The flexibility and multiple skills Julian Love contributes to the Giants’ secondary is perhaps best exemplified by his positioning and performance in the team’s first and final games of the 2020 season.
In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Love started and played all 64 defensive snaps and had three solo tackles at safety. Sixteen weeks later, he started at cornerback, missed just one of the 82 defensive plays and had seven tackles (five solo) in the season-ending victory against Dallas.
So, where will Love play in 2021, when he will be a third-year pro in a defensive backfield that is arguably the Giants’ deepest position group? Anywhere the team wants him.
“After talking to the coaches, the versatility role for me is kind of what will happen going forward as well,” Love said on a Zoom call today. “Kind of being able to play a lot of positions, and then we’ll see how the offseason goes. I’m going to keep working and try to really establish myself in a role. But right now, my role is the guy who can get it anywhere for us.
“I think that’s kind of what I’ve always done before college, high school ball and growing up. It’s kind of a fun aspect of playing the game.”
The drawback to not having a set position is that Love spends more time in some games on the sideline than on the field. He played no more than 50% of the defensive snaps in six games and played only on special teams at Dallas on Oct. 11. In the season’s penultimate game, he participated in only 11 defensive plays (16.2%) in Baltimore.
“They told us that’s kind of how things might operate,” Love said. “One week you might not play at all, one week you might play every snap. I thought it was kind of a joke, like, ‘Oh okay, yeah you need to be ready, you have to be flexible,’ all that stuff. But for me, it was pretty real. It requires some patience at times. But I knew there was always a plan. That kept me motivated, it kept me going. I was always really on the game plan and really ready to go. The ending, a lot of snaps played, I played the last game, it sent me into the offseason ready to keep working and keep growing.”
Love did play in all 16 games, starting six, and was on the field enough to finish fourth on the team with 61 tackles (45 solo). He picked up his second career interception – both in Chicago – and had three passes defensed.
Love made his first pro start at cornerback against Cleveland on Dec. 20, after James Bradberry was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He played little against the Ravens but replaced Isaac Yiadom at the corner opposite Bradberry on Sunday vs. the Cowboys.
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of versatility to us,” coach Joe Judge said. “He’s just a steady, even-keeled guy. (Against Cleveland), we had a situation come up with the corner position. When we went to Julian and said, ‘Hey, you have to play corner this week,’ he didn’t blink. He said, ‘Whatever you need,’ and went out there and worked it. I thought he played a solid game for us right there. That just kind of shows his overall value to the defense, his ability to play nickel corner, perimeter corner, or deep field safety. He does a lot of things for us and that’s a strength.”
Love played cornerback at Notre Dame where, as a junior in 2018, he started all 13 games and was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented to the nation’s best defensive back. The Giants selected him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and after playing as a reserve early in his rookie season, Love started the season’s last five games at strong safety, after Jabrill Peppers suffered a season-ending back injury.
This year, Love started the season’s first two games at free safety before veteran Logan Ryan replaced him. He started two games at midseason as an extra safety. When Love next appeared as a starter, against the Browns, it was at corner. He played there against Dallas and helped limited the Cowboys’ talented trio of wideouts – Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb – to 133 yards and no touchdowns on 15 catches.
“It was pretty fun,” Love said of returning to corner. “Kind of going back to some of the roots I established in college. I enjoyed it.
“Julian Love had to be prepared,” Ryan said. “He looked like he was up for the Thorpe Award again, like he was at Notre Dame. It was like his old Notre Dame days again. There was a lot of him.”
Ryan is a role model for Love. Prior to joining the Giants, Ryan played seven seasons for New England and Tennessee and started 95 regular-season and postseason games. Every one of them was at cornerback or as an unspecified defensive back. Ryan made his first career start at safety on Sept. 27 against San Francisco.
“Logan Ryan, having him on the team really helps me, football wise and just off the field wise,” Love said. “He’s a true pro in all he does. It’s easy to look at him and say, ‘Alright, this is kind of what I want to be. This is the type of player and person I’m striving to get toward, the type of career I’m trying to have.’ He was a guy I could always ask any question about, whether it was technical or not. He always had an answer for me. Him and Nate Ebner have really just helped me grow. Those guys, their careers are something you only dream of. Hopefully, I can learn from them going forward.”
The Giants have a talented group of returning defensive backs, including Bradberry, Ryan, Peppers, 2020 rookies Xavier McKinney and Darnay Holmes, and Love.
“We have some very talented pieces, and it does nothing but excite us going forward,” Love said. “We have a lot of players who have that just base of being ballplayers, and guys who are versatile, guys who can play different types of schemes. I know we’re going to use that to the best of our ability. We’re going to max out everything we have in the back end because when you look at it, we have kind of a young core. Logan Ryan and James Bradberry are experienced players. We’re young but we’re very talented. We feel the sky is really the limit for us. I think it’s perfect Xavier McKinney finishing the game (with an interception), finishing the season for us. That just shows kind of where our trajectory is, really.”
Many around the NFL are not happy with the way the Philadelphia Eagles handled their season-finale against the Washington Football Team on Sunday night. There was a lot at stake in this game. If Washington wins, they win the NFC East. If they lose, the Giants, who beat Dallas earlier in the day, win the division.
Here is what got a lot of people upset. First, with the Eagles down 17-14 in the third quarter, Philadelphia had an opportunity to tie the game with a short field goal, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson decided to go for it on fourth down, and ultimately, Washington would stop them.
Finally, Philadelphia decided to remove their starting QB Jalen Hurts, who ran for two touchdowns on Sunday, and replaced him with Nate Sudfeld, who had not thrown a pass since 2018. Well, Sudfeld proceeded to commit two turnovers(fumble, interception) and finished the game 5/12 for 32 yards. Philadelphia would not score again and would fall to Washington 20-14.
With the loss, the Eagles secured the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Washington won the NFC East, and the Giants were eliminated.
On Monday, Giants head coach Joe Judge addressed the situation, and he was not very happy.
“I’ll let Philadelphia speak for themselves on that in terms of how they approached the game,” Judge said. “Really simply, I was in my office last night. I watched our film from the game yesterday, and then I was actually watching our first Tampa game with the Philly-Washington game on in the background. There’s been a lot made of that game internal or from the outside. Let me just be very clear on this; we had sixteen opportunities this year, that’s it. It’s our responsibility to take care of our opportunities and perform better and execute the situations when they’re on our plate. We don’t ever want to leave our fate in the hands of anybody else. We’re not going to make excuses as an organization. Not now, not ever. We had our opportunities. We need to learn from the lessons we have from this year and carry them forward. That’s the experience you truly gain. That’s really the most important thing right there, our opportunities.
“That being said, obviously, players have asked me throughout the day. The one thing to keep in mind with this season is we had a lot of people opt into this season. We had a lot of people opt-in. Coaches, players, that includes family members as well. To look at a group of grown men who I ask to give me effort on a day in day out basis and to empty the tank. I can look them in the eye and assure them that I’m always going to do everything I can to put them in a competitive advantage and play them in a position of strength. To me, you don’t ever want to disrespect those players and their effort and disrespect the game. The sacrifices that they made to come in to work every and test before coming in. To sit in meetings spaced out, to wear masks, to have shields over those masks, to go through extensive protocols, to travel in unconventional ways, and to get text messages at 6:30 in the morning telling them practice was going to be canceled we have to do a virtual day. To tell them to please don’t have your family over for Thanksgiving, please avoid Christmas gatherings, we know it’s your wife’s birthday; let’s make sure we put that one off to the offseason. There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all the players and coaches in this league. There’s a number of sacrifices that come along as well for the family members of the people connected to them. To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win. We will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants.”
In life and in football, you never let anyone control your destiny, and in the end, New York did not do enough to control their destiny, and because of that, the Washington Football Team are NFC East champions. It’s that simple.
However, one thing for sure, when the Giants and Eagles play next season, it should be a lot of fun!
Watch Judge below:
After losing to the Buccaneers in Week 8, the Giants were 1-7, and many thought they would be in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Then, the team went on a four-game winning streak, including going into Seattle and beating the NFC West champion Seahawks, and at that point, the Giants were in first place in the NFC East, but since that win, New York is on a three-game losing streak after losing on the road to Baltimore 27-13 on Sunday.
However, even in a loss, the Giants still have an opportunity to win the NFC East. If New York(5-10) defeats the Cowboys and The Washington Football Team loses to the Eagles next Sunday night, the Giants win the division.
No one expected the Giants to have much success this season, but after the Ravens’ loss, Giants head coach Joe Judge believes the team needs to do more.
“I am not trying to take shortcuts, but we are trying to do it the right way,” Judge said after the game. “The results of the last three games are what they are. We are paid to win games. That is what it is, professional football. We have to do a better job coaching, better job playing, we have to do more things to help us win the games. Ultimately, in terms of the character of the team, the work ethic of the team, the toughness of the team, we have the right start to who we are working with, and the direction we are going right now. We just need to make sure we do more on the field to get the tangible results.”
What will happen next week? Washington is clearly struggling at the quarterback position after Alex Smith went down with a calf injury. Washington QB Dwayne Haskins struggled mightily in the team’s loss against Carolina on Sunday. The second-year quarterback threw for only 154 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and was benched in the fourth quarter, but they will play an Eagles team that will have nothing to play for, so it should be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles this game.
The Cowboys are playing well offensively and have been over 30 points in the past three weeks, but defensively the Cowboys(31st in points allowed) are not the best. However, the Giants are having a hard time scoring(31st in points), so we’ll see if they can take advantage of the Cowboys’ defense.
No matter what happens next Sunday, a very mediocre football team will be representing the NFC East in the playoffs.
After missing a game due to a hamstring injury, Giants QB Daniel Jones returned on Sunday against the Cardinals, and unfortunately for him, it was a struggle.
Jones and Colt McCoy were under pressure all day against Arizona and were sacked eight times, including five by Cardinals LB Haason Reddick. Jones finished the game 11/21 for 127 yards with no touchdowns and three fumbles, one of which was lost. Ultimately, New York(5-8) would fall to Arizona 26-7 at MetLife Stadium.
New York totaled 159 offensive yards, their lowest total since they gained 150 yards in a 38-0 loss at Carolina on Sept. 22, 2013. In addition, New York’s seven points are their lowest total since they were shut out by the Tennessee Titans, 17-0, on Dec. 16, 2018.
Jones seemed limited on Sunday and finished the game without a rushing attempt for the first time in his career.
On Monday, Giants head Joe Judge was still comfortable with his decision to start Jones against Arizona.
“I just go back to we saw he could protect himself in the pocket and move fluidly through the pocket,” Judge said. “He could get rid of the ball if he needed. If he had to eat a sack at some point, that was something we were going to go into the game plan, knowing it could happen. Obviously, there are some things that come up in the game. You get hit in the pocket at certain points. He is no different than the other 31 quarterbacks in the NFL. They all deal with the same risks every time they drop back in the pocket. To answer you directly, he was able to protect himself yesterday. No, there is no regrets, there’s no second-guessing. We took a lot of time discussing a lot of things, scenarios with doctors, coaches, making sure it was the best position for the team. That’s the decision we went with and move forward.”
If Judge feels Jones is healthy and looks the way he did in practice last week, Jones will start next Sunday night against Cleveland.
“Yeah, if Daniel is healthy to play and he looked the way he did in practice last week, I’d have no hesitation of playing Daniel at all,” Judge said. “We made a calculation. We have a lot of confidence in Colt (McCoy). This has nothing to do with Colt. But there’s also a commitment we’ve made to Daniel as our quarterback and how we’re running this offense. We have confidence in all of our players. But if he’s healthy enough to go out there and protect himself, and we don’t feel he’s putting himself in greater danger to be injured worse, and he’s going to give the team a competitive advantage of going out there, then we’re going to play him.
If Jones looks the way he did against Arizona, McCoy gives New York the best chance to defeat Cleveland. Jones needs to be able to move and use his legs. He did not have that against Arizona, and it showed. The Giants are fighting for supremacy in the NFC East, and after the loss to Arizona, they are a game behind the first-place Washington Football Team(6-7), so these final three games are huge for the Giants, and they need Jones to be at his best for them to win those games.
Daniel Jones had an MRI on his injured right hamstring today, but it did not provide the Giants with a picture of his immediate future.
“There are actually more question marks than answers right now, to be honest with you,” Giants coach Joe Judge said on a late afternoon Zoom call. “We got some of the information back from the doctors, but a lot of that is we have to wait and see how this guy responds in a couple of days. Can he move around the field and can he do anything?
“I couldn’t get an answer on if it’s one week or more than one week right now. I’m not qualified and, to be honest, the doctors I talked to today don’t have a crystal ball to look through, either. I would say this, this is a tough dude. He is a tough guy. He is a very competitive guy and he wants to be out there. If we gave him the option today, he would jump out there, I’m sure, with duct tape on his leg and try to go at it. That being said, we have to give this guy a few days to get out there on the field and see if he can move around. See if he can do something.”
Until that reveals itself, no definitive announcement will be made regarding Jones’ availability for the Giants’ game Sunday against the Seahawks in Seattle. But based on Judge’s “one week” comment, it’s likely Jones will miss at least the Seattle game.
“My approach on every injury is always the same,” Judge said. “It’s always, number one, can the player hurt it worse by playing? Is it pain tolerance or is there a risk for serious injury? That’s number one. Number two, can the player defend himself on the field at a level necessary to do their job effectively? Until we can answer those two questions with absolute certainty, we won’t have any answers on what we’re going to do in terms of this week. I know Daniel is going to do everything he can to get on the field. But sometimes, as coaches, you have to make a decision to maybe protect the player from himself and kind of get through their competitiveness.
“With these types of injuries, we just have to give the player a few days to get out there and see what it really is. The day after, there’s going to be some swelling. It’s going to be tight, there’s going to be issues that show up. We have to see how he reacts from a couple days of treatment and what we can do to get him going on the grass.”
Jones, the second year starting quarterback, was injured on a seven-yard run with about 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter of the Giants’ 19-17 victory yesterday in Cincinnati. After running two more plays, including an all-arm two-yard pass to Wayne Gallman, Jones sat on the ground in pain. He left the field and returned for the first two plays of the next series before leaving for good.
Judge declined to characterize the injury as a strain, pull or tear.
“I’m not the doctor,” he said. “I’m not going to go ahead and try to put a label on it, to be honest with you. But it was enough that we had to remove him from the game yesterday. We’ll kind of see where he is going forward.”
Jones was replaced by Colt McCoy, who has played in 41 games in 11 NFL seasons. He has started 28 games – eight in his 2010 rookie season and 13 the following year with Cleveland and four in 2014, two in 2018 and one last year for Washington. McCoy’s record as a starter is 7-21. But the five teams he started for finished a combined 23-57.
In his first game action of the season, McCoy completed six of 10 passes for 31 yards – a deceptively impressive number considering his first pass, to Gallman, lost nine yards – and ran for seven yards on five carries.
“I have a lot of confidence in Colt,” said wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who caught three of McCoy’s passes for 28 yards. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s been in games, he’s played this game for a long time. Like I said, my confidence is through the roof with him.”
“He’s very experienced, very savvy,” said safety Jabrill Peppers, who faces McCoy daily in practice. “He’s a guy who can make all the throws. I definitely have the utmost confidence.
“He diagnoses coverages really well, very fast. He gets through his progressions really well. He has some tricks that he likes to throw at us, whether it’s his no-look passes or looking off the safety, throwing it back side. He definitely does a lot of things to help us prepare for what we’re going to see on Sundays.”
Judge expects no radical differences with McCoy stepping in for Jones.
“We don’t have to change the offense,” Judge said. “We can put him in there and we can run our offense. If Colt is taking the snaps, maybe there will be a few different things that (offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett) determines are good to run with Colt, absolutely. It doesn’t matter exactly what it is. It’s based on the opponent and what our players do well. We’re going to try to find the best way to use their strengths. As the guys put the game plan together for this week as we talk through different scenarios, I’m sure there may be a different wrinkle here or there at some point. That’s not just because of what there is a limit of. We ran our offense yesterday with Colt, and Jason called it off the same play sheet and the same way. Colt went out there executed and did a good job for us.”
If McCoy starts, the Giants need a backup quarterback – or two. Their only other signal-caller is first-year pro Clayton Thorson, a 2019 fifth-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles who is on the practice squad. Judge also mentioned as possibilities Alex Tanney, who spent the 2018-19 seasons with the Giants and is currently out of football, and Cooper Rush, who is on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. Both were with the Giants in training camp.
“I haven’t gone through all of those lists yet,” Judge said. “We had those conversations. We just wrapped up meetings with the players. I’m going to jump back into some personnel discussions when this call is over.”
The Giants have five games remaining. After the long trip to Seattle, they host the Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns, visit Baltimore and end the season at home against Dallas.
Judge conceded that keeping Jones out of the Seattle game might give him a chance to play in more of those stretch-run contests. The 4-7 Giants have won three consecutive games and are in first place in the NFC East pending the outcome of the Eagles-Seahawks Monday night game in Philadelphia.
“That’s always part of it,” Judge said. “Again, I kind of go back to the first two things I said. It’s just short-term putting him on the field, can he hurt it any worse? I don’t think you want to look at it in terms of this game is not as important as maybe another game coming up. To me, it’s always that one game season. You don’t want to do anything stupid that’s going to risk the player and lose him long-term. But I’ll let the doctors kind of decide what the short-term risk is.”
And he’ll decide what the longer-term benefit is to the Giants.
Daniel Jones might want to play with extra caution in the Giants’ first post-Thanksgiving Day game next year.
For the second time in his two seasons, the Giants’ quarterback was injured in the game immediately after Turkey Day. Last year against Green Bay, he suffered a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for two games – and enabled Eli Manning to enjoy one last triumphant moment.
On Sunday – 72 hours after the holiday – Jones injured his right hamstring in the Giants’ third consecutive victory, a 19-17 triumph against the Bengals in Cincinnati. With his status for next week’s game against Seattle uncertain, Jones latest issue might open the door for Colt McCoy to temporarily join the starting lineup.
Asked after the game if he is confident this won’t be a long-term injury, Jones said, “it’s tough to say. I think we’ll go back and look at it, examine it and go on from there, so that’s my focus now and I’ll certainly look to do that as soon as we get back.”
Did the doctors and athletic trainers indicate he will be able to play next week in Seattle?
“No, you take it day by day and get back and look at it, examine it and work to improve it every day,” he said.
Because the in-depth examination of Jones’ leg had yet to begin, coach Joe Judge also had no definitive answers regarding his quarterback’s status when he spoke to reporters via Zoom after the game.
“I don’t really know much,” Judge said. “I actually talked to him on the sidelines in terms of how he was. It was at a point where he couldn’t continue in the game, which takes a hell of a lot. Daniel is a really tough dude. So, we’ll take a look and see what it is. I don’t have much more information than what you guys probably got from the T.V. at the point right now. He just has the doctors and get some MRI’s – things like that are standard procedure. We kind of MRI everything around here.”
Jones was injured on a seven-yard run with about 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. He participated in two more plays, including a two-yard pass to Wayne Gallman that he threw without moving his legs, before going to the ground in pain. After he was examined on the field by the Giants’ medical staff, Jones left the field and was replaced by McCoy, the 11-year veteran and first-season Giant, who made his first appearance of the season with 9:39 remaining in the quarter.
Jones returned for the start of the Giants’ next offensive series. But he lasted just two plays and left the game for good after grabbing his hamstring on a pass to Evan Engram that was incomplete.
“Just felt it on that play and didn’t feel like I could get a lot on it really or do what I needed to do to be effective and move the ball and throw it accurately,” Jones said. “Just look to rehab it, do whatever I can to heal it up as fast as I can.”
Jones concluded his day with 16 completions in 27 attempts for 213 yards and neither a touchdown pass nor an interception.
McCoy, the 11-year veteran and first-season Giant, completed six of 10 passes for 31 yards with a long completion of 15 yards in his first appearance of the season. He also rushed for seven yards on five carries.
McCoy had last played on Oct. 6, 2019, when he started for Washington against New England. In his only action of the 2019 season, McCoy completed 18 of 27 passes for 122 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. This was McCoy’s 41st career game. If he takes the first snap against the Seahawks it will be his 29th start.
“You never want to see D.J. go down like that, but we always have to be prepared and be ready,” McCoy said. “It felt good to get out there, call some plays and execute. There’s a few I’d really like to have back, but always thankful to get a win. I thought the defense played outstanding today, kept us in it. This is a tough league, so when you can get three in a row that’s big for our confidence and for our team.”
And they had faith in him.
“I think he came in and managed the game well,” Judge said. “I think he made some big time throws in some tough situations. He ran the ball tough.”
“I thought he did a great job coming in and executing and moving the ball down the field and scoring some points there,” Jones said. “That was big time and obviously I’ve learned a ton from Colt, he’s played a lot of football, been in this league for a long time and I think you were able to see that when he gets out on the field and executes, and how well he did it. Good to see the team get a win down the stretch and I thought Colt did really well.”
Although he doesn’t get first-team reps in practice, McCoy knows he must produce when he’s needed on game day.
“I’m always going to be ready to play, but I hate it for D.J.,” he said. “He was playing really well, just like he has been the last several weeks. I just didn’t want to let our team down. I was going to be prepared and you never know when these situations pop up. I work hard in practice and I know my teammates have confidence in me, and I just tried to go out there and secure the win for us.”
Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman added McCoy for these situations. In addition to being a capable quarterback, McCoy is a mentor to Jones and a helpful practice player.
“We talk about Colt not having a lot of snaps,” Judge said. “I’ll be honest with you, we benefit a lot defensively from having Colt run the offense against us on a weekly basis. I think he benefits from seeing a lot of competition in practice. But nobody gives our defense bigger headaches than Colt. Finally, a period on Friday of him going through the red area is always as tough as it gets because he’s out there to win. He’s out there to compete. He does a lot of things. He’s a veteran. He has a lot of experience to draw from, but at the same time, he keeps himself as prepared as can be. He’s mentally always into it. Physically, he’s ready. I thought he got in the game today and he helped us win.”
Time will tell if McCoy will be called upon to do that again next week.
The Giants’ three NFC East rivals will play this weekend while they take a break on their bye. No matter what Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas do in their games, the Giants will be in the division race when they begin their six-week stretch run on Nov. 29 against the Bengals in Cincinnati.
Joe Judge said today the best way for his players to take care of business in the division race is to ignore it and focus instead on their game-day performances.
“The importance needs to be improving as a team,” Judge said. “All that other stuff will take care of itself. Cincinnati is a good team. We have to get ready and go ahead and improve ourselves internally. Turn the page and move on to Cincinnati and get ready for a tough game out there. We have a tough stretch of games coming up. We can’t go ahead and start looking at rankings and division races and all that type of stuff. We just have to focus on getting better each week. That’s what will ultimately help us in the long run.”
Judge’s players might not so easily dismiss the competition to win the division. The possibility of participating in the playoffs has been an incentive for generations of players. Judge, who was an assistant coach at postseason perennial New England for eight seasons, perfectly understands that.
“One of my core beliefs is, motivation, to me, is an individual thing,” Judge said. “As long as you’re working for something and it collectively raises the team, that’s a positive thing. It’s professional football, I don’t care if a guy is working for a paycheck or a guy is working for a championship. If both guys come out and they are giving their best every day, that’s going to make the team better. Whatever motivates these guys, that’s great. My job as the head coach is to make sure they understand the big picture goal. Right now to me, that’s improving on a daily basis and getting to be the best football team we can be at the end of the season. All that other stuff takes care of itself.”
The Giants have shown improvement in the last two weeks, winning consecutive games under Judge for the first time with victories against division rivals Washington and Philadelphia. Yesterday, they broke an eight-game losing streak to the Eagles with a 27-17 victory in MetLife Stadium. The Giants received significant contributions from all three units; the offense gained a season-high 382 yards and scored three touchdowns, the defense held Philly without a successful third-down conversion in nine attempts; and punter Riley Dixon dropped all four of his kicks inside the 20-yard line while posting a net average of 53.3 yards, a career high for a game in which he punted more than once.
Judge is pleased but not close to satisfied.
“I don’t think we ever want to look at something and say, ‘Okay, we’ve gotten to the point we want to be at,’” Judge said. “There’s a lot of improvement we want to keep making. There are a lot of things that we want to clean up. I would say this though. On a weekly basis, I’ve seen a lot of improvement from our team. To me, it’s most evident when you turn the tape on. Look, there are several plays from yesterday that really encapsulate what I want our players to show everyone that watches that tape, and it’s important they look at it. Whether it’s Wayne’s (Gallman) touchdown on the fourth and one where we drove everyone into the end zone and finished the blocks, or Wayne going over the top with good ball security. Whether it’s converting some tough, get back on track situations, defense getting off the field when they have to, special teams covering kicks and establishing field position. There were a lot of positive things that to me, the effort, the urgency.
“One of the things that we’ve emphasized as a team to be honest with you that showed up yesterday that I was very proud of is you see when our players score, everyone running into the end zone celebrating with them. That’s important to me. It’s not a hot dog thing, but we don’t really want individualistic celebrations. We want the team to celebrate. It’s not about one guy getting into the end zone. It’s what did the line do to block to get you down there? What previous plays are you celebrating? It could be a receiver having a touchdown catch. Alright, well the running back should go down and celebrate because he had runs previous in the series that helped get us down there. The offensive line is a part of every play. The quarterback is obviously a big part of every play. We want the team celebrating together and acknowledging that it takes all 11 on the field every time to be successful. It takes everyone on the sideline as well, to be part of it, to be collectively successful.”
At his introductory news conference on Jan. 9, Judge said, “We’re going to put a product on the field that the people of this city and region are going to be proud of, because this team will represent this area.” He believes the team advances closer to that ideal each week.
“You talk about our team and one word I use all the time is resilient,” Judge said. “When I think about people in this area, blue collar people who work hard every day. It’s obviously a very competitive area to be in. That’s what you have to be up here. We want our guys to be successful on the field, but it matters to us how we’re successful. We want to play with the right attitude. We want to play a tough brand of football. We want to run the ball, stop the run, cover kicks. We want to go out there and be able to play in tough elements and be successful. We’re not going to be a team that makes excuses or comes back and says we had them, but this happened instead. That’s not the way we’re made up, that’s not what we’re going to do. I think we’re getting closer to putting a product on the field that hopefully people can see themselves in. That people are proud to put on those blue caps or t-shirts on Mondays and go to work and celebrate that they root for the Giants. That’s something that’s important to us here. We want this team to be about the area. Not just about the guys in the building.”
Over the past four years, the New York Giants have had a hard time defeating their NFC East rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. Coming into Sunday’s game, Philadelphia had beaten New York eight straight times, but all of that ended on Sunday. Behind QB Daniel Jones, who threw for 244 yards and ran for 64 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown run, the Giants defeated the Eagles 27-17.
With the victory, New York(3-7) wins their second straight game and are 1.5 games behind the Eagles(3-5-1) for the top spot in the NFC East. According to Jones, who had a season-high passer rating for the second week in a row – 100.9 after posting a 94.2 rating last week in Washington, New York’s confidence is growing.
“I think our confidence as a team is continuing to grow,” Jones said. “We were certainly frustrated through the first stretch of the season. Frustrated not to get the results we expected, but we didn’t let that discourage us. We didn’t let it affect our confidence week in and week out. We continue to improve, continue to work towards the next week, and I think that’s ultimately what has helped us do that, continue and grow, and the challenge is to keep doing that, and we’ll continue to build confidence through that work and through that improvement.”
For the second straight week, Jones was turnover-free, and Giants head coach Joe Judge sees a quarterback who’s getting better.
“This guy is a young player who is developing; he’s learning a lot every week,” Judge said. “You can see his improvement week to week. Sometimes there’s something you want to get off the tape, and he understands that, and we correct that in practice, working hard. But there’s a lot of games he’s played where maybe there’s a blemish that takes away from the 99% of the really good football he has played. But Daniel continues to be an improving player, he’s a tough dude, mentally and physically, and that spreads throughout our entire team. When he steps into that huddle, there’s 10 guys looking at him knowing he’s going to be the one to give them the answer to the problem on the field.”
Giants S Jabrill Peppers, who was apart of the Giants’ defense that held Philadelphia to 0-for-9 on third-down conversion attempts, feels the team is buying into what Judge is selling.
“Joe(Judge) has been a part of a lot of winning programs,” Peppers said. “All we had to do was buy-in. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. A lot of the times, it was more execution things. When you see how close you are, and then it’s a play here and a play there, it kind of keeps you wanting to keep pushing and keep chomping at the bit. You have to stay bought in because it’s going to turn and we felt that. We were in it damn near every game we played, and it just came to a couple plays here and there. That’s our mindset, man. We’re going to stick to the script, come to work to get better each and every day and execute on game days.”
It appears the Giants could be the best team in the NFC East, and in the last two weeks, the Giants have shown the ability to close out games. If the Giants keep playing at this level, don’t be surprised if they represent the NFC East in the playoffs this season.
They didn’t do it in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas or Philadelphia, or at home last Monday night against Tampa Bay. So Sunday, when a 17-point lead had been whittled down to just three and the Giants were in danger of another late and disheartening loss, Joe Judge continually gave his players instructions that were basic and vital.
“The whole message was finish,” the Giants’ first-year coach said. “That’s a thing you could constantly hear a player saying over and over and over. We talked about that before the game, at halftime, throughout the game and on the sideline. We have to finish the game. When we took the field, a number of times in that fourth quarter, the message was finish. The players were ready.”
That became obvious. With the Washington Football Team trying to complete an improbable comeback with its backup quarterback, safeties Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan – both New Jersey natives – intercepted Alex Smith passes in the final 2:18, a finish that clinched the Giants’ 23-20 victory in FedExField. The last two of the Giants’ five takeaways secured their second consecutive season sweep and fifth straight victory against Washington.
The Giants are 2-7 and host NFC East leader Philadelphia Sunday. Their last five games have been decided by 10 points and their last four by six points. The Giants’ two victories against Washington were by a total of four points, including a 20-19 victory in MetLife Stadium on Oct. 18.
“We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game like it was last time,” Judge said. “We knew this was an improved team, who plays very aggressive. They did. They did not disappoint. They gave us everything. We asked our guys to finish and play 60 minutes. We saw that down the stretch. We were able to come away with the result that we were working for this week.”
“It’s always good when you close it out on defense,” Peppers said. “The game shouldn’t have been that close to begin with; we had a lot of bonehead plays that put us in that position. But at the end of the day, a W is a W. They all go in the same column. Just going to keep building off this, correct the tape tomorrow, and get ready for a big showdown against Philly.”
The Giants had a long list of important contributors.
Linebacker Blake Martinez joined the safeties in intercepting passes thrown by Smith (who took over late in the first quarter after Kyle Allen suffered an ankle injury). Peppers (on Washington’s first offensive play) and Madre Harper (on an early muffed punt) recovered fumbles. The five takeaways are the Giants’ highest total in a game since Sept. 25, 2014, when they had six in Washington.
Despite getting sacked five times, Daniel Jones completed 68% of his passes (23 of 34) for 212 yards and one touchdown and had zero turnovers.
The Giants’ 2017 draft class had a big day as first-round tight end Evan Engram caught his first touchdown pass of the season and fourth-rounder Wayne Gallman led the team with 68 rushing yards, including a two-yard touchdown. Alfred Morris added 67 yards on the ground.
Ten different receivers caught passes, led by Sterling Shepard with six. Rookie Austin Mack caught a 50-yard pass for the Giants’ longest completion of the season.
Graham Gano has now made 18 field goal attempts in a row after converting attempts of 38, 48 and 42 yards against Washington.
“We keep getting in these close games,” said defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who had one of the Giants’ two sacks. “Hopefully, one day we’re not taking it to the last two minutes of the game and we’re just able to close it out before we get to that point. But this defense is pretty good and I think everyone believes in each other, so when we were challenged by Coach Judge, we took it in a positive way, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s do it, let’s put the team on our back, let’s go out there for another drive and do it again.’ The guys answered the challenge and we got the win.”
If any player deserved to be singled out, it was Ryan, who endured an incomprehensibly difficult week. Soon after the Giants’ two-point loss last Monday night to Tampa Bay, Ryan received a phone call from his wife, Ashley, who was in Florida and experiencing extreme stomach pain. She was going to try to sleep it off until Giants assistant athletic trainer Justin Maher instructed her to get to a hospital. That forceful directive might have saved her life. Ashley Ryan was soon rushed into surgery with an ectopic pregnancy. She has since rejoined her family and is recuperating in New Jersey.
Despite carrying that burden, Ryan was one of the Giants’ key contributors on Sunday. He had six tackles (five solo), two passes defensed, forced the fumble that Peppers recovered and sealed the victory with his first interception of the season with 1:15 remaining.
“It was an extremely emotional week,” Ryan said. “Extremely grateful to the organization and to my wife. She’s a fighter, to not lose her there in that situation is very fortunate. At the same time, my wife and I mourn in silence of our lost child during that process too, so we had a loss as well. Although it’s a great story, it was an emotional week for me and her, and that game was definitely for my wife, definitely for my family. I had her name written on my cleats and just extremely grateful that I have a great wife. That ball is for her, she told me to bring one home for her, so I was able to do that.”
“Logan’s a very mentally tough football player and he’s a great team leader,” Judge said. “There are a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t know or see that Logan really brings to a team. That’s something I’ve seen really evolve throughout his career. First coaching him when he was a younger player (in New England), and then having to coach against him when he was on an opposing team and he beat you, and you know that he’s a key catalyst in winning those games. Now being back on a team with him, you can see how his maturity and his age have really helped him settle in. It really is what his personality is and Logan is a tremendous leader for us, on and off the field.”
The defensive call used to thwart Washington’s last gasp had been in the playbook for about 20 hours before it was called. Fittingly, it was installed as a reaction to the Giants’ too many close losses.
“The play that we ran is something that I talked to (defensive coordinator] Pat Graham about doing and putting me in that position to make that play,” Ryan said. “In two-minute, we’d been struggling all year and it was just a play that we put in, I think, Saturday night, like hours before the game. Last night, we said we were going to try something new and try that.
“In the first half, I messed up, I wasn’t there, They ran a 32-yard in-cut in the two-minute and that was my fault, that was my job there. I told Pat, I said, ‘Hey, that’s on me. Call it again and I’ll be there, I’ll make it right,’ and at least he thinks it’s going to be there, so he called it again and the next time we ran it was at the end of the game and I was able to make the play. So that’s just the story behind the game and I’m very fortunate that Pat trusts me enough to run my play and to call my play and to call my number, and that’s what I believe I’m here to do and I believe I was here to do today for the team.”
Ryan guaranteed the Giants wouldn’t let another game slip from their grasp in the fourth quarter. Maybe that will start a new trend.
The Giants concluded the first half of their season just as they started it, facing one of the NFL’s best teams in MetLife Stadium on Monday Night Football.
On Sept. 14, they hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in Joe Judge’s first game as head coach. The Giants jumped to a 10-3 lead in the second quarter but were eventually worn down by a team that won by 10 points and almost two months later still hasn’t lost a game.
But the promise of that night devolved into an unfulfilling half-season. The Giants have lost leads, close games and, far too often, the ball. Those recurring elements were on display again Monday night in a 25-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Giants might have pulled the game out had it not been for a questionable non-call on a late two-point conversion attempt (more on that later).
The Giants’ last three losses – to Dallas, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay – have been by a total of six points. And they held a fourth-quarter lead in each of them. In earlier defeats to Chicago and the Los Angeles Rams, they had a chance to win or tie the game in the final moments but came up short.
“I think any competitor that’s playing in this league wants to win and wants to improve and show that by results,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “It’s a results business. So yeah, it’s definitely tough, and you want to go out there, after all the hard work, and come out with a win.”
“You talk about closing out the games. To me, closing out the games starts at the opening kickoff,” Judge said. “It’s a culmination of everything you’ve done for 60 minutes. Again, it’s never one player’s mistake, it’s everything collectively. There’s a lot of things that go into it, it’s a coach’s call, it’s how everything operates together on the offense or defense. It’s never one play that eliminates you in a game. It’s the effect of different plays throughout the game that add up.”
On Monday, the Giants owned an 11-point lead in the second quarter and an eight-point advantage at halftime. But Daniel Jones threw interceptions on the second play of the third quarter (leading to a Bucs field goal) and early in the fourth (setting up Tampa Bay’s go-ahead touchdown on Tom Brady’s eight-yard pass to Mike Evans).
“I think those were costly mistakes for us that I have to continue to work on and improve,” Jones said.
The second-year quarterback also overthrew Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton when they were open down the field.
On each of the picks, Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett had a fistful of Jones’ jersey in his hand and the throws were short. The first was picked off by Carlton Davis, the second by Sean Murphy-Bunting. Jones was asked if it would have been wise to hold onto the ball and go onto the next play.
“I think that’s certainly what I have to do is those situations,” he said. “When you’re out there competing and playing hard, you have to be able to understand that part of the game and understand when (the play) is over. I have to do a lot better job there.”
Jones has thrown nine interceptions this season. In every one of his 20 starts, he has thrown an interception or fumbled or both and his 36 turnovers since the start of the 2019 season lead the NFL.
“We’re just going to keep on coaching hard,” Judge said. “We’ve got to find inventive ways coaching it and drilling it. Then, as the player keeps on working, he’ll experience it through play, but there’s a lot of things we have to improve on collectively as coaches and as an entire team to help take him out of some of those situations right there, and it starts with me and we’ve got to keep making sure we put him in the best position possible.”
Of course, Jones has had his share of inspiring and uplifting moments and he was at his best on the Giants’ final drive, when he put them in position to tie the game and perhaps pull out a thrilling victory.
Ryan Succop’s fourth field goal of the game, a 38-yarder, stretched Tampa Bay’s lead to 25-17. The Giants took possession at their own 30-yard line with 3:34 remaining and no timeouts. Jones twice converted fourth downs, including a fourth-and-16 on a 20-yard pass to Shepard. With 28 seconds remaining, he connected with Golden Tate for a 19-yard touchdown to lift the Giants to within 25-23.
A successful two-point conversion likely would have sent the game into overtime. Jones took the snap and threw to his right for Dion Lewis, who had caught his first touchdown pass of the night. Rookie safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. seemed to collide with Lewis just as the ball was bouncing off his right arm.
An official threw his flag. But after a long discussion, referee Brad Rogers announced that no penalty had been committed. The Giants were two still two points shy of their second victory.
“I thought it was pass interference and was surprised when they picked it up,” Jones said. “So, we’ll watch it and learn from it and see what they say. Tough break.”
“I thought (the official) made the right call when he threw the flag,” Judge said. “I’m not sure why it got picked up, we had a pretty good view, I know they can’t use the jumbotron to replay. We had a pretty clear view of that as well. I thought (the official) made the right call the first time, and I thought normally your first instinct is right. That’s all I’m going to say about the officiating.”
Rogers spoke to a pool reporter after the game.
“The side judge (Eugene Hall) had the flag thrown on the play and came to the down judge (Jerod Phillips) who was on that side of the goal line,” Rogers said. “The communication between the side judge and the down judge was that the defender contacted the receiver simultaneously as the ball came in. And in order to have defensive pass interference, it has to be clearly early and hinder the receiver’s ability to make the catch.
“You want to make sure that it meets the qualifications for pass interference. And in our communication on the field, the down judge and the side judge communicated about the action and believed that it was appropriate to pick that flag up.”
The Giants got several solid performances, including Wayne Gallman’s 62 yards from scrimmage, Shepard’s eight catches for 74 yards and Jabrill Peppers’ 10 tackles and two pass breakups.
But in the end, turnovers contributed to another lost lead and another close defeat.
“We were able to make some big plays tonight down the stretch,” Judge said. “Ultimately, we have to overcome some mistakes, and we have to improve collectively as a coaching staff and as a team to give ourselves the best chance to be successful. We’re not asking for moral victories. We understand the people of New York deserve better, so we got to keep working to be better for them.”
They get their next chance Sunday in Washington.