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No excuses from Giants' defense despite Cardinals often getting short field position

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals runs the ball in the first half against the Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Facing the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins is never an easy task. It’s even harder when a team consistently has to defend a short field. But that’s what the Giants’ defense was forced to do during most of their 26-7 loss to Arizona on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

It wasn’t an onslaught of big plays from the Arizona offense, nor was it death by a thousand cuts, but it was something in between, and little of it was good.

The Cardinals had six possessions that began at midfield or in Giants territory, and they scored on four of them. The Giants — never a juggernaut this season and mostly inept Sunday — crossed midfield on only one of their possessions.

Despite the fact that the Giants’ defense was squeezed for a large majority of the afternoon, there was no public finger-pointing afterward. Short field or not, the unit sees its job as a simple one — get stops. They just didn’t do enough of that.

"We always say, ‘If they don’t score, they don’t win,’ " cornerback James Bradberry said. "That’s our goal as a defense. We don’t worry about special teams or what the offense is doing. We just worry about what we can control."

It began almost immediately. Giants quarterback Daniel Jones’ fumble on the first drive of the game was returned 30 yards to the 9-yard line by former Giant Markus Golden, setting up Murray and company with a seemingly easy chance at points.

The Giants’ defense held on that drive, helped by a fantastic fourth-down play by Bradberry to knock a pass away from Cardinals receiver KeeSean Johnson in the end zone.

But the drive was a harbinger of what was to come.

On the Cardinals’ first scoring drive, one that ended with a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent, Arizona began at the Giants’ 38. After Dion Lewis fumbled a kickoff midway through the second quarter, the Cardinals began at the Giants’ 21. That drive ended with Murray finding Dan Arnold for a 7-yard touchdown pass and, after the extra point, a 13-0 lead.

Even if the fields were short, linebacker Blake Martinez said the difficult positioning was no excuse for poor execution.

"We work on it every single week, making sure we’re conditioned for any situation that comes up, sudden changes, all those types of things," he said. "It’s one of those things where we’ve got to stand up as a defense to help the offense out and play complementary football throughout the game. We didn’t play well enough as a team to make those situations go in our favor."

Murray, who at his best can be one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the league, was 24-for-35 passing for 244 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 47 yards on 13 carries.

Hopkins, considered by many the best receiver in football, caught nine passes for 136 yards on 11 targets.

It was the second week in a row in which the Giants’ defense went against an elite receiver. They held Seattle’s DK Metcalf to five catches and 80 yards on eight targets last week.

"We didn’t do as good as last week," Bradberry said of the Hopkins matchup. "He didn’t really wreck the game for us. We just had a few mistakes on him."

New York Sports