Pilgrim’s Point: Getting Closer

by: Jeff Pilgrim (@Jeff_NYG)

They are getting closer.

It was a game that Giants fans (and experts alike) marked as a loss for New York.  The pregame show featured Michael Strahan sarcastically picking the Giants to win, followed by a collective belly laugh.  The Giants were going to face the best team in the NFL at their home stadium, where they’ve posted an obnoxious 138-21 record under Tom Brady.  We’d be completely shorthanded and our rookie QB would be going up against the best defense in the NFL.

What nobody saw coming: 

Pats 21 – Giants 14 with 8:45 left in the 4th quarter, Giants with the ball.

Up to this point in the season, our defense has been the punch line of a lot of jokes.  We’ve seen wide receivers running so open you’d think we were playing with only 8 guys.  We’ve seen better tackling in flag football games. 

This certainly wasn’t the case in Foxboro.  The defense played extremely tough and kept us in the game well into the 4th quarter.  Tom Brady was having flashbacks to the Giant’s pass rush of old times.  

With open arms, we welcomed back LB Lorenzo Carter, who had a 10-yard sack and forced a fumble.  Markus Golden (phenomenal off-season acquisition) was there to pick up the ball and return for a Giants Touchdown. 

It was our offense struggling in this one.  Patriots had 40 minutes of possession compared to just 20 minutes for the Giants. Daniel Jones completed 15 of 31 passes for 161 yards, 1 TD and 3 Interceptions.  Woof.  It was a rookie performance from a rookie quarterback.  He never looked comfortable and was late or inaccurate on several throws. 

The Patriots #1 ranked defense:

Their D was too much to handle for Jones, especially without his best weapons (Barkley, Engram, Shepard all out with injury).  Perhaps the atmosphere and hype of playing against Tom Brady got the best of him.  Jones was 5 years old when Brady won his first Super Bowl.

Our special teams gifted the Patriots a 7-0 lead when the punter kicked the ball into the back of Nate Stupar, deep in our own territory.  A bold strategy in the game of field position.  The Pats scooped it up for a TD.  In a game where you’d have to play perfectly to have a chance, you can’t gift wrap points because of a botched punt.

Undrafted Rookie Free-Agent, Jon Hilliman, coughed up his second fumble in three games, ultimately sealing the Giants fate in this one.  Down 7 points in the 4th quarter, he gave the Patriots a 14-point lead as they scooped up his fumble and took it back to the house.  Hilliman still doesn’t resemble an NFL running back (10 carries for 38 yards, 2 receptions, fumble) and was cut on Friday.  There are 32 teams in the NFL and 7 rounds in each year’s draft.  224 players were drafted in 2019 and none of them were named Jon Hilliman. 

Bright Spots:

Defense – The effort was tremendous in this game despite the final score. They are only getting better each week as they continue to gel.  Jenkins, Golden, Carter were major contributors.

Golden Tate…(6 catches, 102 yards, TD) welcome to the Giants.  It was his second game, but this was his true introduction.  Jones found Tate on a beautiful 64-yard catch and run in the second quarter.  The Pats only let up one passing TD all season and it belongs to Daniel Jones and Golden Tate.

Pilgrim’s Point:

My point is simply this – It was never about this season.

Yes, we were 2-2.  Dallas and Philly look vulnerable, it’s true.  But this was never going to be our year to make a playoff run.  Our defense is inexperienced and lacking proven talent.  Our offensive line is improved from years past but still has major concerns (Nate Solder was an upgrade but doesn’t look like the answer).  Our struggles against good teams are proof that we have plenty more work to do.

From the moment we drafted Daniel Jones, the 2019 season was about transitioning from Eli Manning.  Granted, it happened earlier than expected.  

Daniel Jones has shown toughness, accuracy, athleticism, and poise.  The initial mockery for drafting Jones #6 overall has been silenced.  Our defense has a young core that is getting better and our offense has great weapons. Just for a moment, think about how we will be set up for next season. 

The Giants have 9 draft picks to improve both sides of the ball.  We will have a ton of money to spend in free agency after getting rid of big contracts like Eli, OBJ (and possibly Jenkins).  We have a young QB who will have plenty of game experience and many lessons learned.  Our young defense will have a full year of experience playing together.  We will be an even better team next year and will be able to compete with the better half of the NFL.

You don’t become a great team overnight, but each week I’m convinced we’re moving in the right direction.  

Next up is a winnable game at home against the Cardinals.  They should be getting their weapons back on offense and they can expect a bounce-back game from Daniel Jones and the New York Football Giants.

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