INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The Giants arrived here after their week of practice at the University of Arizona as a closer-knit team that was refreshed and ready to face the Los Angeles Chargers.
"It was a positive week," coach Joe Judge said. "We actually had a really good week as a team. There was a lot of good prep work that happened there. A lot of good things internally with the team. I was very encouraged and pleased with how those guys worked throughout the week, how they handled themselves, conducted themselves. It was a good week of preparation."
Judge concluded his thoughts by saying, "obviously, it's all about how you carry that preparation over and execute."
About that last point…
The Giants could not put a happy ending to their feel-good week Sunday afternoon in SoFi Stadium. They fell behind early, gave up a late first-half score, and trailed in the fourth quarter by 30 points before two late touchdowns narrowed the final score to a still unsightly 37-21.
The defeat left the Giants at 4-9 with a home game against Dallas, the NFC East's first-place team, up next.
"I think we all would agree that we had a great week, great week of preparation, great team bonding, but it's the NFL," running back Saquon Barkley said. "Their team came out, had a great game plan, and executed and got the job done. So, hats off to them."
View all the action from the Week 14 matchup between the Giants and Chargers in Los Angeles.
The Chargers improved to 8-5 and remained in the middle of the AFC playoff race. Los Angeles totaled 423 yards and 26 first downs. Justin Herbert completed 23 of 31 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns and became the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 30 touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons.
Austin Ekeler scored on a one-yard run, rookie Joshua Palmer (12 yards), Jalen Guyton (59 yards), and Jared Cook (one yard) scored on passes from Herbert, and Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals from inside 30 yards.
Mike Glennon again played quarterback for the Giants because Daniel Jones was inactive with a neck injury. He completed 17 of 36 passes for 191 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception and scored his first career touchdown on a seven-yard run.
The Giants tied the score at 7-7 on Eli Penny's three-yard touchdown reception, the first of his career. But that was the visitor's final hurrah. Los Angeles responded by scoring 30 consecutive points before late touchdowns by Barkley and Glennon tightened the final score.
Perhaps nothing encapsulated the day – and the season – more than the eight-play sequence late in the second quarter.
The Giants trailed, 17-7, and had a chance to cut into the Chargers' lead when they took possession after a punt at the Los Angeles 41-yard line with 1:40 remaining in the first half.
On first down, Glennon's pass for Sterling Shepard fell incomplete. Glennon then threw to the right side for Barkley, who caught the ball but lost two yards. The Giants had an opportunity on third down, but an open Devontae Booker couldn't secure a Glennon pass that was thrown behind him. Riley Dixon's 18-yard punt gave the Chargers a first down on their 25 with 40 seconds left.
"It was disappointing to me because we got the ball back at the (41-) yard line," Glennon said. "That is on us as an offense. We need to get points in that situation. Whether it is a field goal or a touchdown, it has to be something. To go three-and-out and give the ball back to them, that falls on me. In situations like that, we need to get points."
They couldn't, but the Chargers did. Herbert quickly connected for a 17-yard gain with Guyton, who stepped out of bounds to stop the clock. A one-yard sack by Azeez Ojulari and an incompletion set up a third-and-11. One stop and at worst the Giants would go to the locker room with no more than a 10-point deficit.
But Herbert and the Chargers conceded nothing. Herbert moved to his right to evade rushing linebacker Lorenzo Carter and threw deep down the center of the field for Guyton. Carter did put Herbert on the ground, but it was too late because the ball was already in the air. Guyton caught it at the goal line despite safeties Logan Ryan and Xavier McKinney being in close proximity. Los Angeles' lead ballooned to 24-7 and the Giants never seriously challenged.
"We were in a cover two, two-high defense, pretty safe defense," Ryan said. "I saw they had Guyton in the slot, speedster. Herbert's got one of the strongest arms in the league and the ability to roll to his right and throw it across the field. It's an opportunity there and we practiced it. We prepared for it. If someone's running down the middle to try to go steal it from the backside. We don't want him to get out of the pocket there and I felt like I had a good shot at it at about 50 yards where I felt like the ball was going to go based on that play and that crow hop, got it an extra 10 and I just didn't track the ball well. He kind of threw it down the middle of our defense between me and Zay."
"It's just very frustrating. I'm frustrated with myself. As a pro athlete, you have to make split-second decisions and you get judged on them and I didn't make the right one there. I'm frustrated for my teammates. I'm frustrated for the coaches. We practiced that play, and we were prepared for that play, and I just didn't make that play. That's on us. That's on the players there. That's on me. Very frustrating, but the kid's got arm talent and he ripped it down the middle of our defense. We've done a good job all year of preventing plays like that for the most part and unfortunately today, he got that one in."
"Of course, that was a situation we should have capitalized on," Judge said. "We get the field position, hold them defensively, get the ball back for the offense in good field position. We weren't far from field goal position at that point right there. We had a couple of plays on that drive that we needed to make more of. We've got to make those plays in those situations, and ultimately, we didn't do it. You come up short right there."