EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The season has already been embarrassing for the Giants. On Sunday they managed to make it worse.
And that's a huge problem for Giants head coach Pat Shurmur and his coaching staff after the Giants lost to the awful Jets, 34-27. Things were bad enough, but a loss to the crosstown rivals is a humiliating defeat that is sure to enrage owner John Mara. Even worse: They've now got two weeks to stew about it, thanks to an ill-timed bye.
To this point, Shurmur wasn't really on a hot seat and his coaching staff wasn't in much danger. The Giants underwent an uncharacteristic, in-season change just two years ago and don't really have an appetite to do that again. GM Dave Gettleman also genuinely seems to like Shurmur as a coach, and according to a team source, has preached patience and believes the team is headed in the right direction.
But that was all before this, because this is the kind of loss that can change everything. Shurmur is probably safe for now, and the odds are probably in his favor to come back for next season. But can the same be said for embattled defensive coordinator James Bettcher? This game wasn't on his defense, which only gave up 294 yards, but he could be an easy scapegoat if ownership feels like it needs to do something.
It all depends on how angry Mara gets by this loss, and what happens the rest of this season. It was already bad enough. Now the Giants are at rock bottom.
Or at least they better hope they are, because right now it's hard to imagine how things could get worse.
On the flip side, at least the Jets feel a little better about themselves today. It can't fix all their problems or erase the sting of their loss to the win-less Dolphins last week, but at least it allows this beaten-down franchise to catch its collective breath. And for one week, Adam Gase won't be the most dissected coach in town.
That's not much in an otherwise lost season. But it's something.
Here are the takeaways from the Jets' second win and the Giants' ninth loss of the year ...
Sam Darnold looked a lot more like the ascending quarterback he was before the last few weeks. He finished 19 of 30 for 230 yards and a touchdown. Of course, he completed 10 of his first 12 passes and then stalled a bit. But he did some things that are incredibly encouraging. He had an incredible, 11-yard pass to Robby Anderson when he was in the grasp of a defender. And his 23-yard touchdown to Jamison Crowder came just as he was about to be sacked. He made smarter decisions, better throws, and looked more in control in the pocket. He had a meeting with Gase this week where he took a little more ownership of the offense and the plays he wanted to run. It looked like it worked.
Daniel Jones was mostly outstanding in this game. He completed 26 of 40 passes for 300 yards and an impressive four touchdowns. He made some incredible throws, and used his legs in big spots -- like on a 3rd and 10 in the fourth quarter when he barreled through four Jets defenders to pick up the first down. But his fumble problem isn't going away. He's now up to 13 fumbles in nine games -- nine lost. He's fumbled 10 times in the last four games. The fumbles just detract from everything, especially (obviously) the ones the Giants don't recover. He lost the ball on a strip sack by Adams, and was only bailed out because Saquon Barkley recovered it. And then he dropped a shotgun snap that was right in his hands. He recovered that one too, but this problem doesn't seem to be getting any better.
One week after he responded to his mini-trade tirade with a terrible game, Jets S Jamal Adams followed it up with one of the best games of his career. He was absolutely everywhere, and made sure to have an impact with nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery that he took 25 yards for a touchdown. He also went flying over the pile to stop Jones on a key QB sneak on 4th and 1 late in the first half.
It's mind-boggling that Saquon Barkley (13 carries for just one yard) and Le'Veon Bell (18 carries, 34 yards) had so much trouble in this game. They combined for 15 yards on their first 12 carries and had 26 combined yards at halftime. The Jets' run defense isn't bad, but you'd think the Giants could've found a way for Barkley to take advantage of the black hole in the middle of their linebacking corps. Even if they couldn't ... one yard? Just one yard for Saquon Barkley? That's crazy. ... As for Bell, he was facing the NFL's 27th run defense, which was yielding 127.9 yards per game. It's a testament to how bad his offensive line is that the Jets couldn't find room to spring him at all.
Barkley is an all-world talent, but he's having a lot of trouble with pass protection and blitz pickups.
Giants WR Darius Slayton is becoming quite a find for the Giants. The fifth-rounder has good hands, terrific speed, he's explosive and he's becoming very reliable. He had nine catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns and is becoming the go-to-guy for Daniel Jones. His 39-yard touchdown was helped by Jets CB Nate Hairston stumbling, but he still blew across the field, right through the Jets defense, and no one could catch him.
The Jets' inability to pick up blitzes is stunning. Teams don't even seem to be disguising them, but someone is not making the adjustments. It's hard to say, too. It's obviously something Gase needs to fix, but it certainly could be on Darnold to change the protection at the line of scrimmage. Whatever it is, teams are getting far too many free shots at the Jets' franchise quarterback.
Jets receiver Robby Anderson was targeted just three times in this game (with one 11-yard catch), and for some reason wasn't the receiver of choice on a play when he should have been -- a flea flicker that turned into a deep pass that Vyncint Smith couldn't run down. The Jets think Anderson has a future in New York, which is part of why they didn't trade him, and Gase thinks he can be more than just a deep threat. It just doesn't seem to be happening at all.
The Jets' disappointing pass rush had 13 sacks in their first eight games -- and six against the Giants. Of course, to be fair, the Giants were missing their starting center and right tackle, and left tackle Nate Solder left early in the game with a concussion. The Jets' offensive line is pretty banged up, too, but they only gave up three sacks.
There were some strange coaching moves on both sides. Start with Pat Shurmur and his decision to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Giants' own 39 with two minutes to go in the first half. The QB sneak he called didn't work. It didn't hurt, but he handed the Jets a chance to pad their lead before the half. His decision to go for 2 after a touchdown with 11:51 left in the third quarter was also just wrong. Yes, two points would've tied it. But there was almost a full half still to go. Don't go for 2 until you absolutely have to.
As for Gase, the Giants got the ball back in the first half with about 1:25 left and the Jets' defense held them to a three-and-out. That would've been good for the Jets if Gase had used his timeouts. He only used one, so when the Jets got the ball back they only had 14 seconds on the clock and could only take a knee. That's terrible clock management.