Through three weeks of the 2020 NFL season, Joe Judge’s winless Giants have proven only to be a disappointment so far.
The team’s latest blunder came in a 36-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon, one where unforgiving mistakes on both sides of the ball in the closing minutes of the first half proved too much for the Giants to overcome.
Even more concerning was the fact that the 49ers were nowhere near full strength.
Replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback for the 49ers, backup Nick Mullens found success in the game’s opening drive, marching 41-yards downfield against the Giants, setting up a successful 52-yard field goal attempt for kicker Robbie Gould to put the 39ers up 3-0 with 9:48 to go at the start of the first quarter. Giants safety Jabrill Peppers went down on that field goal play and did not return.
While the loss of Saquon Barkley for the season due to a torn ACL and wide receiver Sterling Shepard’s battle with turf toe ensured the Giants defense would look different, their issues remained the same.
Similar to last week’s loss against Chicago, they fumbled on the team’s opening drive when tight end Evan Engram muffed a pitch from quarterback Daniel Jones on a first-down trick play at the Giants’ 47-yard line with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter.
Escaping with only a little hurt from the error, the Big Blue defense made a strong goal-line stand, holding San Francisco to another field goal after the 49ers came as close to the 4-yard-line.
Then trailing 6-0 with to 1:02 to go in the first, this time Jones moved the Giants well into field-goal range thanks in part to a 19-yard dash from the young QB.
They cut San Francisco’s lead as Kicker Graham Gano knocked his own 52-yard field goal to make it a 6-3 game with 13:35 to go in the second quarter.
The 49ers moved just past midfield on the game’s next drive and set up Gould for a 55-yard field goal attempt – one he missed wide right with 9:07 left in the half.
Starting at the Giants’ 45-yard line, Jones brought the G-Men’s offense down to San Fran’s 24-yard line where Gano knocked 42 yard field goal, tying the game at 6-6 with 7:25 remaining in the quarter.
As the 49ers moved to midfield the next drive, the Giants defense was poised to force a punt after stopping a third and 22 pass from Mullens at the Giants 49-yard line.
However, a demoralizing illegal contact penalty on cornerback Darnay Holmes set up the 49ers with an automatic first down plus five yards with 4:31 to go in the half.
Upon the lack of defensive discipline, San Francisco continued to drive downfield and capped off the drive with a ten yard touchdown run from running back Jerick McKinnon, which made it a 13-6 game following the extra point as the Giants were left with only 1:07 left in the half to operate.
It wouldn’t matter as Jones threw an interception to linebacker Fred Warner at the Giants 32-yard line with 59 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Giants defense managed to stall out the 49ers drive, holding San Francisco to just another field goal as time expired.
In some ways, it was miraculous that the Giants only trailed 16-6 as the 49ers possessed the ball over twenty two minutes as opposed to the G-Men’s seven and a half minutes spent on offense.
Shirking off the bad interception at the start of the third, Jones charged the Giants downfield for Gano to knock a 47-yard field goal, cutting the San Fran lead to 16-9 with 8:11 left in the quarter.
It was a drive that saw Jones rush for 30-yards himself.
The 49ers poured it on the following drive, moving down to the Giants 15-yard line where Mullens connected with receiver Brandon Aiyuk for a touchdown, pushing the San Francisco lead to 23-9 with 3:14 to go in the third quarter.
Things worsened for the Giants as the team’s next drive was halted on a stopped 4th-&-1 QB dive on their own 30-yard-line with 44 seconds left in the third. Shortly after, Mullens connected with running back Jeff Wilson Jr. for a 19-yard touchdown pass, extending the San Francisco lead to 29-9 after a botched extra point attempt with 13:28 to go.
Following a Giants punt, the 49ers put together yet another time consuming drive which resulted in Wilson running in a goal line touchdown with 3:35 remaining, extending San Fran’s lead to 36-9.
More unfortunate news came late as first round tackle Andrew Thomas was walked off the field due to injury on a late Giants drive. A few plays later, receiver Darius Slayton fumbled a pass from Jones, setting up the 49ers to knee the game over.
Jones concluded by completing 17-of-32 passes for 179 of the Giants’ total of 231, touchdown-less yards.
Golden Tate led the Giants receiving core with five catches for a total 36 yards on seven targets while Slayton had two grabs for 31 yards.
By the end of the once winnable blowout, the 49ers possessed the ball nearly double the time of the Giants by the 39:44 to 20:16 minutes.
The Giants now sink to 0-3 while the 49ers improve to 2-1, this is Big Blue’s worst start since going 0-5 in 2017.