It took three plays for Giants fans to be fed up.
Three plays. A run, a sack that almost led to a Lions touchdown, and a run. A net total of 1 yard. And that’s when boos started to come from the crowd at MetLife Stadium on Monday night in the Giants’ home opener.
Given the expectations coming into this season, virtually everyone was expecting more from this team. The disgust from the crowd so early in the season, so early in the game, speaks as much about the lack of patience from this fan base as it does about the lack of production from this offense.
The Giants have scored 13 points in two games, both of them losses, including Monday night’s 24-10 defeat at the hands of the Lions. It was the eighth straight game the Giants have failed to score at least 20 points, the 19th straight that they could not reach 30 points, a pinnacle that looks like Everest at this point.
So the boos fell on them early and throughout the game.
“We didn’t put good things on film last Sunday and we didn’t come out and give them anything to cheer about today,” guard Justin Pugh said after the game. “I can’t blame them.”
Not even the return of Odell Beckham Jr., the star receiver who missed last week’s opener with a sprained ankle, did much to kick-start the moribund offense. He played roughly half the game’s offensive snaps and finished with four catches for 36 yards.
The display left the Giants at 0-2, scratching their heads figuring out what is missing.
“It’s a spark somewhere,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Whether it’s got to come from defense or special teams or offense, it’s got to come from somewhere. We need that spark. We have guys with a lot of character on this team, and when you’re out there playing flat, it’s like — sigh — you’re just out there. You gotta have some spark about yourself.”
Even when the Giants did manage to rub two sticks together, it was quickly extinguished.
Consider that their first and only touchdown of the season, an 18-yard pass from Eli Manning to a wide open Even Engram, was followed by a penalty against Engram for grabbing himself during his celebratory dance. That 15 yards pushed the kickoff back, Aldrick Rosas’ kick went out of bounds, and the Lions took over at the Giants’ 45.
On that drive Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Matthew Stafford and forced a fumble that was recovered by Devon Kennard, but on the next play, Manning threw behind Engram, who tipped the ball and it was intercepted by Tahir Whitehead. The Lions converted that takeaway into a touchdown for a 14-7 lead they would never relinquish.
“You get a high, you can’t roller-coaster,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “We have to learn how to keep flowing.”
The second half had more disappointment. Completions to Beckham (16 yards), Jerell Adams (38) and Brandon Marshall (17) brought the ball to the 1, but a hold by Brett Jones on first down from there pushed them back to the 11. They clawed back to the 2 on the next three plays and were ready to go for what seemed like an early season-defining attempt on fourth-and-goal. The crowd was on its feet in anticipation. Finally, something worth cheering.
The Giants were sluggish to the line, though, and flagged for delay of game. They wound up kicking a 25-yard field goal instead that left the score 17-10 with 4:58 left in the third.
“Sloppy quarterback play,” Ben McAdoo said of Manning’s lack of awareness of the play clock. “We’ve got to get the ball snapped.”
Down 24-10, the Giants’ last real chance to do anything positive offensively occurred with about 10 minutes left in the fourth. They had just completed a fluttering gasp of a pass from Manning to Sterling Shepard for a first down, Manning getting hammered by Cornelius Washington as he threw the ball up for grabs, and then managed 7 yards on three plays. That left them with fourth-and-3 from their own 48.
The Giants went for it and Manning completed a pass to running back Shane Vereen, but the route was short of the first down (the initial spot was for a conversion but the Lions challenged and won). It was the second time the Giants lined up for a fourth-down attempt in the second half and had a miscalculation cost them.
The Lions went ahead by 14 points — for this Giants team, an insurmountable deficit — when Jamal Agnew returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter. The punt followed a three-and-out by the Giants that included a deep dropped pass by Marshall down the sideline.
The Giants now head to Philadelphia in search of their first victory of the season. Asked where the urgency is for this team, Landon Collins said: “Two hundred.”
No matter that scale, that seems about right.