Takeaways from the Giants' 35-14 Loss to the Patriots

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Patricia Traina

At the end of the day, a win is a win, and a loss is a loss. As some guy named Bill Parcells once said, there are no medals for trying, and as the NFL competition committee hs determined, there are no points given for moral victories.

But let’s put the Giants 35-14 loss to the New England Patriots into perspective here, shall we?

First, who outside of the team itself thought the Giants would not only be tied with the Patriots at one point in this game at 14-14 into the second quarter but who would only be down by a touchdown after a little more than three-quarters of play?

Remember, this is a rebuilding team, no matter what they want us to believe.

This is also a team that was missing its top three players at running back, tight end, and receiver. For the Giants to go out there and do what they did against the defending Super Bowl champions is the most significant moral victory of all time--and no, that’s not “loser talk.”

What that moral victory does is show this Giants team, which by the way contributed just as much to their downfall with correctable mistakes as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did with his schemes, that they can stand toe-to-toe with the best of the best.

“I mean we battled, we didn’t win though. So, we’ve got to make more plays so we can win,” head coach Pat Shurmur said.

“But I was proud of the way we battled. I’ve never been disappointed with how hard our guys fight, but we got to find a way to make more plays than the other team and win the game.”

Shurmur doesn’t agree with the notion of this being a moral victory of sorts--and if he had, then it would be time for him to find another profession as a head coach shouldn’t think that way.

Still, if you’re a player, every little confidence builder helps when you’re striving toward building greater things, including a showing that as time fades will look ugly in the record books, but which could turn out to be instrumental in the Giants’ rebuilding process.

* * *

People are going to look at rookie quarterback Daniel Jones’ numbers and say he’s going backward. But again, numbers can be deceiving.

Let’s toss out the absence as mentioned above of Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram for a moment. Jones, who finished 15 of 31 for 161 yards and one touchdown, made some nice throws despite having to deal with a quarterback’s No. 1 enemy--the wind (which by the way also toyed a bit with Tom Brady during the game).

Jones’ best throw was his 64-yard touchdown strike to Golden Tate, a textbook throw if ever there was one. And although the numbers don’t show it, he did throw the ball accurately for the most part only to be thwarted by the Patriots’ outstanding coverage against the Giants receivers.

That the Giants also max protected to keep the youngster upright left him with only two receivers running patterns, which was another factor in his not having better numbers than he had.

This is not to say that Jones had a clean game--two of his three interceptions were decisions based on bad reads while another looked to be the result of his arm being hit when he threw the ball. These are all teaching moments for the rookie to take and grow from, and he will.

Here are a few other quick thoughts and observations.

1. Remember how everyone was wringing their hands in worry when the Giants traded away their “only” proven pass-rushing threat in Olivier Vernon?

There’s still a lot of football left, but so far, Marus Golden, who in essence replaced Vernon, has 5.0 sacks to Vernon’s 1.0. And through six games this year, the Giants have 16 sacks whereas through six games last year, they only managed to record six sacks.

What’s more, eight different Giants defenders have recorded at least half a sack this year, a factor that proves that the Giants are taking more of a group effort in generating their pass rush.

2. I’m still trying to figure out why the Giants decided to give rookie Jon Hilliman more of the rushing snaps ahead of Eli Penny.

I get it that a player hs to start somewhere in gaining experience, but between Hilliman’s dancing to the hole and his ball security issues, which by the way, popped up again last night, why not go with Penny’s experience and give him more of the touches?

3. I sure would like to know why Pat Shurmur decided to punt on 4th-and-2 with 7:08 left in the game and his team down two scores. All Shurmur said when asked about that after the game was that he thought it was the right decision, but he never elaborated.

While it’s true that the Giants had a 50-50 chance of making it, you can’t help but wonder if they had gone for it and made it just what kind of benefit they might have gotten from the confidence boost that would have come from such a bold more.

4. I’ve been down on defensive coordinator James Bettcher, but I have to give him some kudos. Bettcher took a page out of former Giants’ defensive coordinators’ books who have faced Tom Brady and did an excellent job of mixing in stunts and twists that led to pressure against the Patriots understaffed offensive line.

As such, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson had one of his best games as a Giant logging seven tackles. The front seven--and I include off-ball linebackers Alec Ogletree and David Mayo--both did a stable job in settling down after a shaky start.

5. The Giants’ pass defense, specifically, the back end, confuses me. While they were a little better this week, the safeties continue to be too deep in coverage, which no doubt is one reason why Grant Haley continues to look as though he’s struggling.

The Patriots, as other teams have done before, exploited a sizeable gap in the intermediate zone in the middle of the field.

I get it that the defense wants to keep everything in front of them, but at the same time, why not take some chances by tightening up the gaps in the zones and take some chances?

And speaking of the defense, the Giants have 29 missed tackles in their last two games, including 13 this week.

I get it that you generally don’t practice tackling during the week, but when I see the Patriots only missed two tackles Thursday night, I have to wonder what it is they’re doing to make sure this essential fundamental skill is crisp that the Giants are not.

6. I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, the Patriots deployed Stephon Gilmore, their best cover cornerback (and the best cover corner in the league) mostly against rookie Darius Slayton, who can slice the top off a defense.

Per Pro Football Focus, Gilmore allowed Slayton to catch just one of three pass targets for 9 yards and had two pass breakups.

Meanwhile, Golden Tate mostly went against Jonathan Jones with some degree of success. Tate managed to catch four out of six pass targets for 84 yards and his touchdown against Jones.

7. Before the game, I was very much gung-ho about the Giants trying to land Deone Bucannon for their defense.

Despite the solid play of Alec Ogletree and David Mayo, my opinion hasn’t changed. For one, I don’t envision Ogletree and Mayo as long-term starters for this defense, whereas at age 27, Bucannon, I think, could be.

Second, Ogletree’s contract no longer has any guaranteed money, meaning if they want to move on from him after this year, they could do so and take a $3.5 million dead money hit.

Given the problems the Giants continue to have in zone coverage, I’d take a flier on Bucannon for these last ten games and wouldn’t think twice about it.

Bucannon made a name for himself with James Bettcher as his defensive coordinator before. Despite being cut by the Bucs (who I think made that decision to get an extra third-round comp pick next year), I believe Bucannon still has a lot of gas left in his tank.

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