While the Giants struggled in the red zone on Monday night, the Falcons didn’t have to worry about it on their end because they struck from 47 and 30 yards out. That only began to tell the story of the Giants’ 23-20 loss in Atlanta, leaving Pat Shurmur’s message to his 1-6 team a simple one: just keep going.
“Did our guys not play hard? Did our guys not fight until the end? Did our guys do a lot of good things but not enough to win? Yes,” Shurmur said. “So the encouragement is to keep doing it and do more things right. Done. That’s it. That’s the message as you move forward. And right is right. We’ve got to do enough to win a game.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Giorgio Tavecchio, signed days before the game to fill in in for injured kicker Matt Bryant, started to put things on ice with a 56-yard field goal that extended the Falcons’ lead to 11 points with 1:55 to play. The Giants moved the ball quickly on the next drive thanks to a 58-yard hookup between Eli Manning and Sterling Shepard, but two unsuccessful quarterback sneaks on back-to-back plays from the one-yard line took valuable time off the clock. Manning eventually found Odell Beckham Jr. in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, but only five seconds remained.
“We’ve been pretty good with the sneaks all year,” Manning said. “In that scenario, we tried to surprise them and just get that one-yard with the sneak. We just didn’t have success with it.”
Shurmur was asked about the decision not to pass in that situation.
“You should be able to convert on the sneak,” he said. “And we’ve all seen him do that, and for whatever reason, we didn’t get it done.”
KEY STAT: The Giants were unsuccessful on their first three trips to the red zone, settling for two field goals and a failed fourth-down conversion attempt from the one on an incomplete pass to tight end Scott Simonson in the end zone. They eventually broke through with Saquon Barkley’s two-yard touchdown run with less than five minutes left in the game and Beckham’s late score, but the team dropped to 42.9 percent on the season inside the 20. Only the Texans (37.9) and Jets (34.8) have a lower touchdown rate.
“We have to find a way to score touchdowns when we get down there to the red zone,” Manning said. “Setting up for field goals and the one time not getting anything that’s just what’s hampering us. That’s been the last couple of games. You get down there it just changes everything when you get touchdowns. You put a little pressure on the team and get a little more momentum. We would’ve tied the game or got the lead in a few scenarios.”
GOING FOR TWO: Following Barkley’s touchdown that cut the deficit to 20-12, Shurmur kept the offense on the field for a two-point conversion attempt. Manning and Beckham couldn’t connect on the play, keeping it an eight-point game at the time. The Giants converted their next two-point attempt after Beckham’s touchdown on a run by Barkley.
“You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there, so that’s what you do,” Shurmur said of the first decision. “Because then if you score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win. I felt good about the two-point play. You guys saw that, I think we got the ball in there, right? And we just didn’t connect on it. And again, I think it’s an aggressive approach. I’m going to take myself back to the one game we didn’t use timeouts before the halftime. I told you I’d never do that again, and I think from a head coaching perspective, I want to be aggressive for our guys.”
O-LINE CHANGE: The Giants made another change to the offensive line, starting Spencer Pulley at center and moving John Greco to right guard after Patrick Omameh could not go because of a knee injury. It was Pulley’s first start as a member of the Giants after starting all 16 for the Chargers a year ago.
“Obviously, it wasn’t good enough,” Pulley said. “We didn’t play good enough to get the win, but we did some good things. Obviously, we did some bad things. We will have to watch the film to see what was going on. The run game has obviously got to be better, and that’s something we got to work on. We need to be more in sync as an offensive line, I think. That’s something we’re going to have to watch and learn as a group.”
The Giants allowed four sacks to increase their season total to 24, the fifth-most in the league. The team also struggled to move the ball on the ground as rookie Saquon Barkley rushed for 43 yards on 14 attempts.
“I’ll have to look at it,” Shurmur said after the game about if the line gave Manning enough time. “I thought early in the game probably, I thought the protection was better later in the game than early. New guys in there, battling. Somebody asked me this week about developing players. Well, they’re out there getting development. We slide new guys in there, and we go.”
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: The Giants lost their fourth consecutive game – and second in primetime – to fall to 1-6 on the season. They sit at the bottom of the NFC East, which is led by the 4-2 Washington Redskins, this week’s opponent.
“I think that’ll be the true test of your character, the grit, the determination,” Beckham said on how the team moves forward. “The ultimate measure of a man is how he stands in moments of challenge and controversy. Who you are when things are going well is not a true testament to your character. It’s when times are like this. I hate saying this, but we’ve just got to keep working and just got to keep fighting. You’ve got to keep your hard hat on and keep digging. You never know how close you are unless you stop digging. That’s all we can do. We put ourselves in a hole. Dig yourself out.”
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE FALCONS: Despite the injuries, Atlanta’s defense got right and held the Giants to 20 points after giving up 32 per game heading into Monday night. It was the Falcons’ second win a row as they improved to 3-4 and kept their heads above water in the competitive NFC South. The Falcons now go on their bye week, which the Giants will do after playing the Redskins.
“Yeah, I think it was huge for us to get the job done tonight,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “To kind of inch our way closer to .500 is a positive for us. So it was a tough win, it took all three phases all night, but I'm proud of the effort across the board and that showed up for sixty minutes. So it was good for us and now a good chance for us to get some rest as well.”