Giants need Daniel Jones to push them across ugly finish line

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Daniel Jones had no chance against the Ravens, no chance against Lamar Jackson on a day when the Joe Judge Giants were exposed more as pretenders than contenders, and yet are somehow still standing anyway.

The Cowboys beating the Eagles 37-17 means that Jones, a 27-13 loser, somehow gets one last chance to try to turn a 5-10 ugly duckling into a beautiful swan clad in an NFC Least crown if he can win his showdown against Andy Dalton and the Cowboys next Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

And then wait for more h-e-e-e-l-p afterward from the Eagles, of all enemies, who must defeat the Washington Football Team.

The Joy of Six, anyone?

No 5-10 team deserves to be alive on the last Sunday of the season, but after the Giants’ disturbing lack of execution on both sides of the ball, the football gods decided to grant them a stay of execution.

The Cowboys defense, unlike the Ravens defense, will have to be what Dr. Jones orders. Jones blew a chance to finish the 37-34 Week 5 loss to the Cowboys but could not, and a last-second Greg Zuerlein field goal dropped the Giants to 0-5.

He wasn’t 100 percent healthy against the Ravens with that healing hamstring, but no excuses now.

The Giants need him to meet this moment more than they have ever needed him to meet any moment.

Jones didn’t have his legs but more than that, he didn’t have the kind of protectors and playmakers to overcome the maddening, exasperating chaos and underachievement everywhere around him, on both sides of the ball.

Judge has done a yeoman’s job laying the foundation and building the culture, but you need more than foundation and culture to beat a ravenous team and class program accustomed to sustained success.

Jones is a fighter, and his teammates are fighters, all well and good, but more often than not it is better to be Sugar Ray Robinson than Jake LaMotta. The Giants are simply out of their weight class against the big boys of the NFL.

Because even when Judge has to endure the heavyweight opponent punching his team in the nose for 60 minutes, Jones & Co. can only punch back like lightweights.

Jones didn’t run until one solitary desperate attempt to escape the rush in the final minute, and he couldn’t hide behind an offensive line that yielded six sacks, and let us not forget that he was throwing to the likes of Austin Mack, C.J. Board and Dante Pettis. No wonder Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale dared him to beat the Gregg Williams zero blitz.

There was virtually no danger that Jones would suffer further injury to his hamstring in the first half, since he stood on the sideline for 22:38 watching Jackson use his arm when Big Blue sold out to limit his legs and his legs (80 yards) when he felt like laughing off missed tackles and spearheading a 249-yard rushing assault against a rattled, disoriented defense.

It was early in the fourth quarter when one series epitomized the sad-sack state of the Big Blah offense. It unfolded like this:

Sack. Sack. Sack.

Three dropbacks, three sacks.

“I’ve just got to do a better job with all that stuff — identifying it and getting the ball out quickly,” Jones said.

No offense, but the New York Football Giants have no offense. They have failed to reach 20 points in any of their past five games. Jones missed two games, but still, his garbage-time touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard was his first since the second quarter against the Washington Football Team on Nov. 8.

It was 20-3 when the case against GM Dave Gettleman reared its ugly head as Jones, to his credit, completed passes to Board and Pettis, a pair of journeymen. Mack had dropped a third-down pass in the first half.

It couldn’t have helped that OC Jason Garrett — just another game for him next week, huh? — coordinated during the week over Zoom because he was in the COVID protocol, and any semblance of a vertical-game game plan turned out to be nothing more than a wing and a prayer. Jones’ 20-yard completion to Pettis was his longest of the day.

Back-to-back false starts on third down sabotaged Jones’ first possession. The Giants knew their best chance, maybe their only chance, was to force Jackson to play from behind.

“We didn’t start the game like we needed to,” Jones said. “We shot ourselves in the foot.”

It was 14-0 when Shepard zigged short when Jones expected him to zag deep against Cover Zero and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground.

“I gotta go deep on that one, so that’s my fault,” Shepard said.

Jones could not or would not give a percentage on how healthy he felt.

“I feel good. I felt like I could move and get out of the pocket and do what I needed to do. I felt good about that,” he said.

To a man, the players parrot the head coach every single day.

“I feel that we are on the right track and moving in the right direction,” Judge said.

He needs someone to rush the passer. Jackson attempted 26 passes. He was not sacked. And he needs better protectors and playmakers for his quarterback.

“There’s no moral victories and to not get the result we wanted is disappointing,” Judge said. “By no means is anyone OK with that, but there are positives we can take from today, positives we can take from where we’ve improved throughout the season as an offense and as a team. … Throughout this season, this team has improved from week-to-week.”

But not on the scoreboard. It’s terrific that Judge likes the toughness and the commitment from his players. But it’s pointless if your quarterback strains to get his team in the end zone. D-Day now for Daniel Jones.

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