You must have seen it wrong.
You must have heard it wrong.
Of course Adoree’ Jackson came down with the interception in the end zone on a really terrible pass by Matt Ryan with 5:07 remaining. How could Jackson not catch it, considering the floating pass fell directly into his hands?
Of course he caught it, because we are playing a game of revisionist history. Jackson producing the key turnover at just the right time helped the Giants protect a 14-7 lead. Jackson stayed in the end zone, the Giants’ offense took over at the 20-yard line and ran out the clock with a few first downs to finally secure their first victory of the season.
Question: If this indeed happened, do the Giants close out the game?
Are they able to protect a seven-point lead? Can they run the ball and force the Falcons to burn all their timeouts? If they have to punt the ball away, does their defense play in a protective shell, keep the ball in front of them and prevent the Falcons from scoring the tying touchdown?
The odds, as far as football projections, say yes, the Giants close it out. The reality, as far as Giants failings, say no, the Giants find a way to blow it.
Admit it. As soon as Jackson allowed the ball to fall through his hands, the feeling came over you: Here we go again. A play not made that absolutely has to be made will cost the Giants in the end. It is a case of muscle memory with a team that almost seems trained to get to the precipice of winning — and then fall into the pit of losing.
The 17-14 loss came exactly as the script stated it would. Two plays after the dropped interception, the Falcons tie the game. The Giants get the ball back with plenty of time to reclaim the lead. They get two first downs, then the critical mistake, this time a 9-yard sack of Daniel Jones with a holding penalty on Nate Solder declined on the play. A punt at the two-minute warning needs to drop inside the 10-yard line, but instead floats into the end zone. The first play for the Falcons is a 28-yard catch-and-run. The disaster is afoot. The Giants lose on a last-second 40-yard field goal and everyone nods that they’re familiar with this tale of woe.
Someone has to take the fall for this, right?
Well, yes, right, but when?
Now is not really an option. If Joe Judge fires offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, an entirely new offense cannot be installed in a week. Or even a month. Let’s play this out and project that Freddie Kitchens, a former NFL head coach (a bad one) and offensive coordinator with the Browns, takes over. Kitchens would then call the plays for an offensive design put in place by Garrett.
A more logical plan of action is for Judge to instruct Garrett to hand over the play-calling assignment to Kitchens. Garrett stays and runs the offense, but on game days it is Kitchens making the calls. Will this miraculously snap this too-dormant attack into action? No. But it would signal that Judge is unafraid to make a major change, shaking up how the Giants go about their business on offense.
Kitchens called the plays in one game last season when Garrett was away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19, Week 15 against the Browns. The deck was stacked against Kitchens, with Jones out with ankle and hamstring injuries and Colt McCoy in at quarterback. The Giants scored six points on two field goals in a 20-6 loss, managing only 288 total yards, once more proving it is more about players than it is plays.
More that came out of another September loss for the Giants:
Judge earlier this season called Blake Martinez “Captain America” and, although the moniker did not stick like glue, it was a fitting description of the invaluable middle linebacker. Martinez is part team leader, part big kid, with his affinity for Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh card packs and video games and “box breaking” card auctions. He anchored the defense, relayed assignments after getting the call from defensive coordinator Pat Graham and filled his role as a team captain with great passion and seriousness of purpose.
Losing Martinez for the remainder of the season to a torn ACL is one of those thunderbolt blows that shakes up an entire team. He cannot be replaced on the field, and his aura cannot be replicated around the facility. The common term used in these situations is “next man up,” but there is no “next man” when it comes to duplicating what Martinez contributes in every way.
It’s a snap
Jabrill Peppers’ absence on the field for long stretches remains one of the great mysteries in 2021, considering he was an every-down player on defense in 2020. He was in for a season-high 43 snaps (69 percent) against the Falcons, as the Giants went with their big nickel package featuring three safeties. Logan Ryan played all 62 snaps on defense and Xavier McKinney was in for 61 snaps.
Rookie Rodarius Williams has supplanted second-year Darnay Holmes as the nickel corner. Williams played 17 snaps, Holmes only one.
Remember the offensive line rotation Judge says he believes in? Forget it. All five starting offensive linemen played all 70 snaps. That means no Matt Peart getting time at right tackle in place of Nate Solder.
Why was RB Devontae Booker a healthy scratch? Well, there were no real plans to use him on offense. Saquon Barkley is getting stronger and stronger; he played 86 percent of the snaps on offense.
WR Kenny Golladay was questionable coming into the game because of a hip issue. That did not stop him from playing 48 of the 70 snaps on offense.
TE Evan Engram made his 2021 debut after missing the first two games with a strained calf. He received a significant workload – 39 snaps – but lost a fumble on his second reception to once again attract the ire of the crowd.
This was the first time since 2017 that the Giants lost consecutive games on a field goal as time expired. Washington’s Dustin Hopkins and Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo got them this season; Jake Elliott of the Eagles (a 61-yarder) and Nick Folk of the Buccaneers got them four years ago.
The Giants have lost 13 of 19 games since Judge took over as head coach, and three of the losses are on last-second field goals. Greg Zuerlein’s 34-yarder for the Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 5 last season.
You want – more like need – to find a bright spot amid all this Giants darkness? Outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari looks like the real deal. He is the first player in franchise history with a sack in each of his first three career games. He is the first player in the NFL to accomplish this since Myles Garrett did it for the Browns as a rookie in 2017. Ojulari is the first Giants player with at least one sack in three consecutive games since Olivier Vernon had at least one in five straight games in 2016.
On Ojulari’s sack of Matt Ryan, he also achieved his first NFL forced fumble, a loose ball that was recovered by Lorenzo Carter. The Giants hope the Ojulari-Carter duo as edge rushers can develop as the season goes on.