The first matchup between rookie quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray looked like, well, a meeting of rookie quarterbacks.
The difference, though, were the turnovers.
Despite passing for only 104 yards, Murray was clean in that all-important category as the Cardinals defeated the Giants, 27-21, on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Jones turned the ball over three times – two fumbles and an interception – as the Giants lost their third consecutive game after they won their first two with him at the helm. They fought back from a 17-0 deficit, but the mistakes were too much to overcome.
“I think that after the hole we dug for ourselves early, there was a sense of urgency,” said Jones, who has thrown seven interceptions and lost four fumbles in five starts. “We fought back, but you can’t afford to do that to yourself early. You can’t afford to put yourself in that hole and it definitely makes it harder on you. Yeah, there was an urgency, and I thought we fought. But it’s just hard to do when you put yourself down like that.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN: The Cardinals sacked Jones for the seventh and eighth times of the day with under a minute remaining. It set up a last-ditch effort on fourth-and-29 from the Giants’ goal line, which fell incomplete. Murray took over in the victory formation.
Jones was also sacked twice on the previous drive, including a forced fumble by cornerback Patrick Peterson. The eight-time Pro Bowler, who returned Sunday after a six-game NFL suspension, came screaming off the edge of Jones’ blindside. On the play before that, Barkley was stopped for three yards on a third-and-18 draw play. The Cardinals were playing two-high, deep zone coverage, which led to the audible to run the ball.
“I had made the decision I was going to go for it there on fourth down,” Shurmur said. “That’s why that came out like that.”
BARKLEY’S RETURN: The return of Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Wayne Gallman had Giants fans thinking big ahead of the matchup with a struggling Cardinals defense. On a rainy day in East Rutherford, the result was less than 300 yards of offense. Barkley, who had not played since he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3, had 80 yards from scrimmage. He found the end zone a seven-yard touchdown run to bring the Giants to within three points of the Cardinals with 8:13 left in the game. Engram, meanwhile, caught just one pass for six yards, and Gallman did not have a touch.
“I think you guys watched the game just as much as I played it, cutting was fine,” said Barkley, who left momentarily in the second half to get his ankle taped after someone landed on it. “I think I broke some long ones today, made some people miss. Even when I went negative, I made some people miss. I think I did fine, I know I felt fine. I didn’t do enough to help my team win.”
LOST IN THE LOSS: A week after the Patriots blocked a Riley Dixon punt and returned it for a touchdown, Michael Thomas got one back for the Giants in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. The special teams co-captain and 2018 Pro Bowler blocked Andy Lee’s punt in the end zone, and Eli Penny jumped on the ball for a touchdown. It brought the Giants to within three points of the Cardinals, who had jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half.
“T-Mac [special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey] challenged us on Special Teams,” Thomas said. “We kind of lost our way these last couple of weeks, especially giving up that play in New England, and he was like, ‘You guys aren’t playing physical enough. You guys aren’t making enough plays.’ He challenged me personally and told me that, ‘Word on the street is number 31 is probably overrated on special teams.’ So I took that personally, but he put me in a position [to be successful]. He put me in a position to make plays and thank God I was in that position he called when he dialed up that play for me and I was able to execute. That was huge for our play, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.”
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: Their losing streak extended to three games ahead of a Week 8 road trip to face the Detroit Lions, who also lost their third in a row on Sunday at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. The Giants have scored just four offensive touchdowns in that span while their opponents have averaged 30 points per game.
“Yeah, we’re frustrated,” Jones said. “Everyone is frustrated. But I don’t think we’re discouraged at all. We’ll be back to work tomorrow. We’ll be looking forward to the opportunity against Detroit. We’re frustrated, but kind of rightfully so. We all know we can play better, and we’re determined to play better. So, back to work tomorrow.”
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE CARDINALS: After a 0-3-1 start, Arizona climbed back to even with its third straight victory. The Cardinals stay on the road next week with a trip to New Orleans.
“I think that earlier in the season, we just weren't finishing,” said Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. “We had a couple mishaps here and there with a lot of negative plays. We just have been adjusting each and every week, getting better each and every week, coming to work and just trying to get better, honestly. I think we fixed some of those things that we were messing up on earlier in the year. I think you see we're playing more complementary football. Guys bought in. Guys are trusting each other. We're just really all in it and doing whatever it takes to win.”