I was worried this would happen. I was worried I would think after two straight wins that the Giants might be able to improve defensively as the season progressed and turn this season into something other than experience for Daniel Jones and a rebuilding year. Sunday’s 28-10 loss to the Vikings brought all Giants fans back down to Earth.
For as bad as the Giants’ defense was against the Cowboys, Bills and Buccaneers, it was at a season-worst against the Vikings. Kirk Cousins, who I’m rightfully critical of each week in my picks blog, threw for 98, 230, 174 and 233 yards in the first four weeks of the season. The Giants’ defense allowed him to throw for 278 yards in the first half alone on Sunday and a total of 351 yards to the Vikings’ offense. Dalvin Cook finished with 132 rushing yards and Adam Thielen had 130 receiving yards. The Giants made the Vikings look like the Super Bowl contender everyone thought they would be when they signed Cousins, only to have gone 11-10 with him.
It wasn’t any better on the other side of the ball as the Giants managed to score 10 points at home and failed many times in the red zone thanks to an 0-for-3 day on fourth down. Despite the Vikings taking 12 penalties totaling 112 yards, the Giants weren’t able to find the end zone outside of one second-quarter drive. Jones didn’t play, Wayne Gallman got injured and Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram dropped several would-be big-play passes. It was the exact kind of performance one should expect from the 2019 Giants with a rookie quarterback and this defense, but the last two weeks briefly made all Giants fans forget how unpredictable the offense is, especially without Saquon Barkley, and how bad the defense is.
It made no sense at the time that the Giants were only 5 1/2-points underdogs to the Vikings, though that line was most likely skewed by the Giants’ two-game winning streak and the Vikings’ embarrassing week against the Bears, and it made even less sense after watching the game.
Now the Giants have a short week with a Thursday Night Football road game against the Patriots to prepare for. I thought it would be an impressive accomplishment to come away from these two games with one win, thinking the Vikings game was certainly more winnable than the Patriots game. If an 18-point home loss was the easier of the two, it’s scary to think what a rookie quarterback on a short week will do against Bill Belichick, and if Kirk Cousins is able to throw for 278 yards in a single half against the Giants, history might be made by Tom Brady against this defense.
It’s not all bad for the Giants. They have still two wins on the season, Jones looks like he’s the true future for the Giants, and if you’re into thinking the Giants have a postseason chance (they don’t), they’re still only one game back in the NFC East, not that they’re ever going to pass the Eagles or Cowboys. At least they won’t be mathematically eliminated as early as they have been in recent years.
The Giants are headed in the right direction on offense, though I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case on defense. Aside from Week 4 against the Redskins and a quarterback who was deemed unready to play prior to the game, the defense hasn’t had close to even an OK game. Aside from the Redskins game, the defense has allowed 35, 28, 31 and 28 points and those numbers would be even worse if the opposition had any reason to try in the second half or if the Buccaneers’ kicker hadn’t missed two extra points and a game-winning, 34-yard field-goal attempt. And also aside from the Redskins game, the defense has allowed 470, 388, 380 and 490 totals yards in each game, and like the points, most of those yards have been first-half yards with the opposition having no reason to do anything other than run the ball and eat the clock in the second half.
The offense wasn’t able to convert fourth downs or do much of anything in the red zone against the Vikings, but that’s against a top-tier defense in the league and one that will most likely lead the Vikings to the playoffs and could lead them to at least NFC Championship Game. The offense will be fine going forward and will be more than fine a year from now. The defense? That has a long way to go, and if the Giants plan on improving as the season moves on and plan to actually do something with their season in 2020, it’s going to need to miraculously improve or it’s going to need a lot of personnel changes.