Sterling Shepard went down, the New York Giants offense scored just one touchdown, Saquon Barkley averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a fine […]
Sterling Shepard went down, the New York Giants offense scored just one touchdown, Saquon Barkley averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a fine passing day at MetLife Stadium. Still, the game was tied with 1:58 left, and it appeared the Giants would at least get a fighting chance in overtime. Instead, for the second straight week, New York’s defense fell apart on the final drive, and the Giants allowed a field goal as time expired for the second straight week. The Giants have now started 0-3 in back-to-back seasons.
There were also plenty of Giants alumni in the building for the retiring of Eli Manning’s jersey number and induction in to the Giants Ring of Honor at halftime. Justin Tuck, Victor Cruz, David Tyree, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, and more all flocked to MetLife Stadium to help honor the two-time Super Bow-winning (and future Hall of Fame inductee) quarterback.
In other words, despite featuring two 0-2 teams, energy was through the roof to begin the Giants second home game of the season.
The Giants gave up a first down via a defensive pass interference call on Radarious Williams on the Falcons opening drive, but otherwise kept the Falcons offense at bay early. However, linebacker Blake Martinez exited the game on just the fifth defensive snap, and is reportedly done for the season with a torn ACL in a crushing blow to New York’s defense.
Daniel Jones and the Giants offense seemed to pick up right where they left off in Washington, moving the ball with ease on their opening drive. After an offensive hold called against Billy Price, the Giants overcame a 1st-and-20 with back-to-back scrambles from Jones followed by a 38-yard completion to C.J. Board, who was just elevated from the practice squad.
This put the Giants at Atlanta’s 22-yard line, where they would pick up another first down between the legs of Barkley and Jones, suffer an 11-yard sack, and then settle for a 25-yard Graham Gano field goal to open the scoring eight minutes in to the game.
The next three drives were all short, with two three-and-out’s from Atlanta and one from the Giants. New York’s defense allowed just one first down, via penalty, on the Falcons first three drives of the game.
On a drive that began with less than a minute left in the first quarter, the Giants started driving again. First, Barkley ripped off a 15-yard run from his own 14-yard line to get things started. Jones later found Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard on back-to-back passes of 10+ yards, each earning first downs. Kadarius Toney even got involved with a 9-yard pickup, finally breaking positive yardage for his rookie season. The drive stalled at the Falcons 17-yard line, where Jones was forced to fall on top of a bad snap for an 11-yard loss. Gano, the Giants most consistent kicker in recent memory, hammered through a 31-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 8:13 left in the half.
The Falcons finally picked up a first down on their own accord on the next drive, relying on versatile offensive weapon Cordarrelle Patterson in the passing and rushing attack. Atlanta then pinned the Giants on their own 3-yard line, where they were only able to move the ball one net yard after a C.J. Board offensive pass interference penalty.
This would set up Atlanta’s next drive on the Giants 44-yard line just outside the two-minute warning. After a 12-yard pickup on a catch from Mike Davis, a 14-yard reception from Olamide Zaccheaus, and an unnesccary roughness penalty called against Xavier McKinney, the Falcons earned a first-and-goal from New York’s 7-yard line. On third-and-goal, Zaccheaus caught a 4-yard pass from Ryan to put the Falcons up 7-6 with 1:33 left in the half.
There was a bit of sloppy play on both sides to end the half, with tight end Evan Engram fumbling at the end of a 13-yard reception, followed by Giants rookie Azeez Ojulari strip-sacking Ryan on the ensuing third down possession, potentially saving the Giants from a long Falcons field goal attempt.
Giants wide receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Sterling Shepard (hamstring) both exited the game prior to halftime and would not return, limiting the weapons Jones had at his disposal on offense.
Most fans remained in the stands for Eli Manning’s Ring of Honor Induction Ceremony at halftime. The ceremony wasn’t all positive vibes though, as Giants fans took the time out of the otherwise uplifting moment to boo Giants co-owner John Mara prior to Manning’s introduction on-stage.
The halftime ceremony did little to inspire either team, as the Giants and Falcons traded two punts apiece to begin the third quarter. The Giants drives were a tad longer, but ultimately just as anti-climactic.
With 3:03 left in the third quarter, the Giants began a new drive with an increasingly common sight: Jones pulling the ball down and scrambling 11 yards for a quick first-down pickup. Opting to go no-huddle, Barkley then rushed for four yards, caught a pass for 12 yards, and then carried the ball another three yards to the Falcons 41-yard line. Reaching down the depth chart, Jones completed a pair of passes to wide receiver Collin Johnson to keep the ball moving.
Fourth-year cornerback Fabian Moreau was flagged for defensive pass interference on an incomplete pass in the endzone, giving the Giants a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Barkley punched the ball in, diving over the top of the pile, on the very next play for his first score of the 2021-22 NFL season.
Who else but Daniel Jones himself would run in the two-point conversion attempt to give the Giants a full-touchdown lead, with New York up 14-7 with 12:53 left in the game.
The Falcons weren’t ready to go down just yet though. On 3rd-and-8, Ryan connected with tight end Kyle Pitts for one of his two catches in a quiet afternoon for the rookie. Two plays later, Ryan dumped a short pass to Patterson, who was able to advance the ball 26 yards to the Giants 31-yard line. New York appeared to catch a break as Austin Johnson sacked Ryan for a six-yard loss to push the Falcons out of the redzone, but a 14-yard completion to Zaccheaus quickly negated that.
On 3rd-and-goal from the 6-yard line, the Giants were poised to make a stop, but Atlanta benefited from the same mental mistake they had just made on the Giants touchdown drive: a defensive pass interference call in the endzone, against Logan Ryan.
Mike Davis wasn’t able to pound the ball in from the 1-yard line, but Ryan found tight end Lee Smith for a 1-yard score and his second passing touchdown of the day to tie the game at 14 with 4:13 remaining.
Attempting to take the lead, the Giants advanced the ball 24 yards before Jones fumbled the ball while being sacked by Dante Fowler Jr. Jones was able to recover his own fumble, but the drive was effectively killed and New York punted the ball away for a touchback with 1:58 left in regulation.
After a porous defensive performance at the end of last week’s Washington game, two-minute defense had to a be a point of emphasis in Joe Judge’s practices… right? On the very first play from scrimmage of the drive, Patterson took a short pass 28 yards and took the ball out of bounds at Atlanta’s 48-yard line. After a two-yard rush from Davis, Ryan connected with Pitts for his second and final catch of the day on a 25-yard pass that put the ball on the Giants 25-yard line. In essentially just two plays, the Falcons turned a game headed to overtime in to a chance for a game-winning field goal attempt in regulation.
After the Falocns ran the clock down and took their final timeout, Younghoe Koo hit a 40-yard field goal as the clock struck 0:00 to elevate Atlanta to their first win of the season, as the Giants fell to 0-3.
Statistics and Takeaways
The Giants and Falcons played dead-even in most major statistical categories, with New York actually outgaining Atlanta 346-296 despite an identical number of drives and a nearly symmetrical amount of plays from scrimmage ran. The Giants surpassed the Falcons in both passing and rushing yards, but lost ground in a key area: penalties. The Falcons were flagged four times for a total of 28 yards, while Judge’s Giants were penalized eight times for 53 yards.
The other area where the Giants struggled in comparison to the Falcons was redzone efficiency. Atlanta scored touchdowns on both of their redzone trips, while the Giants settled for two field goals and a touchdown inside the Falcons 20-yard line. If just one of those field goal trips ended in a touchdown, New York very well may have came out on top.
Daniel Jones had a solid passing day, especially considering Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton left the game early. Jones completed 24-of-35 passes for 266 yards, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt to Ryan’s 6.8 Y/A. Jones didn’t throw any touchdown passes, though he rushed for two-point conversion, and for the second straight game, didn’t commit any turnovers. Jones carried the ball eight times for 39 yards as the Giants second-leading rusher.
Saquon Barkley had his best game of the season so far, though there’s till much room for improvement. Barkley tallied 51 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and though that’s eight yards less than last week, he didn’t rely on one big run for the bulk of his yardage in tis game. Barkley also caught six passes out of the backfield for 43 yards, awakening his presence in the passing game.
Collin Johnson hauled in five of seven passes thrown his way for 51 yards, while offseason acquisition Kenny Golladay finally made a meaningful mark in the passing game with four catches for 64 yards. Evan Engram caught just two of six targets for 21 yards, and Giants fans cheered as he was removed from the game in the second half.
Tae Crowder led the Giants defense with 11 tackles after Blake Martinez’s early exit.
The Giants are 0-3 for the second straight year. If not for soft defense in final drive attempts by Washington last week and Atlanta this week, New York could conceivably be 2-1 right now, a record that would give them a share of the NFC East lead after Monday Night’s Cowboys-Eagles game.
The Giants next six games couldn’t be more brutal: they travel to New Orleans to play the 2-1 Saints next week, visit their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys after that, come home to play currently 3-0 Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers teams, travel to Kansas City for a Monday Night Football matchup with the Chiefs, and then come back home for a game against the currently undefeated Las Vegas Raiders.
Based on this schedule, it’s entirely possible the Giants start the season 0-9, if not 1-8 or 2-7 with wins potentially coming against the Cowboys or Panthers. These teams are leagues better than the Washington and Atlanta squads New York just lost to, so without some kind of miraculous turnaround, it’s going to be a rough couple months for Giants fans.
NFC East Standings
Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles (1-1, play each other on Monday Night Football)
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