Story of New York Giants' season: Painful mistakes in key moments

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It keeps happening. Over and over again late in games for this New York Giants team.

In Week 2, jumping offside on a last-second field goal attempt against the Washington Football Team gave kicker Dustin Hopkins the second chance he needed to beat New York. On Monday, another offside penalty negated what would have been a potential game-changing interception in the fourth quarter of a 20-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. On second-and-20 no less.

"We're just shooting ourselves in the foot. Making bad mistakes in key moments," cornerback James Bradberry said. "That is how we're losing games."

Linebacker Oshane Ximines was the culprit of the costly penalty this time, but he was not alone Monday. Fullback Elijhaa Penny was called for taunting, halting a promising fourth-quarter drive. Linebacker Tae Crowder was flagged twice late in the game -- for a facemask and unnecessary roughness. Coach Joe Judge had burned through his timeouts with more than three minutes left in the first half, and then pinned it on a headset problem.

These are things that happen to bad teams, and the Giants (2-6) currently qualify.

In a season when ownership expected the Giants to compete for the playoffs, only the Detroit Lions (0-8) have a worse record in the NFC. Games against the 5-2 Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS) and 6-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Nov. 22) are New York's next opportunities to get it right.

"We can't have those things come up," Judge said.

He knows it. The players do, too. So why do the Giants keep losing/blowing these close games?

Late-game mistakes

You can look at the losses to Washington, Atlanta (Week 3) and now Kansas City. All winnable games turned by a late miscue. Each committed by a different player.

In addition to the offside penalties by Dexter Lawrence (Washington) and Ximines (Kansas City), Adoree' Jackson's dropped interception was a crucial blunder late in the home loss to Atlanta.

Defensive captain Logan Ryan has a theory.

"We just need to have some better poise at the end when the stakes are high," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't all get a 'My bad!' We don't get that in this league. Got to learn from it. Got to do better."

The results indicate the Giants don't have the right mix of players and coaches. Having veterans and stars on the roster who deliver those difference-making plays in the clutch is something winning teams seem to have. They breathe confidence into the rest of the roster and make every player better.

Where are those guys for the Giants? Quarterback Daniel Jones has played significantly better this season, but doesn't seem capable of carrying the team by himself.

He stared down his target on his first pass attempt Monday and threw an interception deep in Giants territory that led to a Chiefs touchdown. And he had no chance on the final drive when his offensive line couldn't protect in a must-pass situation.

"I think we did some good things here and there but, ultimately, not enough and not consistent enough," Jones said.

Coaching can't be absolved, either. Not having any timeouts for their two-minute drive in the first half Monday was prohibitive.

The disappointing part is that Judge prides himself on his attention to detail. That was supposed to be his strength.

"Mental discipline I guess," rookie receiver Kadarius Toney said of why the miscues keep happening. "Just have to stay sharp with what we're doing."

A troubling admission eight games into the season and 24 games into Judge's tenure.

Lack of aggression

The Giants have topped 20 points in three of eight games. This in a league where five teams (perhaps the five best in the NFL) average more than 30 points per game.

Given this limitation you would think the Giants would be ultra-aggressive when scoring opportunities arise. But perhaps the biggest surprise of the Judge era is his conservative approach.

Fourth-and-2 from the Kansas City 5-yard line with just under three minutes remaining in the first half is a spot where analytics say going for it is not a bad decision. Judge elected to kick a field goal, cutting New York's deficit to 14-10.

An argument can be made against kicking the field goal given the Giants' scoring woes.

"Some people say it's aggressive to go for it, but I've said this before, sometimes it's aggressive to punt and play aggressive with our defense," Judge said. "We're going to stop you and get the ball back and go finish on a better field position with the offense."

This thinking seems to downplay the possibility that being aggressive offensively can also produce positive results. Going for a touchdown or a fourth down to keep a drive alive can lead directly to points, without so many outside variables coming into play.

"You can come in sometimes, shoot yourself in the foot by saying that you've got to score every point, every time it's available," Judge said. "You can fall back on those analytic sheets we've talked about in the past."

It's a fine line, especially for a team with seemingly so little margin for error.


You can say injuries are an excuse, but it helps explain why the Giants have such trouble consistently scoring.

Think about this for a minute: Running back Saquon Barkley, receivers Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Toney, and left tackle Andrew Thomas have all missed at least two games. Those are their four best playmakers and most important lineman.

The Giants' 25 missed games by their Week 1 offensive starters is the most in the NFL, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That is five more than Washington and seven clear of everyone else.

And the hits keep coming, with Shepard out through their bye week after suffering a quad injury Monday.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," Jones conceded.

Better health on offense might have helped the Giants overcome other issues. Instead, they seem headed for a fifth straight season out of the playoffs.