The Giants are 1-2 after three games and it could be a whole lot worse.
If not for a rousing second half comeback, racing back from a 28-7 third-quarter deficit to beat the Cardinals 31-28 in Week 2, the Giants would be owners of a record of 0-3 and their season would be in the dumpster.
As it is, their season is not exactly residing in any penthouse. Of the 12 quarters they played thus far, how many of them were truly solid, cohesive and efficient? The final two in Arizona. The first quarter in Thursday night’s 30-12 loss to the 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Anything else? Not really. So, of the 12 quarters, the Giants can feel good about three of them. Not ideal.
Here are a few thoughts about what went down in Santa Clara:
• Carl Banks knows something about wrapping his arms around a ball carrier and taking him to the ground. Few did it better than him during his days as a menacing Giants linebacker. A longtime radio analyst for his former team, Banks does not pull any punches when it comes to telling it like it is, as far as what he is seeing on the field.
This is what Banks posted on X after the game: “A poor tackling defense is a perpetual liability. This was embarrassing the amount of missed tackles tonight.’’
Score this one as a direct hit for Banks.
It was alarming to see how many times the Giants should have stopped a 49ers receiver or running back and failed to do so.
Granted, Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel are tough customers and do not go down without a fight.
But there was no reason why the 49ers should have been able to turn small plays into big ones with the frequency they did.
“I mean, obviously we need to put more of an emphasis on tackling,’’ linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “We have a lot of missed tackles across the board at different positions. Execution-wise, guys just have to do their job, starting with me. I have to be better.’’
• It all looked so easy and exciting for Darren Waller back in training camp, didn’t it? The description of him being a “matchup nightmare’’ was uttered and written so often it was like he was starring in a horror film. The season started and things slowed down for Waller. In the three games, he has 12 receptions for 132 yards and has yet to find the end zone. His longest catch has gone for 25 yards. Against the 49ers, he was targeted seven times and came away with only three catches, for 20 yards. That is not efficient, at all.
“Things are a process sometimes,’’ Waller said. “Results don’t come the way that you like in the quality you like as soon as you like them to happen sometimes.
“I’ve had times in my career you feel like you can’t miss out there and sometimes I’ve had games where I didn’t have 10 yards.’’
• Have to wonder what comes next for Sterling Shepard. In three games, he has one catch, for four yards. Wan’Dale Robinson made his season debut against the 49ers, coming off ACL surgery that curtailed his rookie year, and was immediately thrust into the action. He was targeted five times and caught four passes for 21 yards. Shepard? He got on the field for only a handful of snaps and was not targeted once by Daniel Jones. Robinson can definitely be viewed as a younger and more spry version of Shepard and there is no doubt this coaching staff is eager to get him more involved. Everyone around the Giants values Shepard as a competitor and he is a strong presence in the locker room. What he offers on the field remains to be seen.
• There were some questions posed to Giants players in the visitors’ locker room following the game focusing on how well they competed against one of the top teams in the league. Just because the Giants were in striking distance for three quarters does not mean they battled on anything close to even terms. They were blown away in total yards (441-150), rushing yards (141-29), passing yards (300-121) and first downs (26-10). If anything, this game — and the 40-0 trouncing by the Cowboys in the season opener — showed how far the Giants are from the NFL elite.
• Didn’t it seem as if Jalin Hyatt was primed for bigger and better things after his coming-out-party last week against the Cardinals? Well, there was nothing doing with him a few days later, and he was barely on the field and did not get a single pass thrown his way. Some of this was based on matters that had nothing to do with Hyatt, as the Giants knew they needed to give extra attention to pass rusher Nick Bosa and kept extra players in to block. At times, there were three Giants in the vicinity when Bosa started to advance on Jones.
“We have to look at where there could have been opportunities to do that and do a better job with that,’’ Jones said, when asked why Hyatt was not involved. “He’s a dynamic player and we didn’t have enough plays, period. We didn’t possess the ball well enough, didn’t convert third down. I think had we done that better it would’ve been more opportunities for everybody.’’
• The Giants did not have a sack on defense in their first eight quarters this season. Kayvon Thibodeaux finally got off the schneid when he dropped Brock Purdy in the first quarter, with strong coverage helping flush Purdy into Thibodeaux’s grasp. When asked if it felt good to finally cash in with a sack, Thibodeaux, unsmiling, said “No.’’ The Giants lost the game and Thibodeaux was in no mood to talk himself up. Good for him.
• Everyone knows Wink Martindale is going to send the house more often than not, as he is the most blitz-happy defensive coordinator in the league. That pressure is not exactly causing havoc, is it? Against the 49ers, the Giants blitzed Purdy on 33 of his 39 dropbacks — 84.6 percent, according to Next Gen Stats. That is the highest blitz rate in a game since NextGen Stats has been charting this. Purdy was bothered at times but he completed 20 of 31 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns against the blitz.
“That’s their scheme,’’ Purdy said. “That’s how they’ve done things. They’re pretty good at it so going into the game we had an idea that was what we were going to get.’’
• High ankle sprain. Low ankle sprain. Mid-ankle sprain. Whatever it is, the Giants need Saquon Barkley back on the field, as quickly as possible. Barkley revealed he is dealing with a high ankle sprain but a source said it is not as severe as the one that kept him out of four games in 2021. Can he make it back for the Oct. 2 game against the Seahawks? He would seem to have a shot at that.
“I’m not going to give a timetable,’’ coach Brian Daboll said.
The Giants barely tried to run the ball against the 49ers. They had 11 rushing attempts and only 29 yards. Matt Breida started in Barkley’s place and had four rushes for 17 yards. Gary Brightwell had four runs for five yards. It is clear A) the Giants need Barkley and B) they do not have anyone on their roster who can come close to doing what Barkley provides to the offense.
• Give credit to Micah McFadden. The way the 49ers can spread out a defense and keep it off-balance, it seemed as if this would not be a great matchup for McFadden, the second-year outside linebacker. Instead, McFadden was the most productive defensive player on the field for the Giants. He had a team-high 10 tackles and these were not a collection of stops several yards beyond the line of scrimmage. McFadden had four tackles for loss. The entire team had six. That’s a full day’s work for McFadden.
• Leonard Williams had his most active game, which is not saying a whole lot, considering how quiet he was the first two weeks. Williams had six tackles, two quarterback hits and he split a sack with D.J. Davidson. It is already evident that talk about the Giants having one of the top defensive lines in the league was off base. Dexter Lawrence is not off to a rousing start to the season. The same for Thibodeaux. Azeez Ojulari played in the season opener, strained a hamstring in practice and hasn’t been seen since. Newly-acquired veteran A’Shawn Robinson got into it a bit in this game with the 49ers and he has a nasty edge that is welcome in this group. Williams has been an extremely consistent player but his durability came into question for the first time last season and his slow start this season was somewhat concerning.
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