EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants have a propensity for playing close games. But they'll be the first to concede that they must start winning more of them.
Their run of frustrating defeats continued Sunday in MetLife Stadium, where the Atlanta Falcons scored 10 points in the final 4:13, including Younghoe Koo's 40-yard field goal that doomed the Giants to a 17-14 defeat.
The Giants fell to 0-3 and lost on a final play field goal for the second consecutive game. On Sept. 16, Washington's Dustin Hopkins kicked a game-winning 43-yard field goal as the clock hit zero. Since the start of the 2020 season, the Giants are 3-5 in games decided by three points or less.
"I think guys are frustrated and certainly disappointed with the results," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "We're all competitors and we want to win, and we expect to win, so that's frustrating and we've got to understand that and feel that today. But as we move forward, we've got to use that to motivate us to look at what we've done well and what we need to correct and how we need to attack this week going forward."
"We just have to finish," said running back Saquon Barkley, who had a team-high 94 yards from scrimmage and scored the Giants' only touchdown on a one-yard leap. "0-3. Obviously, no one is happy. We just have to keep trusting each other and stay with each other. Starting 0-3 is where you're going to hear a lot of noise outside. As long as we stay strong in the locker room, we're going to be alright. We have to keep trusting each other, keep trusting the system, keep trusting the coaches and keep coming to work and try to figure it out."
Check out the best photos from the New York Giants' Week 3 contest against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Giants must step up at the end of games. In Washington, they took a two-point lead on Graham Gano's fifth field goal with two minutes remaining. But the Washington Football Team drove 50 yards in 11 plays, and Hopkins got a second chance to win the game when Dexter Lawrence jumped offside on a 48-yard field goal attempt that missed.
On Sunday, the Falcons set up Koo's decisive kick by moving 58 yards on a drive that included Matt Ryan completions of 28 yards to Cordarelle Patterson and 25 yards to Kyle Pitts, two of their three longest plays of the game. The third, a 26-yard pass to Patterson, was also in the fourth quarter.
How do the Giants fix those late-game issues?
"Go back to work and we keep on working on it," coach Joe Judge said. "I thought they stepped up at the end of the first half, did a good job in the short-field two-minute. We've got to keep making aggressive plays. Obviously, it comes down to making sure we're in the right call, executing the techniques and the fundamentals at the time. We've got to make sure we put it all together."
"You identify what the issue is," safety Logan Ryan said. "There are different plays, different players, different schemes, different game plans and you just try to take the play for what it is. The screen to Cordarrelle Patterson at the end of the game was a really nice call for the defense that we had called. That's a really good call and that's tough. That's a good player to get the ball in his hands and based on the defense we had called, it's tough."
The Giants weren't exactly enjoying a perfect day before the final drive. They lost three key players with injuries; middle linebacker Blake Martinez (knee) and wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton (each with a hamstring). The Giants tripped themselves up with eight penalties for 53 yards. Tight end Evan Engram lost a fumble (though the defense got the ball back three plays later). The Giants had a first down on the Falcons' 17-yard line when Jones mishandled Billy Price's shotgun snap. The resulting losses were 11 yards and a potential touchdown, as Gano kicked a 31-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 6-0 lead (he also kicked a 25-yarder in the first quarter).
Ryan's four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus gave Atlanta a 7-6 halftime advantage. The six-play 44-yard drive was helped along by an unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Xavier McKinney.
"It's hard to play defense nowadays," Judge said. "Physicality is not rewarded any more for the defense, it's mostly penalties. Unfortunately, that's just how they call it. Hopefully, he doesn't get fined, I don't think he deserves that. If it looks bad, they're going to call it. I just think that's how you teach it. I don't know, it's unfortunate."
After Eli Manning's jersey retirement ceremony at halftime, the third quarter was scoreless. Barkley's first touchdown of the season gave the lead back to the Giants at 14-7 early in the fourth quarter.
Atlanta responded by holding the ball for 8:40 on a 15-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Ryan's one-yard pass to tight end Lee Smith, tying the score at 14-14. But the Falcons got help from the Giants. On first-and-goal from the seven, Ryan threw the ball right to cornerback Adoree' Jackson, who inexplicably failed to secure it.
"I just dropped it," Jackson said. "I misjudged the ball by jumping and I ended up just dropping the ball. That's the only explanation. I wanted to make the play, but I just didn't come down with it."
Two plays later, Logan Ryan was penalized for interfering with Pitts, giving the Falcons a first down at the one. Smith scored 42 seconds later.
"We just passed Kyle Pitts off there and I ended up on him," said Ryan, who also dropped a potential interception. said. "Matt Ryan threw the ball to what felt like the first row, really high, and that dude is a lot taller than me, can probably jump a lot higher than me. I climbed the ladder to go make a play on the ball. I feel like I'm looking at the ball. Obviously, there's some collision there, but if he was stiff-arming me to catch the ball, they're not going to call nothing."
On their next possession, the Giants moved from their own 25 to the 49. But on second down, Jones was sacked for a nine-yard loss by Dante Fowler, setting up a third-and-19. They got 10 yards back on a pass to Barkley. Riley Dixon's punt then reached the end zone, giving the Falcons the ball at their 20 with 1:50 left.
Ryan's two long passes helped move the ball to the Giants' 25. After three runs to bleed the clock, Atlanta used its final timeout, Koo's kick sailed midway between the uprights and the Giants had another defeat that could be dispiriting.
But Judge remains uncompromisingly upbeat.
"We're gonna be alright, guys," he said as he stepped down from the podium after his postgame news conference. "Alright? We're gonna be alright."
They'll be a lot better when they start winning these close games.