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Giants Q&A: Why didn't Daniel Jones play?

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, center, talks to quarterback

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, center, talks to quarterback Colt McCoy (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Credit: AP/Corey Sipkin

Daniel Jones did not play for the second time in three games. Why did Joe Judge hold the quarterback out of Sunday night's 20-6 loss to the Browns?

Because, he said, Jones was dealing with two injuries that left the quarterback "worse off than he was before" and left the coach concerned about Jones' "long-term" health.

With Jones dealing with hamstring and ankle injuries, his inability to move cleanly in and out of the pocket would have left him vulnerable to the Browns' pass rushers.

"I wanted to make sure I put this guy in a position to defend himself," Judge said. "I didn’t think with the state of where I saw him in practice this week that I was doing the best thing by Daniel long-term [by playing him]. I have to make decisions from 30,000 feet. I have to look at what is best for this team in the short term, but I also have to consider our players long-term and I have to consider the safety of the guy going forward."

What is Jones' situation going forward? Will he play next week in what might be an elimination game for the Giants?

Judge said he hopes Jones is doing well enough to play. "We’ll have to look at him again on the grass this week in practice," he said.

Added backup Colt McCoy: "I know he pushed really hard to play this week. The trainers are with him every day and he’s working hard, he’s a competitor. If he can be out there, he’s going to be out there, I know that."

How did McCoy do in his place on Sunday?

Statistically, not bad. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 221 yards, did not have any turnovers and was sacked just once (in the final minute of the game). But McCoy wasn’t pleased with his performance, mostly because the Giants did not score any touchdowns.

"My frustration is we didn’t do enough down in the red zone," he said of the three first-half drives inside the 20 that resulted in only three points. "A lot of that’s on me and I’ve got to be more detailed, I’ve got to be better down there . . . If you want to point the finger at anybody, you can point it at me. I need to be better, I need to get us lined up right, I need to make sure I’m pinpoint with my throws down in the red zone and we’ve got to score more points."

How did the defense compensate for the absence of cornerbacks James Bradberry (reserve/COVID-19) and Darnay Holmes (knee)?

Julian Love, who had played safety most of this season, moved to outside cornerback, which is the position he played in college, to replace Bradberry. Safeties Xavier McKinney, Logan Ryan and even Jabrill Peppers played in the slot, where Holmes typically plays. They played mostly zone coverage, keeping everything in front of them, which resulted in few explosive plays but also a pair of 95-yard touchdown drives by the Browns, who went 9-for-13 on third-down conversions.

"You can’t replace James Bradberry, but I think everyone has to step up in a different way by doing a little more," Ryan said. "We really loaded up to stop the run game, which we did, but we really weren’t good in third down or in the red area, which is, situationally, how you win football games.

"I think James would’ve helped, but him missing wasn’t the only problem tonight. Obviously, James affects things, but I don’t think it’s the reason we lost tonight, and it’s definitely not an excuse you’ll hear me make."

Were the players angry that Bradberry couldn’t play because he had visited a chiropractor outside the team’s testing protocols who wound up testing positive for COVID-19?

While Bradberry has not tested positive himself and Judge called that situation "a mistake" on Bradberry’s part, Ryan, at least, was not holding it against his teammate.

"I don’t know how it’s a mistake," he said. "My wife can go pick my kids up from preschool or she can go get COVID and give it to me and I’ve done everything I can to avoid everyone I could . . . It’s something that I don’t know is 100% avoidable."

Why did the Giants attempt a fake field goal rather than just keep the offense on the field to attempt a traditional play on fourth-and-5 from the 8?

"I thought it was a well-designed fake," Judge said. "We've executed and practiced that consistently throughout the year. I thought the timing was right. You look to go ahead and just roll the dice sometimes and take a chance."

So why didn’t it work?

"They obviously fell off and made the coverage," Judge said of the three defenders who were around center Nick Gates on a high pass from punter Riley Dixon that fell incomplete. "There was a little confusion at first, but they settled on down. We thought we had a chance at it. It was worth rolling the dice right there and playing to our defense. They made a play, we didn't. That's all right. I thought the scheme was sound going in and if we have something else, we'll always look to use it in the right opportunity."

The Giants took their ninth loss of the season and can finish no better than 7-9. How many straight losing seasons does that make for them?

Four. And seven of the last eight. Speaking of eight painful years, the last time they had at least four straight losing seasons was when they had eight straight from 1973-80. No one considers those the good old days for the Giants, and that those memories are even being resurrected is an indication of the despair in which the franchise currently finds itself wading.

Then again, they still have a chance to win the NFC East and host a playoff game this season. So who knows?

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