What a waste.
Sunday was a day when a world of possibilities — including, perhaps, the chance to alter the narrative of the entire season — was opened to the Giants. And for a little while, it seemed as if they might take advantage of it.
They held future Hall of Famer Drew Brees without a touchdown pass the entire game. They kept the high-powered Saints offense out of the end zone for the first 37 minutes and allowed only one touchdown in the first 53 minutes. On their first possession, they scored a touchdown, and they did it just as the first-place Eagles were losing their game in overtime.
All they had to do to hoist themselves into relevancy, to point themselves toward success as the schedule concluded its first quarter, was scratch out a few more points and put together another successful drive or two against one of the worst scoring and passing defenses in the NFL.
And they couldn’t do it.
All that talent on offense, all that potential, all of the offseason additions and expectations, and after four games this season, the Giants still haven’t figured out how to utilize any of it to earn victories.
“We need to score more points,” coach Pat Shurmur said glumly. “We’ve got to score more points throughout the game.”
Sunday was another example as the Saints beat them, 33-18, at MetLife Stadium. The Giants were unable to seize any momentum from their first victory of the season a week ago and instead remain mired in last place in the division with a 1-3 record. Even worse, there are few glimmers of hope that this is simply a phase or a bad stretch. This, it seems, is who the Giants are.
“It’s disappointing when you have to leave like this,” said Odell Beckham Jr., who has not caught a touchdown pass since becoming the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver in the offseason. “I hate to get out there and waste those 60 minutes.”
Yet that’s what happened. Again. The Giants didn’t just squander this opportunity to play against a vulnerable defense and win, they tossed away another strong performance by their own defense, which has played better than this 1-3 record.
It isn’t often that a team gives up 33 points and thinks its defense played well enough to win. And yet . . .
“Yeah, I feel so,” safety and defensive captain Landon Collins said when asked if Sunday’s effort in particular was good enough to win. “We tackled well. We held them predominantly to three points almost every time until the fourth quarter. Yeah. We played really well.”
Beckham agreed. “This is a team that scores 40 points a game and we were holding them,” he said. “They get down to the red zone a couple times and we hold them to three points, that’s incredible for this team. As an offense, we have to capitalize on that. We have to be able to come out and score and put drives together . . . especially when you are playing a team like the Saints with a high-powered offense.”
Making it even more frustrating was that the game started so beautifully for the Giants. They forced a three-and-out on defense and then drove 75 yards in 10 plays. Boom, boom, boom. Right down the field. Touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard.
Center John Greco scratched his head when comparing that first drive to the rest of the game.
“That’ll be the thing [Monday] when we look at it: What happened? Why did we have so much success, so much balance? I think we’ll be searching hard to figure out how to keep that rhythm going,” he said. “We’re at the point now where we can’t afford to make mistakes, especially against good teams.”
The Giants have a lot of those coming up. Their next three games are against the last three NFC champions: the Panthers, Eagles and Falcons. All of a sudden, a 1-6 start is looking like a strong possibility.
Trailing 26-10 late in the fourth quarter, the Giants made it a one-possession game with a 1-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley and a two-point conversion pass to Shepard with 3:44 left.
Ted Ginn Jr. muffed the kickoff and the Saints were pinned at their own 3, giving the Giants a glimmer of hope. But the Saints gained 21 yards on their next snap and then converted a third-and-8 on a pass-interference penalty against Donte Deayon. Alvin Kamara (134 yards, 19 carries) then ran for his third touchdown, a 49-yarder against a gassed defense that capped a six-play, 97-yard drive and took just 1:38.
Shutting down the Saints’ high-powered offense was a big part of the game plan for the Giants, but it wasn’t the only part. Which is why, despite clamping down on the Saints for most of the afternoon, they lost.
And until they figure out how to score consistently, their prospects of winning won’t look much better than they did on Sunday.