EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge takes no solace in almost winning and has no illusions about what it will take for the Giants to begin earning victories.
For the fourth week in a row and the sixth time this season, the Giants last night played in a one-score game. They lost at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 25-23, in a contest essentially decided when the officials picked up a flag and declared no pass interference penalty had been committed on the Giants' potential game-tying two-point conversion attempt with 28 seconds remaining.
It was the fourth consecutive Giants' game and third straight loss decided by three points or less. They lost in Dallas, 37-34, on a last-play field goal and in Philadelphia, 22-21, after a late 11-point lead evaporated. The Giants did beat the Washington Football Team, 20-19, when WFT coach Ron Rivera opted after a late touchdown to try to win the game instead of taking his chances in overtime. The Giants stopped that two-point conversion attempt and held on for their only victory of the season.
But while close scores look better than blowouts, the standings reflect the Giants' reality. They are 1-7 and at the bottom of the division as they prepare for a rematch with Washington Sunday in FedExField.
On a Zoom call today, Judge laid out a path to improvement in the second half of the season.
"I think the first thing is you just have to eliminate the mistakes and give yourself a chance to win," Judge said. "We have to start doing things in that position, eliminating these mistakes, to reap the rewards of our hard work. But I see this team making a lot of progress. I see them being close, obviously, in a lot of situations. Close isn't good enough in this business. We have to keep pushing forward and get the results that we're working for. But it starts with eliminating those mistakes."
Judge didn't mention a specific situation and he has a policy of not criticizing individual players, but there's little doubt at or near the top of the mistakes to be corrected are turnovers. The Giants have committed 15, tying them with New England for the NFL's third-highest total. They've had at least one giveaway in every game this season.
Last night, Daniel Jones threw two second-half interceptions that led to 10 Buccaneers points. On each of those throws, Jones was restricted by linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who had grabbed his jersey. The short, off-target throws were caught by cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
"I think there are a number of things we have to clean up on both plays," Judge said. "Nothing is ever one person's fault. It kind of starts with we have to make sure as coaches, we keep making the right calls. I think (offensive coordinator) Jason's (Garrett) done a really good job with that right now with the offense of changing some things up and giving our offense a chance to really be multiple and move the ball around. We need to make sure we keep continuing on protecting better. Then ball security across the board has got to be an emphasis. We need to all raise our level of play."
Jones did respond late in the game by leading the Giants on a 13-play, 70-yard drive that included a 20-yard pass to Sterling Shepard on a fourth-and-16 and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate. The Giants might have tied and ultimately won the game had the officials let the penalty on the conversion try stand. When they didn't, the focus shifted back to the two costly interceptions.
"I think there is a number of situations that are similar that I need to improve on and learn in and correct those mistakes," Jones said after the game. "That's where my focus is and I have to do it."
Judge usually responds to reporter's questions with detailed answers but he was succinct when asked if Garrett and he have discussed the "potential benefit" of sitting Jones for a game.
"No," was his entire response.
In his postgame news conference, Judge was typically and strongly supportive of Jones.
"Daniel is our quarterback," Judge said. "What we have to do is make sure we keep improving everything around him, and that we coach every player the same way. I told Daniel on both times those plays happened tonight to be patient with it, stay committed to it, we're going to need you down the stretch, we're going to need you to make plays. And obviously, in that final drive, he made a lot of big plays for us. We just got to keep moving on, things happen in games, we're not going to go and tolerate everyone on the team having a one-off type of deal, we can't have one-offs as a coaching staff, we all have to hold ourselves accountable, and the man next to us accountable. But Daniel is our quarterback, clearly put."
*Safety Adrian Colbert was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. He has missed the last three games and five this season. Colbert will be eligible to return after missing at three games.
*The Giants today signed free agent guard Kenny Wiggins. He takes the roster spot created by the absence of Will Hernandez, who is on the Reserve/Covid-19 list.
Wiggins, 6-6 and 315 pounds, is in his seventh NFL season. He has played in 79 games with 38 starts 31 at right guard, six at left guard, one as an extra lineman) for the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers and Detroit Lions. This season, he played four games for the Lions, primarily on special teams, before his release on Oct. 24.
*Three players – running back Alfred Morris, defensive back Montre Hartage and guard Chad Slade – reverted to the practice squad one day after they were elevated to active roster. Morris rushed for 28 yards on eight carries in his Giants debut. Hartage and Morris were in uniform but did not play.