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Grading the Giants: Mostly failing marks as lots bad play means there is much work to do

Head coach Joe Judge of the Giants looks

Head coach Joe Judge of the Giants looks on from the sidelines against the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sep. 17, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac


The Giants ran zero plays in the red zone and never came close to the end zone in a 36-9 loss. It’s hard to imagine how ugly this would have been had Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa and Dee Ford been on the field for the Niners. Daniel Jones was as inaccurate as he has been in some time — even his toss on the end-around to Evan Engram was off its spot — as he completed just 17 of 32 passes and prior to the final drive had just one completions of more than 13 yards. The offensive line struggled to keep up with the stunts and twists by the San Francisco defensive front. While Jones did have 49 rushing yards, the actual running backs managed just 17 combined yards on 10 carries.


The Giants made Nick Mullens look like he belongs on the 49ers’ quarterbacking Mt. Rushmore with Joe Montana and Steve Young. When the other team doesn’t have to punt the entire game and does not have any turnovers, it’s a complete failure for the defense. The only two possessions the Niners didn’t score were when they missed a 55-yard field goal and when they knelt on the ball at the end of the game. Even linebacker Blake Martinez, who is supposed to be the fly-to-the-ball tackling machine, was knocked off his feet on two of the touchdowns in the second half. The Giants too often were confused by the movement and motion of the San Francisco offense and not focused on the football.


Corey Ballentine was benched as a cornerback so the Giants had to find something for him to do. Kickoff returner clearly is not that job. Ballentine tried to return three kickoffs and never got past the 21-yard line. Even when the 49ers squibbed the last kickoff of the first half with three seconds left, Kaden Smith nearly fumbled it. The one redeeming player for the unit — maybe for the team — was kicker Graham Gano, who connected from 52, 42, and 47 yards for the only scoring the Giants managed.


The Giants knew all week that they would be without Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard, yet came up with little to counter those losses. They did unveil a few successful read-option runs by Jones, the first time they used that element this season, but having the quarterback replace a Pro Bowl running back is hardly a sustainable plan. Judge was right to go for it on fourth-and-1 late in the third even if he was deep in his own territory, but the Giants need to have a more creative play for that besides a sneak for no yards (though give them credit for getting the ball in the hands of their leading rusher). Judge should have used his timeouts on defense before the 2:00 warning in the first half, but that decision became moot when the Giants allowed a touchdown, threw an interception, and allowed a field goal in the final 1:07 of the period.

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