The 5-1 Giants were flying high into Jacksonville for Sunday’s matchup. Head coach Brian Daboll and his men were on a three-game win streak, looking to extend their victorious stretch with a big win over a 2-4 Jaguars team.
And despite various penalties, coverage mistakes, and an overall sloppy performance, the Giants found a way to win their fourth straight, defeating the Jaguars 23-17.
The Giants came out firing on the opening drive even with Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney missing another game due to injury. Quarterback Daniel Jones was 6-for-7 on the drive with completions to Darius Slayton and rookie Wan’Dale Robinson. Jones also picked up 14 yards on a 3rd-and-3 scramble to keep the drive alive.
The possession concluded with a 32-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Slayton down the right sideline. It was Slayton’s first touchdown reception since Week 18 of last season. With a Graham Gano extra point, the Giants quickly went up 7-0.
Jacksonville immediately responded. Second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence conducted a methodical drive that resulted in four first downs and the first career touchdown run of second-year running back Travis Etienne. The Jaguars tied the game with the extra point but an illegal formation on the Giants led to Jacksonville going for a two-point conversion. As Etienne crossed the plane on the attempt, Jacksonville took an 8-7 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
This early swap of touchdowns preceded a field goal swap later in the first half.
The Giants’ offense couldn’t convert a 3rd-and-14 and punted away to Jacksonville, who put together another productive drive against Wink Martindale’s scrappy defense. Behind runs of 15 and seven yards from Etienne as well as Lawrence completions to Christian Kirk and former Giant Evan Engram, the Jags found themselves as deep as the Giants’ 9-yard line. They eventually elected to kick a 27-yard field goal to extend the lead to 11-7 with 13:32 remaining in the second quarter.
New York answered back. A 10-play drive ended with a Gano 33-yard field goal to cut the Jacksonville lead to 11-10. A Xavier McKinney forced fumble and Julian Love recovery on the following Jaguars drive then gave the ball back to the Giants in the waning minutes of the first half.
Thanks to four first downs, big throws to receiver David Sills and tight end Chris Myarick, and a fairly heavy dose of Saquon Barkley, the Giants went from their own 20-yard line all their way down to Jacksonville’s 16. That’s when Gano booted through his second field goal of the game — another 33-yarder to put the Giants up 13-11 heading into the locker room.
Jacksonville came out firing on all cylinders to commence the second half. Lawrence and Co. executed a seven-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run on a Lawrence sneak. The score was set up by a 59-yard run for Etienne and a bogus roughing the passer penalty on Giants defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence. Although the extra point was blocked, the Jaguars took a huge 17-13 lead just over three minutes into the half.
Scoring was non-existent for more than 21 minutes of play before Jones had tricks up his own sleeve. On a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, the Giants quarterback executed runs of 24 and nine yards while Barkley also recorded an 18-yard run to put the Giants at the Jags’ 11-yard line.
Following three straight penalties from the Jacksonville defense (including a defensive pass interference in the end zone), Jones snuck it from a yard out for his third rushing touchdown of the year. After the subsequent Gano PAT, the Giants were up 20-17 with 5:31 remaining in regulation.
The Giants’ defense made one of its biggest stops of the day on the ensuing Jaguars drive. After a Jacksonville false start to begin the possession, a pair of incomplete passes forced the Jaguars to punt on a 4th-and-5 from their own 30-yard line.
Up 20-17 with over three minutes to go, the Giants needed to chew up a great deal of clock with scoring aspirations also on the mind. The drive started with three Barkley carries for 40 yards to put the Giants in Jacksonville territory. Jones then sold the defense on a great play-fake before he scrambled for the first down and intelligently stayed in bounds to run the clock down to the two-minute warning.
With the Jaguars out of timeouts, Barkley tried to stay in bounds on a third-down run but had his foot slide across the line to stop the clock at 1:07. That’s when Gano booted a 34-yard field goal to extend the Giants’ lead to 23-17.
Following a touchback on the kickoff, Lawrence and the Jaguars had one last opportunity, 75 yards away from the end zone and down by six.
Poor discipline (and poor officiating) then picked a bad time to rear its ugly head. The Giants’ defense was able to record a sack and game-winning interception, but both were negated by defensive penalties. The latter penalty (a hands-to-face call on safety Dane Belton) was a highly questionable call by the officials.
Three incompletions and a false start penalty then gave the Jaguars a 4th-and-15 from their own 40-yard line, when Lawrence hit wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. for a huge gain plus another 15 yards (the officials called another bogus roughing the passer on Leonard Williams).
Jacksonville was then set up with a 1st-and-10 at the Giants’ 17-yard line. Lawrence took two shots to the end zone, both incomplete. Then with seven seconds remaining on the clock, Lawrence hit Christian Kirk right at the one-yard line, but Fabian Moreau and McKinney hit Kirk up high to keep him out of the end zone. The absurd effort from the defensive backs prevented Kirk from crossing the plane as time expired.
The Giants escaped with a 23-17 win and are now miraculously 6-1. Some thoughts on the victory:
Injuries galore. The Giants dealt with various injuries in this game, each of which could force a roster shake-up in the coming days. Starting left guard Ben Bredeson (knee), right tackle Evan Neal (knee), and tight end Daniel Bellinger (eye) were all ruled out after suffering injuries in the first half.
The exact severity of each injury is unclear. But this week, we could see multiple reserves getting more reps in preparation for next Sunday’s matchup against the Seahawks. Rookie guard Josh Ezeudu, tackle Tyre Phillips, and tight ends Tanner Hudson and Chris Myarick could see expanded roles in the potential absences of Bredeson, Neal, and Bellinger.
Discipline. The Giants were heavily penalized during the matchup, which is partly why they came about a yard from losing. Despite the six-point victory, the Giants were penalized eight times for 82 yards, including three times on the final defensive drive (defensive holding, illegal contact, and roughing the passer).
If the Giants blew that game, you could’ve chalked the loss up to the lack of defensive discipline (even though some of the officiating calls were ridiculous). Luckily they got the win, so they could happily clean up the mistakes ahead of the Seattle matchup next week.
Secondary issues. Trevor Lawrence had his way with the Giants’ secondary for much of the afternoon. The second-year quarterback and former No. 1 overall draft selection picked apart an inexperienced and banged-up defensive backfield, ultimately finishing with 310 yards on 22-of-43 passing.
While those aren’t egregious marks for the Giants’ defense, the Adoree’ Jackson- and Xavier McKinney-led secondary can’t allow Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith to play at that level next week.