EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Joe Judge declined to offer in-depth postgame analysis of the Giants' loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, saying he first wanted to "thoroughly review the tape and go over everything we're doing."
It's safe to assume that deep dive will be unpleasant.
There's no getting around it, the Giants absorbed a bad beating in empty MetLife Stadium. Though missing nine starters due to injuries, the defending NFC champions seized control in the second quarter, dominated the second half and rolled to a 36-9 victory. It was the Giants' worst loss in almost three years.
More importantly, it left them at 0-3 with road games the next two weeks in Los Angeles (vs. the Rams) and Dallas. San Francisco won in MetLife Stadium for the second week in a row and improved to 2-1.
The stat sheet was filled with forboding numbers for the Giants. They were outscored in the second half, 20-3, and had sizeable disadvantages in total yards (420-231), first downs (29-13) and time of possession (39:44-20:16). The Giants' running backs totaled 17 rushing yards. San Francisco didn't punt once and scored on all six trips inside the Giants' 20-yard line (four touchdowns and two field goals). The Giants took not one snap in the red zone. They had two turnovers and forced none.
Nick Mullens, who made his first start since the 2018 season finale because Jimmy Garoppolo has a high ankle sprain, completed 25 of 36 passes for 343 yards and one touchdown for a passer rating of 108.9. Mullens is the first 49ers quarterback to throw for 220-plus yards in nine straight starts since Joe Montana did it in 1985-86.
So, where do the Giants go from here?
"We go back to work," Judge said. "I know it's a simple answer, but that's really the solution. We go to work, we work on the fundamentals, we improve on what we do situationally, we keep grinding on a daily basis, and we work to see the results. That's where we go, we go back to work."
The players are similarly determined to turn around the season.
"It's not good enough," linebacker and defensive captain Blake Martinez said. "And we have to be able to show up every single day and put the work in and keep chopping wood and knowing that what we've been doing isn't it. And when we come back on Wednesday, we have to kind of step that level up even more, and know that what we're doing out there, every single person is on the same page, every single person knows what we're doing, every person understands situations, and just getting everything right."
"I don't think any of us came in expecting this, but I think as a team now, we understand we can't let that affect our confidence going forward," said quarterback Daniel Jones, who was tagged with two turnovers for the third game in a row. "I'm confident in the guys we have in the locker room, the mindset that we have. You take it and learn from it, but not let this situation define us and understand what we need to do moving forward and improve as a team."
The 49ers got contributions from players who normally get limited playing time. Rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk led the Niners with five catches – three more than he had in the first two games - and scored on a 19-yard end around in the third quarter. Running back Jeff Wilson, Jr. entered the game with two rushing attempts and no receptions. He ran for 15 yards on 12 carries, caught three passes for 54 yards and scored the Niner's final two touchdowns on a 19-yard reception and two-yard run. Jerick McKinnon ran for 38 yards, including a 10-yard score.
Robbie Gould kicked field goals of 52, 32 and 26 yards and missed a 55-yard try.
The 49ers converted eight-of-12 (67%) third-down opportunities, a big reason they dominated the possession time.
"I think if we're constantly on the field, we have to look at ourselves to be able to get off the field a little bit faster, get more work on getting three-and-outs and getting takeaways to get off the field," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "I don't think we can point fingers at any direction and blame anyone for why we're on the field longer."
Graham Gano kicked field goals of 52, 42 and 47 yards to score all of the Giants' points.
San Francisco seized control of the game by scoring 10 points in the final 1:07 of the first half to turn what had been a tied game into a 16-6 Giants deficit.
The turning point was officially no play. On third-and-22, Mullens' pass to Jordan Reed gained just seven yards. San Francisco might have chosen to punt. But rookie defensive back Darnay Holmes was penalized five yards for illegal contact, giving the 49ers a first down and keeping the possession alive. Six plays later, McKinnon's touchdown capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive.
The Giants had a chance to go down the field and put points on the board but on the second play of the ensuing drive, Jones' pass for Evan Engram was intercepted by linebacker Fred Warner. That led to Gould's third field goal.
Early in the third quarter, another costly penalty hurt the Giants. Jones ran 16 yards to the Niners' 14 and the Giants would have advanced further thanks to Jaquiski Tartt's facemask penalty. But receiver Darius Slayton was flagged for offensive holding. The offsetting penalties moved the ball back to the 30 and the Giants gained just one more yard before Gano's third field goal cut the deficit to 16-9. But the Giants never scored again.
"We don't want to have penalties at any time," Judge said. "The one on Darnay, we got to play with clean technique to make sure we don't give an opportunity, in that situation, to extend a drive. So, something we work on on a consistent basis, we got to make sure we do a better job coaching those techniques and execute them on the field."
Aiyuk soon ended another 75-yard march with his touchdown, which pushed the lead to 14 points. Late in the third quarter, Jones was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Giants' 30, setting up Wilson's first touchdown. After Wilson scored again with 3:35 remaining, the rout was complete.
The Giants played without their top running back, Saquon Barkley, and wide receiver, Sterling Shepard, who are sidelined with injuries. But Judge refused to use it as a crutch.
"We have players," he said. "Alright, obviously we don't want any of our players injured. But we have players in a position right now on our roster, on our team, that were on that field today that can help us win games. So, we got to make sure that everyone coaches better, we have to raise our level of play, and we got to take advantage of opportunities and not make mistakes that put us behind."
They'll start working on that after Judge completes that promised review.