EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A loss is a loss, and when Pat Shurmur boils it all down, the reason for a loss never radically changes.
"I think we didn't make enough plays, we made too many mistakes to win a football game," Shurmur said on a conference call following his team's 35-14 defeat at New England.
There's no disputing that statement. The Giants gained just 213 yards, compiled only 10 first downs, were two-for-10 on third-down opportunities and committed four turnovers, including three interceptions on Daniel Jones passes. They allowed both a defensive (on a fumble return) and special teams (blocked punt) touchdown.
Shurmur and his players won't use it as an excuse, but they played shorthanded. Their top two running backs, Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman, and two leading receivers, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, were all inactive due to injuries. If the Giants are going to win their next game – at home against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 20 – and enjoy success over the season's final 10 games, it's clear they need as many contributions as they can get from those players.
"We're 2-4 and we're certainly going to welcome anyone back that can get healthy to play against Arizona," Shurmur said. "Everybody talked about the players that were injured and weren't able to be with us last night, so yeah, I'm looking forward to getting everybody back. It's a good thing when you've got a lot of healthy scratches when you put your 46-man (game day roster) together, so we're looking forward to that. I think we'll get through this weekend, and we've already started, but put all our effort into beating Arizona."
Asked specifically about Barkley, the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year who has missed three games with a sprained ankle, Shurmur said, "We'll see, we'll see. He's made good progress. He was out there running around today, so we'll just have to see what the week brings."
Prior to the game, football pundits gave the Giants little chance to win. The absences of the four key offensive players - who collectively accounted for an average of 227.4 yards in the first five games – was a major factor. But so was the opponent. New England is the defending Super Bowl champion, is now 6-0 and has the NFL's top-ranked defense. The Patriots have also won 19 consecutive home games, including playoffs.
But the Giants trailed by just 21-14 entering the fourth quarter. New England scored two late touchdowns to balloon the final margin. Instead of feeling satisfied they kept it close, the players were angry they lost, despite the circumstances.
"We came into the game expecting to win the game," Jones said. "Maybe other people were surprised, but I don't think we were. We have a good football team. I don't think we're going to let this affect our confidence. When you look at last night, a lot of credit goes to the defense and how well they played. They kept us in the game. On offense, we know we can play better and we have to play better. We expected to be in the game, we expected to win the game. Obviously, we're disappointed, but there are things to learn from it."
"I am a win and loss guy, so I always go off of wins and losses," said linebacker Markus Golden, who scored on a 42-yard fumble return and had a half-sack. "We lost the game, so I wasn't as excited about (playing the Patriots close before coming up short), but there was a lot of positives that came from it after watching film. We did a lot of flying around, working together, a lot of guys were doing their job. That part is exciting, but at the end of the day, we want to try and get that win."
Much of that will depend on the continued growth of Jones, who is now 2-2 as the team's starter. For the first time, he completed less than 50% of his passes (15 of 31). The three-interception game was his first. But Jones continues to show toughness and smarts in and out of the pocket and an arm that can make any throw required of him.
As he does with injuries, Shurmur refuses to use the crutch of inexperience when assessing Jones' miscues.
"I think, regardless of whether you're in your first year in the league or you've been doing it for a very long time, what's right is right and what's wrong is wrong," Shurmur said. "I think it's fair to say that some of the things that Daniel's going through, he's going through for the first time. Part of his charm is he's willing to try and fit it in there. I think he's very accurate and he's got good velocity on his throws, so he's got confidence to get the ball in there, and he did that last night. Those were not the most ideal conditions to be throwing the ball at times, and I thought he made some really good throws. On the flip side of that, there were some things that happened on the interceptions that need to get corrected. That's part of it, for all quarterbacks, and it's a fine line between being aggressive and putting the ball in harm's way. I think each play and each time he goes through it, he'll learn something from it."
Jones was picked off by John Simon in the first quarter, Duron Harmon in the second, and Stephon Gilmore in the third. Each turnover will be stored in his memory bank and used to prevent a repeat of the offending pass.
"That's the biggest thing for me, is to prevent making a mistake twice," Jones said. "I don't think the fact that I'm young or the fact that I haven't played much, it isn't an excuse. I don't think that helps. I'm not going to use that to help myself feel better. But there are still really bad mistakes, things I can't afford to do. The challenge is I have to be able to learn from those and to prevent them from happening again."
That will be easier to do when the Giants offense is again at or near full strength.
*Shurmur said defensive tackle Olsen Pierre's concussion was the only injury of note from last night's game.
*The Giants today re-signed quarterback Alex Tanney and waived running back Austin Walter. Because they had just two healthy backs, the Giants yesterday signed Walter off their practice squad and released Tanney. Walter played one snap vs. the Patriots.