ATLANTA — After being asked about so many downs that disintegrated during Monday night’s loss to the Falcons, along with a handful of unorthodox decisions intended to spark something — anything — from the Giants’ moribund offense, Pat Shurmur had had enough.
“Anybody want to ask me about a good one?’’ the coach said.
The request was met with awkward silence.
Of course there were plays that produced. Eli Manning threw for 399 yards, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard totaled 13 catches and 310 yards, and the Giants had three pass plays of at least 50 yards. But all of it was overshadowed by what they didn’t do. Couldn’t do. And, in a season in which the NFL is on pace to set offensive records, have yet to be able to do:
Their inability to find the end zone on a regular basis — on Monday night in particular against a porous Falcons defense that was allowing the second-most points in the league — has sunk them to 1-6 with four straight defeats. The Giants’ 23-20 loss to the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was the latest example of ineptitude, combining questionable play-calling, unacceptable pass protection and just plain old stinky football.
“We’ve gotta score touchdowns when we get down there,” Shurmur said. “We did a good job of moving the ball. We have to score touchdowns.”
The Giants reached the red zone on three straight possessions late in the first half and into the third quarter but came away with just a pair of field goals. With a chance to tie the score, they turned it over on downs after Manning’s fourth-and-goal pass from the 1 intended for Scott Simonson fell incomplete.
Manning rolled out to the right and it looked as if Beckham was open — TV cameras caught a visibly frustrated Shurmur pleading from the sideline to “throw the ball to Odell!” — but he instead targeted the third-string tight end. “Looking back, maybe throw it to Odell and see if he can get in,” Manning said. “But obviously I knew we had some other guys coming across that could work for me.”
The defense did a good job for most of the game but allowed three plays for a total of 113 yards that broke them. Two were back-to-back late in the second quarter — a 36-yard completion to Austin Hooper with B.W. Webb draped on him followed by a 47-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Marvin Hill on a busted coverage by Janoris Jenkins that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead. The other was a 30-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman in the fourth quarter that put the Falcons ahead 20-6.
Even with all the bumbling, the Giants made it interesting late. Saquon Barkley scored on a 2-yard run with 4:47 left to bring the Giants within a possession at 20-12. Shurmur called for an unorthodox two-point conversion and Beckham was open in the end zone, but he dropped it.
“I did think that this was going to be a big day for us,” Beckham said. “We had a good game plan and it’s just the smallest little things that we didn’t execute.”
That left the score at 20-12 and the Giants needed a stop. Instead, the Falcons kicked a 56-yard field goal with 1:55 left to go back up by two possessions.
Manning hit Shepard with a 58-yarder with 1:40 left and the Giants reached the 1 on a third-down pass to Rhett Ellison with about 45 seconds left. Manning ran a pair of unsuccessful quarterback sneaks as the clock ticked away before finding Beckham in the end zone with five seconds remaining. Barkley ran in the two-point conversion.
Had the Giants scored even one play earlier, never mind the time-wasting two pileups that resulted in no gains, they could have at least attempted a traditional onside kick. Instead, they had to squib the kickoff, and the Falcons recovered it to seal the win.
One might say the Giants’ ability to get to the 1 on two drives stands as yet another piece of evidence in their case that they’re close. “We’re right there,” Shepard said, “and we’re going to get to where we need to be.”
Close, though, is getting old.
Maybe when that happens, someone will ask Shurmur about the good plays. Until then, they’ll continue to be overshadowed by their failing counterparts.