Giants, defense take step forward in loss to Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New York Giants didn't win and won't get any points for staying within striking distance for most of the game against the undefeated New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. The Giants' 35-14 defeat still counts in the loss column and they seem destined for their third straight losing season, the sixth in seven years.

It's not all for naught though. The Giants (2-4) showed something against the Pats with their effort and performance despite being shorthanded and undermanned. It was strangely the best of 21-point losses. The Giants showed signs of a team that is making progress -- the goal for this season -- which might portend more success against lesser competition as the year progresses. Not that coach Pat Shurmur and most of his players will take solace from any of this.

"No, no, I don't," Shurmur said defiantly after a second straight multi-touchdown loss. "This is the second week you've asked me these questions. I don't. We didn't win. We didn't make enough plays. That's what this is about."

Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and the defense did some good things despite struggling at points in the game. "Gritty" is how Shurmur described Jones' evening, which was highlighted by a long touchdown pass to Golden Tate. Jones completed 15-of-31 passes for 161 yards with a touchdown pass and three interceptions.

The Giants' embattled defense (which entered the game ranked 31st out of 32 teams) fought and made some big plays, including Markus Golden's 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown. They forced Patriots quarterback Tom Brady into an interception and fumble for the first time in the same game since Week 12 of 2017. They kept the Giants, who entered as 17-point underdogs, in the game.

The final score indicates it wasn't a close game, and the point total will work against the Giants' defense. The 35 points will blend seamlessly into their points-per-game total for the season. But it should not be discounted that it included touchdowns by New England's special teams and defense.

"It was a solid showing," safety Jabrill Peppers said. "But still left a lot of plays out there. Missed a lot tackles. So we've got to get that corrected. We made some plays on the ball today. So we definitely can build on that."

Maybe, just maybe, the Giants' defense has something to work with moving forward. Rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker has settled into his starting role. Golden, and outside linebacker, is looking like his former self. Rookie defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence is a player. Middle linebacker Alec Ogletree, though he has his flaws, can at least make plays. He had 12 tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss and two QB hits against the Patriots.

The defense can at least feel better about themselves after this loss.

Troubling trend: Jones' turnovers: We knew this would be a difficult matchup against the league's top defense, and it was. Jones threw three interceptions against Bill Belichick's Patriots defense which spits up young quarterbacks. Jones now has eight turnovers in four starts, and nine overall.

"I mean, I think I didn't play well by any means," Jones said. "I don't mean to confuse that, but I don't think it was overwhelming. I think it was just bad plays, bad decisions."

This is something he's going to have to fix. It's hard to win turning the ball over at that rate. Jones now has six interceptions, a pace that would produce 24 interceptions over a full 16-games season. Not good enough if he's going to be a true franchise quarterback.

Buy on Golden: Golden shared a sack and returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown with a tremendous effort. It was simply a continuation of the previous five weeks. He came to the Giants on a one-year, prove-it deal and is doing his part. Each week he's making a play and getting to the quarterback as the Giants' top pass-rusher. Golden now has at least a half sack in four straight games.

This is a big year for Golden. He wanted to prove he was back to the double-digit sack player he was in the past (12.5 in 2016 with Arizona). Golden has five sacks in six games this season.

Eye-popping NextGen Stat: 0.62 yards of separation when the pass arrived to Golden Tate on his 64-yard reception. Jones' throw was that good on the play. It dropped perfectly over the outstretched hand of cornerback Jonathan Jones. Tate juggled it, the defender fell and Tate raced to the end zone.

But this was a trend. Tate averaged 1.10 yards of separation in the contest on nine targets. Jones made 48 percent of his throws into a tight window, the highest rate by any QB in a game of the past four seasons when Next Gen date became available. His average target separation of 1.80 yards was also the worst by any QB in a game over that span.

The average target separation entering Thursday was 3.4 yards across the NFL this season.