The good feelings that the New York Giants built with their four-game win streak to go atop the NFC East quickly evaporated on Sunday afternoon.
With Daniel Jones back in the fold under center after missing one game with a hamstring injury, the Giants and their offense were dominated by the Arizona Cardinals (7-6) in an 26-7 loss, dropping them to 5-8 on the season.
Jones looked anything but comfortable in his return to action as he was limited to just 127 yards on 11-of-21 passing while being sacked six times behind an offensive line who was dominated by Arizona’s pass rush. It was the 10th career game that Jones was sacked at least four times, including two on his final drive of the afternoon late in the fourth quarter that resulted in him limping off the field. Veteran backup Colt McCoy finished the game with the result well out of reach.
Cardinals defensive end Haason Reddick accounted for five of Arizona’s eight sacks — three on Jones and two on McCoy — to pace the impressive defensive effort while doubling his seasonal output from five entering Week 14 to 10.
The Giants in total posted just 159 yards on the day, including two turnovers that constantly left its defense exposed as Kyler Murray and Arizona put up 394 yards on the afternoon. They dominated the time-of-possession as well, holding the ball for 36:10 while the Giants saw 15 minutes fewer of it.
His streak of games without a turnover ended on the opening drive when he was strip-sacked by former Giant Markus Golden, who returned it down to New York’s nine-yard-line.
But as they had done so often during their winning streak, the Giants’ defense came up big, forcing a turnover-on-downs when the Cardinals went for it on a 4th-&-goal from the one-yard-line when James Bradberry broke up a pass in the back of the end zone.
It was just the start of an ugly half for the Giants’ offense, which gained just 58 total yards and four first downs in the opening 30 minutes.
New York’s defense held the Cardinals inside the Giants red zone again on the visitors’ next drive, but they opted to settle for the three points, knocking through a 34-yard field goal to initiate the scoring.
Jones looked plenty rusty despite missing just one game. The Giants had no answer for the Cardinals’ aggressive defense, punting in their next three drives after Jones’ fumble while accruing just 36 yards of total offense. Luckily for them, the defense ensured they weren’t out of it, yielding just another field goal to trail 6-0 midway through the second quarter.
But Dion Lewis only made life harder on the Giants defense, fumbling on the ensuing kick-off to give the Cardinals possession just 21 yards away from paydirt.
They finally broke 6:53 before the half when Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold pulled down a Murray dime from seven yards out — who was falling away while under pressure — in the back of the end zone to go up 13-0, which would be the scoreline at the half.
Arizona punched the Giants in the mouth to start the second half and extended their lead to 20, going 77 yards on 11 plays in just over six minutes as Kenyan Drake punched leaped over the pack for a one-yard score.
The Giants turned to Wayne Gallman in their first possession of the third quarter, picking up 26 yards on three-consecutive calls, to get past midfield for the first time on Sunday. Following 39-yard completion over the top to Golden Tate that brought the Giants within one yard of the end zone, Gallman pounded it home for New York’s first points of the afternoon.
That scoring drive alone was 17 yards more than the offense’s entire first-half output, but responded with a three-and-out on their only other drive of the quarter.
The Cardinals extended their lead to 16 with Mike Nugent’s third field goal of the day to go up 23-7 with 12:38 to go in the game.
After a particularly ugly Giants drive deep in their own territory that saw Jones sacked twice with around five minutes to go, head coach Joe Judge pulled the plug on his quarterback’s day, opting to go with McCoy.
But the veteran backup wouldn’t come in before Mike Nugent picked up his fourth field goal of the day, making it a three-possession game inside three minutes to go.
He would meet the same fate as Jones did for most of the day, getting sacked twice by Reddick including a lost fumble just inside the two-minute warning.