The Giants devised an old-time game plan for their game Sunday against the Chicago Bears, but it didn't eliminate their present-day offensive problems.
An attack that strongly favored running the football at the expense of putting it in the air was foiled by four turnovers, including two on their first six snaps that forced the Giants into an early 14-point hole. They never recovered and lost in chilly Soldier Field, 29-3. The Giants' lowest scoring output in Joe Judge's two seasons as coach resulted in a fifth consecutive double-digit defeat, which dropped their record to 4-12.
"Three things we wanted to do was run the ball, stop the run, and cover kicks," Judge said. "I'd say for the most part, we ran the ball decently as a team today. We got some movement going. I liked the way the running backs ran hard. They made productive runs down the way.
"You can't have success in this league when you turned the ball over the way we did. When you create short fields for a team. Every team is going to take advantage of that with the types of position we gave the team."
The Bears did. David Montgomery scored on a pair of two-yard runs and Andy Dalton threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney. The Giants botched a kickoff return, a mistake that helped Chicago extend their lead with three separate scores in the final 61 seconds of the first half, on two Cairo Santos field goals and a safety.
Judge had several reasons for emphasizing the run. Mike Glennon, who played the entire game at quarterback one week after relieving Jake Fromm, had thrown six interceptions in the first four games after Daniel Jones suffered a season-ending neck injury. His turnover issues continued, as Glennon finished with as many completions as giveaways (four, two interceptions and two fumbles). Injuries had decimated the wide receiving corps, which was comprised of Kenny Golladay and three players signed off the practice squad. Up front, the Giants did not have center Billy Price, who missed the game for personal reasons.
So, the Giants turned to the run. Their 40 rushing attempts were nine more than they had in any of their first 15 games. They finished with 161 yards, two less than the season-high they set in Washington in Week 2.
"The plan was to run that much," Judge said. "That was the plan of the game. There's obviously different adjustments we can make within the game. But we knew we were going to come in today, it was going to be run the ball, stop the run, cover kicks. That was it."
View photos from the Week 17 matchup between the Giants and Bears in Chicago.
Saquon Barkley ran 21 times for 102 yards to top the century barrier for the first time since Dec. 22, 2019. Devontae Booker added 46 yards and Glennon's only rushing attempt was a game-long 13-yarder.
"In the run game today, I think the O-line did a tremendous job of opening holes for me and Book," Barkley said. "But as an offense collectively, as a whole, we just didn't do enough to get the job done and we've just got to be better."
That's certainly true of the passing game, which set several longtime lows. The Giants threw only 11 passes (the Giants' fewest since Oct. 25, 1992), completing four (Oct. 22, 1978) for 24 yards (Dec. 10, 1978). Glennon was sacked four times for 34 yards, so the Giants finished with a franchise-worst minus-10 net passing yards. The Giants converted just one of 11 third down opportunities.
"It's embarrassing," Glennon said. "We work hard all week. We got to have a better product."
"We didn't get anything going in the passing game," Judge said. "But in terms of the run game, we committed to it, we were having some production on it, put us in some positions that we had manageable third downs."
Disaster struck when the Giants eschewed the run on the game's first play. Operating in an empty backfield, Glennon was sacked for a seven-yard loss by untouched Chicago Trevis Gipson, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Bilal Nichols, who returned the ball 12 yards to the Giants' two-yard line. When Montgomery ran for a touchdown on the next play, the Giants trailed just 18 seconds into the game.
"I could have got it out a little quicker," Glennon said. "It was cover zero. I could have got it out."
Three minutes later, Glennon's pass for Golladay – who did not have a reception - was tipped by Artie Burns and intercepted by safety Tashaun Gipson, who returned it 31 yards to the Giants' 24. Dalton soon found Mooney in the back of the end zone and it was 14-0 with 6:52 elapsed.
"The turnovers right there early in the game set us behind a good deal," Judge said. "And we didn't do enough to overcome it."
"Obviously, we put our defense in a tough situation, essentially, spotting them 14 points to start the game," Glennon said. "But the game plan was to run the ball."
It was a sound plan, in part because the passing game never gained flight. Booker led the team with two receptions, but they gained no yards. He caught the ball on Glennon's first completion, a desperation flip just before what would have been a sack. Evan Engram and David Sills each had a 12-yard catch in the second half.
A 10-play 35-yard drive that was entirely on the ground ended with Graham Gano kicking a 38-yard field goal midway through the second quarter for the Giants' only points. Had the Giants been able to go into halftime down 11 points, they would have had some hope.
But nothing went right in the final 1:01 of the half. First, Santos kicked a 21-yard field goal to make it 17-3. On the ensuing kickoff, Pharoh Cooper thought the ball would bounce into the end zone for a touchback. It did not, so Cooper had to pick it up and was tackled at the five-yard line.
Booker lost three yards and a false start penalty moved the Giants back to the one.
On second down, Booker took a handoff and was stopped for what was ruled on the field as no gain. But after review, it was determined Booker did not get the ball out of the end zone. That meant it was a safety and two more points for the home team. After the free kick, Mooney receptions of 18 and 17 yards put Santos in position to kick a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
Instead of being in a two-score game, the Giants trailed by 19 at the half. And Judge was not happy with how they got there.
"You can't have mistakes in the kicking game like we had at the end of first half," Judge said. "That's a five-point mistake. We can't do that. It's not acceptable. It's not going to be tolerated."
The only score of the second half was Montgomery's second touchdown run, in the third quarter.
With no way to escape fourth place in the NFC East, the Giants will conclude their season next week at home against Washington.
"My focus is on getting this team prepared for next week against Washington," Judge said. "That's it. My focus is on this team, getting them ready. They come in and work for me every week. The thing I owe them is having them prepared and ready, and getting them in position to have success that's it. That's the only thing I'm concerned with right now."