SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The 2017 season has turned into a game of limbo for the Giants.
How low can you go?
The truth is, not much below the depths reached on Sunday when they came out flat for the second week in a row, gave up explosive scoring plays that should have been snuffed out and stopped, and lost, 31-21, to the previously winless 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Last week’s defeat was humiliating because of the lopsided score. This one was because of the opponent. OK, a little bit because of the score, but mostly the opponent. The 49ers’ first victory leaves only the still-winless Browns as the only team in the NFL that can say they are worse than these Giants.
“It’s embarrassing,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said. “You couldn’t have told me at the beginning of the season that we’d be in this position. I really can’t believe it.”
The loss leaves the Giants at 1-8, tying the 1980 team for the worst start in franchise history, with a home game against the Chiefs next Sunday for a chance to officially reach the bottom. The players will be there at MetLife Stadium. The biggest question now is: Will Ben McAdoo?
Anyone who saw co-owner John Mara pacing in his suite during the game, or saw him thunder into the locker room with two minutes remaining to wait for his troops, must be wondering when he’ll be pushed into making a decision he’s never made: an in-season coaching change. Perhaps the expected vitriol at MetLife Stadium this week — or the anticipation of such 1970s-style rancor — will nudge him.
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” McAdoo said of his tenuous job security.
The Giants spoke earnestly this week about not quitting on their coach, but they did not back that up on the field. Some leaders even suggested in the locker room that if the Giants were listless against the 49ers, then they would acknowledge an issue.
“You got your answer,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said of his ultimatum.
There is an issue. And Jonathan Casillas and Rodgers-Cromartie, who made those comments, are the last to recognize it.
“Damn, it ain’t good, man,” Casillas said. “We don’t want to come out here and put on a show like this against, you know, a team that didn’t have any wins. That’s pretty tough to swallow.”
“I didn’t see enough relentless play, attitude, you name it and I didn’t see it,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “What we should have been and came out as, I felt we didn’t do it. We cannot continue week in and week out to go out and put up performances like that.”
The main defensive culprit for the Giants was Janoris Jenkins, who was suspended for last week’s debacle and therefore had some quit to make up for. The Pro Bowl cornerback was beaten deep on an 83-yard touchdown catch by Marquise Goodwin that made the score 10-6 midway through the second quarter. He whiffed on an open-field tackle that could have stopped Garrett Celek from scoring on a 47-yard touchdown late in the second quarter, and he missed on an arm tackle on Carlos Hyde’s 21-yard run in the third quarter.
“I just didn’t show up,” Jenkins said a few days earlier when asked why he was suspended for missing a practice. That quote also applied to his game Sunday, especially after he left the locker room without answering any questions.
It wasn’t only the defense that stymied the Giants. In the second quarter, Eli Manning was being sacked and for some reason tried to flip the ball forward. That fumble deep in 49ers territory prevented the Giants from building on their 6-3 edge, and the 49ers turned the takeaway into the 83-yard TD.
The Giants trailed 17-13 at halftime and had a chance to close the gap on the opening possession of the third quarter. Sterling Shepard made a terrific one-handed grab down the left sideline to convert a third-and-2 and reach the 49ers’ 18. But the Giants managed just two yards on the next three plays and Aldrick Rosas missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt.
Olivier Vernon, in his first game since Oct. 1, intercepted a pass from C.J. Beathard midway through the third, but the offense could not do anything with it and punted. The 49ers responded with a 61-yard drive capped by Beathard’s 11-yard keeper that made it 24-13. Matt Breida scored on a 33-yard run to make it 31-13 with 9:19 left in the game.
Asked how he felt after the game, safety Landon Collins said: “Hurt. Discouraged. Upset. I don’t know how to explain it. We came up expecting to win, and we didn’t come out that way.”
Notes & quotes: Manning tied his brother Peyton for the second-longest streak of regular-season starts (208). Peyton was there for the occasion . . . Evan Engram caught his fifth touchdown pass to tie the Giants’ rookie tight end record set by Bob Tucker in 1970 . . . Justin Pugh (back) left the game at halftime and did not return. He was replaced by Bobby Hart . . . Defensive tackle Damon Harrison was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
The Giants have made the last two quarterbacks they’ve faced — Jared Goff and C.J. Beathard — look like future Hall of Famers. Their combined passing numbers:
Comp./Att. Comp. % TDs INTs Sacked Rating