis, linebacker TJ Brunson, tackles Kyle Murphy and Jackson Barton and defensive lineman RJ McIntosh.

Holmes, the Giants' starting nickel corner, missed his second game of the season. He was inactive at Philadelphia on Oct. 22 with a neck injury.

AZ: The Cardinal's inactive players were kicker Zane Gonzalez, quarterback Brett Hundley, wide receiver Andy Isabella, running back Eno Benjamin, safety Jalen Thompson and offensive linemen Joshua Miles and Max Garcia.

LINEUP CHANGES:

NYG: Quarterback Daniel Jones returned to the starting lineup after missing last week's game in Seattle with a hamstring injury. With Darnay Holmes inactive, safety Xavier McKinney, the Giants' second-round draft choice this year, started and replaced Holmes in the slot.

AZ: Mike Nugent took over the Cardinals' kicking duties for Zane Gonzalez, who was inactive. Nugent kicked four field goals, from 22, 39, 34 and 30 yards. Nugent, who was with the Giants in training camp in 2017, last played on Oct. 27, 2019, when he ended a four-game stint with New England kicking a pair of field goals in a victory against Cleveland.

This week, the Giants are celebrating "My Cause My Cleats" as players will wear customized cleats reflecting their commitment to charitable causes.

The charitable organizations players selected represent a variety of different causes that they are personally connected to, including: medical research, social justice, ending domestic violence, and supporting our neighbors in need during their most difficult times.

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