DETROIT — It has reached the point where something has to be done, because the status quo is not acceptable. And so, the Giants will hold a players-only meeting Monday, assembling at the team facility without the coaches in the room, looking for something, anything to stop what has been going down.
“We lost how many in a row?’’ Saquon Barkley asked.
Four, he was informed.
“Four in a row … something’s got to be addressed. Everyone’s upset, everyone’s frustrated, everyone’s probably sick to their stomach. No one wants to lose, especially four in a row.’’
The latest loss was different in that rookie quarterback Daniel Jones was a huge reason why the 31-26 loss to the Lions on Sunday inside Ford Field was not a blowout. Jones was mostly terrific, with four touchdown passes, no interceptions and only one turnover — a backwards pass midway through the first quarter that was returned 13 yards by former Giants linebacker Devon Kennard to put the Giants in a 7-0 hole.
Jones offered hope for the future amid this dreary present. The rest of the team sputtered and repeated the mistakes that have the Giants at 2-6, with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford exploiting gaping holes in the Giants defensive backfield. This had the Giants grabbing at anything within their reach to turn things around. Hence, the popular fallback of calling a players-only meeting.
“We can’t keep saying the same thing each and every week,’’ safety Jabrill Peppers said. “It’s attention to detail. It’s just little stuff, bro. We always shoot ourselves in the foot, make it hard on ourselves, try to fight back in the game. Why play like that?’’
Like a tentative first date, there were flirtations by the Giants. They should have pulled even at 14 after rookie Darius Slayton’s second touchdown catch, but Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point to make it 14-13. The Giants were down 24-13 after Kenny Golladay got in front of rookie DeAndre Baker to haul in a 9-yard scoring pass, but Jones finished off a 78-yard drive with a short flip to Evan Engram to bring the Giants within 24-19 with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Here is where coach Pat Shurmur made either an aggressive maneuver or a tactical mistake. He opted to cut the deficit to three points by going for the two-point conversion, often a deadly miscalculation so early in the game. Jones rolled to his right but did not connect with Slayton and the Giants stayed behind by five. That proved problematic when the Lions got the Giants completely fooled on a throw-back pass — Stafford to J.D. McKissic, back to Stafford to Golladay for a 41-yard scoring play, as veteran safety Antoine Bethea allowed Golladay to run behind him.
“That was on me,’’ Bethea said. “That was a good play call. He crossed my face and made a play.’’
It put the Lions ahead 31-19 with 12:12 remaining and forced the Giants to go for it on fourth down from the Lions’ 14-yard line with 3:31 left. The Giants turned the ball over on downs and by the time they got the ball back and Jones hit Barkley to close the gap to 31-26, only 1:19 was left.
Shurmur is showing signs of feeling the heat. He was asked about Jones bouncing back from the early turnover and got defensive, blurting out, “He got f—ing hit. It wasn’t his fault. He got hit and the ball got put out of there. He battles. He battles and that’s what it showed me.’’
Shurmur realized he dropped an f-bomb at his postgame press conference, right into the microphone, and said “Excuse me, I apologize. That was really unprofessional of me.’’
The Giants have little they can rely on. Barkley was highly involved, but even the 22-year-old superstar had a letdown when he failed to realize Jones had thrown a backwards pass and did not pursue the loose ball, allowing Kennard to get there first. Then, Barkley failed to shove Kennard out of bounds.
“There’s no excuse,’’ Barkley said. “That’s not who I am, that’s not the type of player I am, that’s not the reason I am a captain. I got to have better effort on that play. I lacked effort there.’’
Teammates said this was the most vocal they have seen Jones.
“I think he played great,’’ Barkley said.
Jones certainly did not feel great and refused to praise anything he did.
“I mean, I think we’ve known we can move the ball on people,’’ Jones said. “We’ve known we can score points. We didn’t do enough of it. I think like a lot of these games, we haven’t done enough of it and made the big time plays in big moments.’’
They will talk about it all on Monday.
For more on the Giants, listen to the latest episode of the “Blue Rush” podcast:
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