4 Downs: Takeaways from the Giants’ ugly loss to the Detroit Lions

The New York Giants (7-3) stumbled badly in Week 11, falling 31-18 to the Detroit Lions (4-6) at home.

The Giants came into the game favored by 3 points and looked like they were going to walk away with the game after a methodical opening drive. But then things started to go sideways for the Giants, and the wheels fell off completely over the course of the game.

This was one of the ugliest games in recent memory for Brian Daboll’s resurgent squad. It’s also one they absolutely did not need on a short week before a divisional game.

We don’t have much time before we have to turn the page to Week 12, but what can we take away from the Giants’ loss to the Lions?

First down: Momma said there’d be days like this …

The Giants have had some impressive wins this year, and for the most part, things have broken their way.

But this was one of those games where everything that could go wrong, did. Just to illustrate the type of game it was, the Giants scored three touchdowns, but were unable to convert a single point-after.

This game was set to be a perfect storm for Saquon Barkley. The Detroit Lions came into the game ranked 30th in rushing yards per attempt, 31st in total rushing yards allowed, and 32nd in defensive EPA against the run. The weather conditions also dictated a commitment to the run, as howling winds swirled around Met Life Stadium.

Instead, the Detroit Lions found an absolutely suffocating run defense and they limited the Giants to just 89 rushing yards. Fifty of those yards came from Daniel Jones. Barkley had just 15 carries for 22 yards (1.5 per carry). Even more embarrassing, Barkley only saw a loaded box on one of his 15 carries, per NextGenStats.

The Giants came up -3 on turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and gave up a pair of sacks. The Giants’ defense couldn’t capitalize on their own opportunities, as two potential interceptions slipped through defenders’ hands. Likewise, the Giants were unable to get Lions quarterback Jared Goff on the ground, nor were they able to slow down the Lions’ run game and gave up four rushing touchdowns.

The Giants were also uncharacteristically undisciplined, racking up eight penalties for 63 yards. Many of those penalties came at incredibly inopportune times and the Giants were often playing against themselves.

The Lions’ run defense and the Giants’ lack of discipline quickly forced the Giants’ out of their offensive game plan, and things quickly snowballed from there.

And then the fickle Football Gods decided to add injury (after injury) to insult.

This game might be tough to put behind them, but Giants need to turn the page and move on quickly this week. They have just four days to get ready to travel and take on the Dallas Cowboys.

Second down: So … many … injuries

  • CB Adoree Jackson (knee)
  • WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee)
  • OC Jon Feliciano (neck)
  • RT Tire Phillips (neck)
  • S Jason Pinnock (jaw)
  • CB Fabian Moreau (ribs)

That’s a list of the players the Giants lost to injury this game. We’re used to seeing injuries from the Giants this year, as they’ve been consistently banged up since training camp started. But this game was something different, and their depth situation is frightening on a (very) short week.

By the end of the game the Giants were down two starting DBs (Jackson and Xavier McKinney), two primary depth players in the secondary (Pinnock and Moreau), two starting offensive linemen (Jon Feliciano, Evan Neal), their primary backup OT ( Phillips), and their best wide receiver (Robinson).

The motto will, of course, be “Next Man Up” for the Giants. But the coaching staff might be scrambling to come up with viable answers before the Giants travel to take on the Cowboys. The injuries to the secondary could loom large in the face of Dak Prescott-led Dallas offense. Likewise, the injuries to the offensive line could be significant given Dallas’ athletic and aggressive defense.

Beyond football, I can’t help but feel terrible for each of the injured men.

Third down: Barkley benched

As I mentioned above, that jerk “Murphy” and his dumb law was in full effect for this game. And the first domino to fall for the Giants was the Lions shutting down Saquon Barkley. But perhaps the most surprising development for the Giants this game was Barkley’s usage in the second half — or rather the lack thereof.

Barkley had just 10 carries for 18 yards in the first half. That turned out to be a high-water mark for him on the day, as he had just five carries for 4 yards in the entire second half. By the end of the game it appeared as though Barkley had been benched in favor of reserve runners Matt Brieda and Gary Brightwell.

As of this writing, we don’t know why Barkley was on the sideline.

It’s possible that the Giants planned all along to limit Barkley’s reps after setting a career-high for carries the week prior and a short rest before Thursday’s game. The flow of the game might have influenced the decision as well, and Brian Daboll decided to limit Barkley in what was likely a lost game. The Giants simply cannot afford to lose Barkley to injury.

That said, it’s interesting that the Giants’ best player was on the side as the team scrambled to make a desperate comeback late in the game. Matt Brieda is a capable back and could certainly start in the NFL, but he doesn’t have Barkley’s game-changing potential.

Fourth down: The good news

This was the ugliest game the Giants have played all year and looked a lot more like something from the 2020 or 2021-vintage Giants.

It’s easy to feel despondent when just about everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. But there were still a few glimmers that came out of this mess of a game.

The first is Nick Gates’ continuing return to the field. The Giants struggled mightily without Feliciano in training camp, and there were questions as to whether they had another potential center who could even successfully snap the ball. Gates’ return hasn’t just given the Giants a good sixth lineman for jumbo packages, but also a good option for the center. The Giants obviously struggled to run the ball against the Lions, but Gates’ operation appeared smooth. He could prove to be an incredibly valuable piece if Feliciano misses any significant time with his neck injury.

It’s also notable that Darius Slayton has continued to step up and make the most of his opportunity. It was n’t perfect and Slayton had a couple double-catches, which is a concern given his history of drops by him. However, he also showed some impressive route running against the Lions’

Finally, Daniel Jones sets a season-high for passing yards (obviously by necessity). His 341 yards through the air is the most he’s had since Week 4 of 2021, and the third-most he has had in his career. Other than his 400-yard game in 2021, the last time Jones threw for 300+ yards was his rookie season. This was also a high water mark for Jones when it came to the air yards. His 7.5 converted air yards was half-again his season average of roughly 5 air yards.

Jones’ game was, overall, a poor one. His two interceptions were of the “pug fuggly” variety. And while he made some impressive throws late, his field vision and ball placement were suspect throughout the game.

But in a game like this, we need to find silver linings where we can.

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