Joe Judge’s team showed promise and fight in the first two games of the season, even though they lost them both. They played sound football. They were competitive. They were tough.
In Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers, not so much.
Against a 49ers team playing without it’s starting quarterback, it’s top two running backs, it’s All-Pro tight end, it’s No. 1 receiver, it’s best corner, two best pass rushers, and a whole lot more, the Giants didn’t put up much of a fight at all. The offense never got going. The defense was steam-rolled in the second half. And the result was a demoralizing 36-9 loss that left the Giants a disastrous 0-3.
How bad was it? Here’s a look at the takeaways from the loss that put the Giants in a very, very deep hole:
- The tackling by the Giants’ defense was atrocious in this game. And the fact that Nick Mullens, the 49ers backup quarterback, could throw for 343 yards without all those weapons is pretty shameful. There was no pressure on him. Open receivers all over the field. The defense looked tired and worn down, especially in the second half. It had been the bright side for the Giants the first two weeks, but on Sunday it looked as bad as it looked all last year. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has a lot to fix this week, because if the defense continues to play like that, the Giants won’t win a game.
- It’s hard to blame this all on the absence of Saquon Barkley, but the Giants’ offense just could not get in gear. They held the ball for only 7 ½ minutes in the first half and only 20 minutes total. And QB Daniel Jones looked really off. That included his two first half turnovers – especially the interception on the awful throw to TE Evan Engram who was well covered by LB Fred Warner. Jones finished 17-of-32 for 179 yards. Not nearly good enough.
- One big reason? It’s familiar: The offensive line. According to the Fox Sports broadcast team, Jones was either sacked or knocked down on nine of his first 18 pass attempts. That’s a recipe for disaster, especially with your starting running back out for the year. The proof of how bad the line still is came late in the third quarter when Judge made a gutsy call to go for it on a 4th and 1 from the Giants own 30 yard line. They ran a quarterback sneak and Jones couldn’t even fall forward for a yard. The middle of the line got no push at all. That’s awful.
- I don’t have a problem with that call, by the way. Judge knew he needed something to spark his team. He went for it earlier on 4th and 2 from midfield and it worked. At this point, why not go for it? The Giants’ offense is sagging. They need something to give them a boost.
- Jones did give a boost to the rushing attack in general, though. He had five runs for 49 yards, including runs of 19 and 23 yards. He’s not exactly Lamar Jackson out of the backfield, but he’s a smart runner and knows how to pick his spots. That’s valuable in today’s NFL and the Giants should continue to use him that way sporadically for a change of pace -- especially with Barkley out for the season.
- How did the other Giants runners do? Wayne Gallman had four carries for seven yards, Devonta Freeman had five carries for 10 yards, and Dion Lewis had one carry for no yards. The snap counts will tell the full story, but it seemed like Gallman and Freeman split the main duties, with Lewis getting work as the third-down back. My guess is that Freeman will get more and more over time with the intention of him becoming the workhorse in the backfield.
- Even with Darnay Holmes struggling, the 49ers threw more often than you’d think at CB James Bradberry. But the question is: Why? Bradberry has had a fantastic start for the Giants. He’s been one of the best corners in football. Given all the Giants issues at the other cornerback spots, it’s a wonder why any quarterback throws in his direction.
- Bradberry has been the Giants’ best defensive player, but LB Blake Martinez has been a close second. He’s been a tackling machine through three games, adding another nine on Sunday. That’s exactly what the Giants expected when they signed him. He proved to be an effective blitzer too, getting to Mullens on a delayed blitz up the middle in the first quarter. It’s been a long time since a Giants inside linebacker has done that.
- A tradition unlike any other … The Giants can’t cover tight ends. It’s amazing. It’s yearly. And it doesn’t matter who the tight end is or who is playing defense. The 49ers were missing George Kittle, but Jordan Reed had two catches for 23 yards before he left with an ankle injury and Ross Dwelley had four for 49 yards. Their play of the day was a short pass to Dwelley, where he was wrapped up by both DB Logan Ryan and LB Kyler Fackrell. Somehow, though, they both failed to drag him down and he went for 14 yards and a first down. Two plays later the 49ers scored right before the half.