There was plenty of tough talk from coach Pat Shurmur after the Giants were thoroughly beaten by the Vikings, and you have to wonder if his team will ever see .500 again this season.
At 2-3, the two-game winning streak is a thing of the past for the Giants and up ahead is a place where losing streaks are born and cultivated. After Thursday night’s meeting with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, there’s a strong likelihood the Giants will be 2-4, considering the Patriots are undefeated and a muscular 17-point favorite in this game.
Shurmur, while acknowledging the quality of the Vikings on defense, testily called it a “bulls—t mentality” to lose sleep over facing a good defense. That’s a good thing, or else Shurmur would not get a moment’s respite this week preparing for the Patriots, the NFL standard-bearer when it comes to defense and winning.
There’s a good chance the Giants will play a third straight game without Saquon Barkley, as this short week works against the superstar running back in his bid to fast-forward the healing time for his high ankle sprain. Barkley is recovering remarkably quickly, but he was not really close to playing against the Vikings. With a full week, perhaps he could play against the Patriots. He does not have a full week, and putting him on the field at anything less than 100 percent is not sensible. The prudent move is to keep him out again this week, giving him extra time to be ready for the Oct. 20 game against the Cardinals. By then, a full month after getting hurt, Barkley will still be far ahead of the six-to-eight-week prognosis for his return.
“He’s an outstanding player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Barkley on Monday. “We haven’t faced him and I hope we don’t. We need to be ready for him. He’s a very competitive guy, I’m sure he’s doing all he can to get ready to go. I know he was close last week, so we’ll probably get him.
“He can do it all. He’s got great power, speed, they use him well in the passing game. He’s very hard, obviously, to tackle in the open field. Hard to tackle anywhere. Good vision, good quickness. He can play in space, he’s elusive, he’s got power. He’s as good as any back we’ve seen on film. I’m sure he’s either going to be back or he’s close to being back, and we have to be ready for him.”
More likely, the Patriots will get Jon Hilliman and Eli Penny running the ball – or at least trying to run the ball – against the formidable New England defense after Wayne Gallman suffered a concussion Sunday. The upgrade in quality of opponent did not go well in the 28-10 loss to the Vikings and might not go so well Thursday night against the best of the best.
This prompted more tough talk from Shurmur.
“Number one, you can’t get discouraged,” he said. “I’m looking for guys who get discouraged, those are the guys we’re going to get out of here — the ones that get discouraged. You can’t get discouraged.”
Check back late Thursday night.
More that came out of the game that ended the Giants’ two-game winning streak:
– Does Golden Tate have a legitimate beef about his role? Tate played 46 of the 69 offensive snaps (67 percent) in his first game after his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. He was not going to get the same workload as Sterling Shepard (56 snaps) right off the bat. Plus, rookie Darius Slayton (45 snaps) is an ascending player who was more effective during his time on the field (four receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown) than was Tate (3-13). Tate caught a pass on the first offensive snap and did not catch another until the fourth quarter. There is plenty of time for Tate to get more involved, and Shurmur, when asked about Tate, did say, “We probably didn’t do enough to get enough guys balls. That’s partly because of who we played against, but I thought it was good to have him out there.”
– Every step of the way is another line on the Daniel Jones resume and no one should be surprised the rookie can take a licking and keep on ticking. He was sacked four times by the Vikings and in some circles there was great amazement that the 22-year old was able to keep getting back to his feet to continue to compete. Did you not watch Jones at Duke? There were plenty of games where the Blue Devils were over-matched and Jones had to go into survival mode. One of those games every season came against Clemson, and Dexter Lawrence, currently Jones’ teammate with the Giants, is always quick to laud Jones for the way he battled when Lawrence’s Clemson squad faced Jones. And how about Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen saying, “He’s shown courage. He’s a good player so I see good things happening for him in the future”? On his third pass of the game, Jones had Shepard wide open deep down the right sideline – Shepard had beaten cornerback Trae Waynes – but the pass was beyond Shepard’s grasp at the Minnesota 20-yard line and what should have been a 57-yard touchdown was nothing more than an incomplete pass. In the pocket, Jones was leveled by linebacker Anthony Barr, pressure that clearly affected Jones’ throw. Jones stood in there, though. His next hurdle is to make the throw more accurately while getting drilled.
– The rookies are taking over the defense and that means growing pains. With Lorenzo Carter out with a neck issue, Oshane Ximines got his first NFL start and played 67 of the 71 defensive snaps. He had two tackles – one for a loss – and got an education as far as stopping the run as Dalvin Cook was rarely contained on the edges. There was not much in the way of pressure on the quarterback from Ximines and that is his calling card.
– Lawrence, another rookie, is making a difference. He played 53 defensive snaps – his previous high was 34 snaps – and the increased workload is a sign of things to come. Lawrence had five tackles, a sack of Kirk Cousins for a loss of 11 yards and a forced fumble. The big man is coming on.
– Nate Solder played the first seven years of his NFL career with the Patriots, but he will be facing his former team for the first time, not coming in on a position of strength. Solder had a rough go of it against the Vikings. He was called for two holding penalties (one was declined) and he allowed two sacks. Solder started 95 games for the Patriots, but Belichick decided not to pursue him aggressively in free agency in 2018 and the Giants – desperate to right the Ereck Flowers wrong – made Solder the highest-paid (at the time) offensive lineman in the NFL. For the four-year, $62 million contract ($34.8 million guaranteed) the Giants bought a reliable, team-oriented mountain of a man who does and says the right things and is a durable yet limited player. Solder this spring had surgery to clean out bone spurs in his ankle, but he has not missed a start. “I haven’t been playing this whole season very well,” Solder said after the loss to the Vikings. “I felt like myself today at times, which I was happy about. So, I think we have to build off of that and continue to improve.”
– This was not going to work, not with David Mayo playing 69 of the 71 defensive snaps and Nate Stupar playing 37 snaps on defense and rookie Josiah Tauaefa making his NFL debut. The inside linebacker position is decimated, with the season-ending injury to Ryan Connelly and Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) unavailable to play. Harry Carson is often at the team facility for Giants broadcast duties. Suit him up. He is 65 years old, though, so he might need a break every series or so.