Forty-two years after The Fumble, the Giants on Thursday night experienced The Tumble.
Unlike its predecessor, the botched handoff between Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka that cost the team a game against the Eagles and is considered the nadir of one of the worst eras in franchise history, this one did not lead directly to the most recent loss to the NFC East rival, a 22-21 heartbreaker at Lincoln Financial Field. It did, however, encapsulate the state of the team and the development of its young quarterback rather neatly.
For the half dozen or so who have yet to see the play that has saturated just about every form of media since it happened midway through the third quarter of the game: Daniel Jones, running a read-option, kept the ball after a fake handoff to Devonta Freeman, ran toward a seam in the defense to his right, and then sprinted down the field. It looked as if he was headed for an easy 88-yard touchdown run, but at around the 20 yard-line he began to lose his balance. By the time he reached the 15 he was falling forward. Eventually he was downed at the 8, having been untouched by the defense until he was already rolling on the turf.
"I just tried to run faster than I was running and I got caught up," Jones said.
That the Giants scored four plays later, with Wayne Gallman leaping up and over the goal line from the 1 to give the team a 14-10 lead, reduced the immediate pain of the moment considerably.
"That was a relief to me for sure," Jones said.
It was, in some ways, symbolic of the team and the player. Both have this season shown flashes of brilliance. Both have also suffered from unforced errors. And both have been unable to finish. The Giants blew an 11-point lead on Thursday, the second time in the last three games they lost after leading by double digits, having been ahead of the Cowboys 17-3 before eventually falling, 37-34.
Coach Joe Judge saw the play as he sees almost all plays in games, not as some comical metaphor but as a teaching tool.
"I thought he made a nice run," Judge said on Friday. "I mean, look, we’d like him to stay up and finish it. He stumbled. That’s something you don’t want to happen… We’ll correct some techniques and things. I thought Jason [Garrett, the offensive coordinator] made a good call at the right time, thought Daniel did a god job on the mesh as far as hiding that thing, disguising it and pulling it. He made a real nice run to get down there. It was a huge gain for the team, put us in a position to score, and the team capitalized on it."
For a little while, anyway.