Giants may have just found their identity
The Giants weren’t supposed to win this game.
Based on the Las Vegas odds, which had them as nearly two-touchdown underdogs, they weren’t even supposed to keep it close.
Yet, the Giants had a chance to win a football game on Sunday.
Thanks to their defense.
The Giants are a flawed team with a new coaching staff and a shaky second-year quarterback who’s trying to find himself. They’re looking for hope. Any kind of hope.
They, too, are a team looking for an identity. Maybe defense is going to end up being their identity.
The Giants fell to 0-4 after Sunday’s 17-9 road loss to the Rams and their offense hasn’t scored a touchdown since the fourth quarter of their Week 2 loss to the Bears. It’s averaging 11.8 points per game, worst in the NFL.
But the Giants defense, after an admirable performance against the high-powered Rams offense — save for one play that put the game away late — gave them at least a faint heartbeat of hope as they move on to Week 5 and beyond.
“I love the way our defense is playing right now,’’ Giants coach Joe Judge said. “Third down was a big emphasis for us and they improved on that today (the Rams were 5-for-13 on third downs). I like the way our front played, and our back end is improving on a weekly basis.
“We had good energy, we’re getting great communication across the board. I like the way we fought today. We put an emphasis on being physical. We want to be a tough, physical team.’’
The Rams entered the game averaging 450 total yards per game, which ranked third in the NFL, and 170 rushing yards per game, which ranked second in the league. They finished Sunday’s game with 240 yards of total offense, including just 58 on the ground for a 2.5-yard average, and had only 15 first downs.
Their quarterback, Jared Goff, was completing 70 percent of his passes for 863 yards in three games. Goff threw for a modest 200 yards Sunday, but 55 of those came on the one most damaging play the Giants defense yielded.
With 6:56 remaining in a game the Rams led just 10-9, Goff took advantage of what looked like a blown coverage — the Giants appeared to have no safety help in the middle of the field — and connected with receiver Cooper Kupp on a 55-yard TD pass to make it 17-9.
“It was a miscommunication on the back end,’’ Giants cornerback James Bradberry said. “We’re all accountable for that.’’
Even after that play, though, the Giants offense had its chances, moving the ball inside Rams territory in the final moments before their turnover-prone quarterback Daniel Jones — who’d been turnover-free all game to that point — threw a game-sealing interception.
The defense propped the team up, and the offense let the team down.
The way the game began for the Giants on defense, it looked like it might be a long afternoon in LA, where it had been 26 years since the Giants last played there.
On their opening offensive possession, the Rams rammed the ball down the throat of the Giants defense, taking a 7-0 lead on a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ate 7:01 off the clock and ended in a Gerald Everett 2-yard TD run.
The Rams’ mix of run and pass on the drive that produced six first downs looked troubling. Yet the Rams managed only nine more first downs after that opening drive.
Giants reserve defensive lineman Austin Johnson had a terrific first half, forcing a fumble by Everett on the Rams’ second offensive series, which was recovered by Bradberry.
Later in the first half, when it looked like the Rams were about to take a 14-3 lead, sitting on a first-and-goal from the Giants’ 4-yard line, Johnson made his second huge defensive play of the game when he sacked Goff for and 8-yard loss.
Giants linebacker Kyler Fackrell put an end to the Rams’ third offensive possession with a 10-yard sack of Goff on third-and-6. Fellow linebacker Blake Martinez, as usual, was all over the field, making a game-high 13 tackles.
So many promising defensive plays followed by so little from the offense.
“If they don’t score, they don’t win,’’ Bradberry reasoned, when asked about the offense letting the defense down. “We try to take pride in that. Each time we’re on the field, we try to limit the offense to zero points. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that.’’
Unfortunately, right now that’s the Giants’ only chance to win.
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