If Sunday’s ugly 36-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers is a low point for the New York Giants’ season, at least they got it out of the way early. New York got outclassed in every aspect of the game, despite San Francisco missing nine projected starters due to injury. The 49ers’ backup quarterback Nick Mullens shredded the Giants’ defense for 343 yards and a touchdown on 25 of 36 passing. New York didn’t force a single punt, allowing San Francisco to convert 8 of 12 third downs. The defense’s inability to get off the field helped the 49ers dominate the ball with nearly 40 minutes of possession. Safety Jabrill Peppers leaving the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury certainly didn’t help matters. Special teamer Nate Ebner was forced to play far too many defensive snaps.
On offense, the Giants weren’t much better. They once again failed to establish even a semblance of a run game. Quarterback Daniel Jones led the team in rushing for the second time in three games. Jones himself struggled as well, completing just 17 of 32 pass attempts for 179 yards and an interception. With star running back Saquon Barkley out for the season, New York couldn’t find a way to create explosive plays. They only had three plays of over 20 yards; one in garbage time, one on a Jones read-option keeper, and one on a free play when the 49ers had already jumped offsides.
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This game was also an indictment of third-year general manager Dave Gettleman’s roster construction. The 49ers continually exposed the Giants’ many weaknesses. Cornerback, linebacker, edge rusher, offensive line, and wide receiver were all problem areas for the Giants on Sunday. They have been for all of Gettleman’s tenure.
Perhaps the most dispiriting part of New York’s performance was their lack of resolve late in the game. Under new head coach Joe Judge, much has been made about the Giants’ developing a culture of toughness and fighting through adversity. For the first half and most of the third quarter, they at least played hard. They were just shooting themselves in the foot with bad mistakes and dumb penalties. In the fourth quarter though, when the game was getting away but not completely out of reach, the Giants rolled over. San Francisco controlled the ball for all but three minutes and 18 seconds in the final frame.
For a closer look at how Big Blue got embarassed by the 49ers, here are your Week 3 “Podium/Sodium Players”, i.e., three Giants players that deserve kudos, and three that deserve derision from Sunday afternoon.
Gold Medal: K Graham Gano
The Giants’ new placekicker made each of his three field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. He was responsible for all nine of New York’s points. Cool.
Silver Medal: ILB Blake Martinez
Martinez, a major free-agent acquisition last offseason, continues to be among the best Giants defenders. He racked up nine total tackles Sunday, including four solo, two and a half for a loss, and a sack. His performance at inside linebacker remains a breath of fresh air after two years of the Alec Ogletree experience.
Bronze Medal: DL Leonard Williams
The Giants’ pass rush is inconsistent, and since they don’t have any great edge rushers, it usually takes a while to get home. But when they do, Williams is often involved. He got his second sack of the season on Sunday, along with two and a half tackles for loss. That kind of production is nice to see for a player who was criticized for not getting to the quarterback.
Salty: QB Daniel Jones
Jones had his third straight two-turnover game to start the season. A botched pitch to Evan Engram led to a fumble that ended the Giants’ first possession. His interception on a forced throw to Engram at the end of the half led to another 49ers field goal. And it killed a chance to either tie the game or cut into the deficit.
More concerning than the turnovers, though, is his seeming decrease in confidence. Jones endeared himself to so many Giants fans last year with his willingness to make downfield throws into tight windows. That part of his game has completely disappeared this season. He only attempted a few passes over 20 yards this game, and is 26th in the league with 7.3 average intended air yards, per NFL’s NextGenStats. Either Jones has become gunshy, or the offense isn’t calling vertical pass plays. One way or the other, he’s still committing the same mistakes as last year without the potential reward of deep passing. That needs to change for this offense to have any success.
Saltier: CB Darnay Holmes
The rookie slot corner has played about as well as one could expect, but his major mistake in this game was a critical turning point. In the second quarter with the score tied at six apiece, Holmes was called for illegal contact on a third and 22. The 49ers got a fresh set of downs as a result. They scored the go ahead touchdown on that drive. It was an undisciplined penalty away from the ball, when the Giants were in position to get the ball with an opportunity to take the lead before halftime. New York deserved to lose, and is clearly the inferior team. But it’s not unfair to say Holmes’ penalty changed the complexion of the game.
Saltiest: TE Evan Engram
When Barkley went out for the season, Engram was the first-round pedigreed offensive playmaker supposed to take over in his absence. Instead of stepping his game up, Engram was once again a non-factor. He managed just three catches for 22 yards, although Jones did miss him once when he got wide open on an out-route. His blocking was subpar as usual, and he deserves a share of the blame on the botched pitch that led to New York’s first turnover. Whether it be injuries or inconsistent play, Giants fans are growing increasingly impatient with Engram. He’ll need a big bounce-back game soon to keep the hounds at bay.