SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It has come to this for a Giants team that only a year ago was in the midst a thrilling playoff run, thanks in large measure to a vastly improved defense.
“We’re not a good team right now, and hopefully we can turn it around to be competitive,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said after a 31-21 loss to the previously winless 49ers dropped the Giants to 1-8. “It’s sad I’m sitting here talking about us competing in games instead of talking about winning. But that’s the truth. It ain’t no domination on our Giants’ side.”
A defense that was at the heart of last year’s 11-5 season has suddenly and inexplicably collapsed. Over the last two weeks, the Giants have surrendered a combined 82 points in back-to-back losses to the Rams and 49ers. Jared Goff torched the Giants with four touchdown passes in a 51-17 rout at MetLife Stadium last week, and this time, it was rookie C.J. Beathard who lit them up with 288 yards and two touchdown passes — an 83-yard bomb to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and a 47-yard strike to tight end Garrett Celek.
That pass to Celek turned out to be a key play in the game, because the Giants had taken a 13-10 lead on a terrific scoring drive, only to see the lead evaporate for good because Casillas couldn’t adequately cover Celek on the pass.
“I was running, but I was a little tired and couldn’t catch him,” Casillas said. “I played my butt off every play. I just wasn’t good on that play.”
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was another defender who came up small; he was torched on Goodwin’s long reception in his first game back from a one-game suspension for failing to show up when the Giants returned from their bye week. Jenkins left the locker room without comment.
It wasn’t any better against the run; the Giants surrendered 186 rushing yards, led by Carlos Hyde’s 98 yards. That’s 474 total net yards allowed to a team which came in 0-9.
“We came here expecting to win,” safety Landon Collins said. “It’s not that the San Francisco 49ers were 0-9. We know what we’re capable of. We have consistency in practice and our work ethic. It’s not transferring to the field for the game.”
How do you explain it?
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Collins said. “They made big plays. We didn’t stop the big plays.”
Cornerback Eli Apple called the defensive performance “very disappointing. We’ve got the guys for it [to be fixed]. We’ve got the talent. Everybody knows that. I felt our attitude before the game and coming into this one was very high. I felt the energy in the beginning, but we didn’t maintain that.”
With upcoming games against high-powered offenses such as the Chiefs, Eagles and Cowboys, the defense might continue to unravel. “We can’t keep putting together games like this and expect to beat anybody,” Casillas said. “We’ve only got one win, and it’s going to stay like that until we figure out how to slow these teams down.”
It doesn’t look like that’s about to happen any time soon.
Or at all.