The Giants (5-9) amazingly still have aspirations to win the division. They can thank the impotent NFC East for that.
But it’s going to be hard if they continue at this pace. The Giants turned three first-half red zone trips into three points. They became the first team with two first-half turnovers on downs in the red zone in the first half of a game since 2006.
“Yeah, field goals weren’t going to win this game. So, look, I’m not afraid to call things aggressively,” said coach Joe Judge, who admitted this was the mindset going in against the Browns. “I’m not afraid if we think we have a good scheme in the kicking game to call a fake. I’m not afraid to run the ball on fourth-and-1.”
The Giants have now failed to score 20 points in any of their past four games. Incredibly, they actually won two of those.
Washington (6-8) remains in first place in the NFC East despite losing to Seattle on Sunday. The Cowboys (5-9) moved even with the Giants when they beat the San Francisco 49ers, setting the stage for a potentially huge Week 17 matchup.
But this talk is all hollow unless the Giants find some kind of answer on offense. It doesn’t matter if Daniel Jones or Colt McCoy starts at quarterback or Jason Garrett or Freddie Kitchens serves as offensive coordinator.
McCoy started Sunday in place of the injured Jones and went 19-for-31 for 221 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions. Kitchens filled in for Garrett (COVID-19) and, despite a more aggressive approach early, it didn’t lead to points.
“When our defense holds a team like that, an offense like that, to 20 points, we have to pull our side of the ball," McCoy said. "We have to score some points. Like I mentioned coming out of this game is that is my frustration. We didn’t do enough in the red zone. A lot of that is on me. It’s tough. That’s frustrating. Not scoring in the red zone is frustrating.”
The Giants moved the ball early. It looked promising. They just couldn’t get into the end zone. This is nothing new for this group. The Giants entered Sunday tied for 29th in the NFL scoring touchdowns on just 50% of their red zone trips.
But this was actually taking it to a new level with their first-half incompetence. They tried a fake field-goal throw from punter/holder Riley Dixon to center Nick Gates on their opening possession. It didn’t fool the Browns. They then bypassed a short field goal later in the half, but running back Wayne Gallman was stuffed on fourth-and-2 inside the 10-yard line.
It's almost as if the Giants know they can't score points and are trying to think outside the box to produce them. Back to the drawing board. The NFC East is still up for grabs. Anyone want it?
Bold prediction for next week: Jones will be back next Sunday at relatively close to 100 percent.
Well, maybe it’s not 100 percent, but the quarterback should be good enough to be a threat against the Ravens. Jones will at least be healthy enough to play at a high level and actually run when necessary.
It won’t be the immobile Jones we saw in the loss to Arizona last week. He will have had two weeks to recover from the mild ankle sprain suffered against the Cardinals, and the hamstring has been improving.
The Giants just thought it was best with both injuries for Jones to sit out the Sunday night loss to the Browns. They made the final decision to go with McCoy on Saturday. Jones had been working behind McCoy all week, and even though Jones made a push to play, it was in his -- and the team’s -- best interest for him to take another week to get healthy.
“Hopefully he’s doing better. We’ll have to look at him again on the grass this week in practice,” Judge said. “But the decision for me was simple, he obviously had two injuries this week. He was worse off than he was the week before. ... I didn’t think with the state of where I saw him in practice this week, that I was doing the best thing for Daniel long term.”
The plan should work, barring a setback. The swelling in Jones' ankle subsided as the week progressed. But he was still limited in practice and didn't really cut it loose. He should be able to do that in the coming days.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: Five rushes for 41 yards at right guard in first half.
The Giants’ rushing success was almost exclusively behind right guard Kevin Zeitler. They averaged over 8 yards per rush in that direction in the first half. They had four rushes for 7 yards elsewhere.
It didn't change much in the second half. The Giants finished with seven rushes for 46 yards at the right guard. They had nine carries for 22 yards everywhere else.