FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - No one ever thought it was going to be easy for Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones.
OK, that's not true. A lot of people thought he was the elixir that was going to cure everything that ails the Giants. But the reality always was that once he was given Eli Manning's old job, the 2019 season became all about his growth and learning on the job.
So consider his encounter with Tom Brady on Thursday night another difficult learning experience for the 22-year-old. He threw three interceptions and struggled most of the night, going 15 of 31 for 161 yards in a 35-14 loss to the defending Super Bowl champs.
Now don't forget that Jones wasn't exactly working with a full deck in this game. He was missing running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), running back Wayne Gallman (concussion), receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) and tight end Evan Engram (knee). That's basically his top three weapons. And he had to do it all against one of the NFL's all-time greatest coaches in Bill Belichick, with only four days to prepare.
That's something not many veteran quarterbacks could survive.
But Jones was still just off, staring down too many receivers, and making some bad reads. His first interception came when he tried to force the ball to a well-covered Cody Latimer, and Pats defensive end John Simon picked it off the deflection. The second came when he seemingly tried to throw the ball away and he just didn't get it out of bounds.
The third was just a terrible, terrible read. He was going for tight end Rhett Ellison, but Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore read the play the whole way and cut in front of Ellison almost as soon as the ball was thrown. That was a killer because it came at the Patriots 18-yard line on the first drive of the second half, with the Giants only trailing by seven.
There would be a few more chances, too, before a fumble by running back Jon Hilliman was recovered by Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy and returned for a touchdown to make it a two-touchdown game with 8:33 remaining. The Giants defense did all it could to give Jones a chance to win this.
It just wasn't the rookie's night.
Here are some more takeaways from the Giants' fourth loss of the season …
- The Giants defense gave up 51 yards on the first four plays of the game … and then it took the Patriots 21 more plays to get their next 51 yards. And that was only part of their first half, which included a remarkable stand on the opening drive where they stuffed the Patriots on both 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 from the Giants 19. They got a sack from Markus Golden, an interception by Janoris Jenkins, and what should have been a strip and fumble recovery by safety Michael Thomas. Add in the strip sack by Lorenzo Carter that turned into a 42-yard touchdown by Golden, and … well, the Giants' defense deserved better than to be down 21-14 at the half. They deserved a better end result, too.
- Markus Golden is still the Giants' best defensive player and maybe the best free-agent signing by GM Dave Gettleman. His half-sack (which should have been a full sack) gave him five in six games this season, and he showed great hustle going after that loose ball and returning it for a touchdown. He makes a lot of "effort plays" with a motor that's constantly running. If he doesn't get pressure at first, he creates it by not giving up.
- Good to finally see Lorenzo Carter make an impact play, especially after he was questionable for this game with a neck injury. In what was supposed to be his breakout year, he's been a disappointment with a half sack in four games. But he created that defensive touchdown when he powered his way around Pats TE Ryan Izzo and hit Brady from the blind side.
- The loss of Golden Tate was really an underrated part of the Giants' struggles in the first four games of the season. The Giants were counting on his big play ability, and after a disappointing debut last week, he flashed that ability on Thursday night. His 64-yard touchdown was terrific. He not only beat CB Jonathan Jones, but he held onto Jones' pass despite juggling it for several yards. Tate, getting a lot of attention from the Patriots with both Sterling Shepard and TE Evan Engram out, finished with six catches for 102 yards.
- Good for Pat Shurmur calling that play that led to the Jones-to-Tate 64-yard touchdown. Jones was really struggling at the time and had already thrown two interceptions. He could have reeled his quarterback in and tried to get the ball moving with short, easy passes. But what's the point of doing that? Let the kid learn. Let him show off his skills. That's what Shurmur did.
- Bad for Pat Shurmur: The Giants have a 4th and 2 on their own 33, trailing by two touchdowns with 7:08 to play and he … punts? Into the wind? He had to go for it there. No excuse for basically giving up.
- No Saquon Barkley, no Wayne Gallman, and - no surprise - not much of a running game. Rookie Jon Hilliman had 11 carries for 38 yards. He also had that terrible fumble midway through the fourth quarter after catching a screen pass. If Barkley and Gallman are out another week, the Giants are going to have to look at better running back options.
- The Giants waived third-string QB Alex Tanney on Thursday afternoon to make room for RB Austin Walter, who was promoted from the practice squad. It's possible, maybe even probable, that Tanney will be re-signed next week. The Giants obviously needed an extra running back with Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman hurt. Tanney isn't active on game days so he made sense as a temporary cut. But Pat Shurmur has previously expressed a preference for keeping Tanney and carrying three quarterbacks on the roster.