It seems like such a long time ago that Daniel Jones captivated Giants fans with a remarkable debut performance in Tampa, a four-touchdown effort that gave the franchise such seemingly legitimate hope. He brought the Giants back in spectacular fashion to beat the Buccaneers, 32-31, and introduced himself to the NFL in splendid fashion.
That was only 44 days ago.
Jones beat the Redskins a week later to go 2-0, but he has not tasted victory since, losing five straight games and looking more and more like the rookie quarterback he is and not the savior he appeared to be on that muggy Florida afternoon.
Jones got his first taste of the Cowboys-Giants rivalry Monday night at MetLife Stadium, and it was not a pleasant one. The Cowboys beat the Giants, 37-18, leaving the hosts reeling at 2-7 going into Sunday’s game against the even more hapless 1-7 Jets.
Jones had appeared generally unruffled after the previous month’s worth of losses, but the fifth in a row sent the 22-year-old rookie to a darker realm as he pondered what went wrong. He didn’t snap, but he did seethe.
“It’s frustrating, and it’s frustrating to lose,” he said.
His biggest lament: a failure to succeed in the red zone. The Giants got into the end zone only once and had to settle for field goals on four other trips inside the 20. It was the difference between being in position to upset the Cowboys and losing badly.
“We started better than we had in previous weeks, but we still missed a couple opportunities to score touchdowns down there,” Jones said. “I think that was costly for us. We didn’t move the ball consistently.”
The scoring problems started almost immediately. After Antoine Bethea intercepted Dak Prescott on the Cowboys’ first play from scrimmage, Jones took over at the Cowboys’ 8. But after two runs by Saquon Barkley and an incomplete pass to Rhett Ellison in the end zone, the Giants came away with only three points on Aldrick Rosas’ 21-yard field goal.
Jones had his best moment of the night when he drove the Giants from their own 44 into the end zone early in the second quarter. He threw a terrific pass to Golden Tate at the Dallas 1, as Tate leaped for the ball and made a one-handed catch. Three plays later, Jones hit Cody Latimer with a 1-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a 9-3 lead.
They drove deep into Dallas territory on their next possession, but Jones again came up short near the end of the drive. This time a 25-yard field goal by Rosas made it 12-3. It was on that drive that a black cat ran onto the field, briefly interrupting the game.
“That was strange,” Jones said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on at first, but you don’t see that every week.”
If you’re the superstitious type, the cat was bad luck for the Giants.
Dallas made the Giants pay for their inability to score touchdowns, rallying with 10 points in the final minute of the half to take the lead for good at 13-12.
Even with their red zone foibles, the Giants hung around in the third quarter, closing to 16-15 on a drive in which Jones ran around right end for 14 yards. But again, there was a field goal at the end and not a touchdown.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Cowboys. They made it 23-15 on Prescott’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gallup, and after another field goal by Rosas cut Dallas’ lead to 23-18, the Cowboys scored two late touchdowns to put the game away. That left Jones as dejected as he’s been through this early portion of his career.
“It’s certainly a loss. I don’t think you can hide from that,” said Jones, who fumbled twice to increase his season total to 10. “I think from week to week, I’ve gotten better in some areas and I haven’t in others. The challenge is to continue to get better and correct the things I haven’t done well.”
Jones will face another struggling quarterback who calls MetLife Stadium home when the Giants face the Jets and Sam Darnold, who is coming off a humiliating loss to the previously winless Dolphins on Sunday. Both quarterbacks have been turnover machines, and the loser of Sunday’s game will face even greater scrutiny in this lost season of New York football.
Jones hopes he’s not that guy.
“There are things to learn from,” he said.
Monday night’s lessons:
1) Hold on to the ball.
2) Field goals don’t get the job done.