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Daniel Jones flops in debilitating Giants loss to Cardinals

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Nothing lasts forever, but the Giants did not even come close to extending their winning streak on a balmy December Sunday at MetLife Stadium. As a result, they no longer have one.

A wholly ineffective offense, with the return of quarterback Daniel Jones a complete dud, left the Giants defense in terrible trouble in the first half. It was too much to overcome, as the Giants went down, meekly, 26-7, dominated by the visiting Cardinals.

After all the excitement the Giants generated the past month, this was a severe downer. After all those close games this season, this was a one-sided affair, with the Giants never showing much of anything. It was their worst loss since the Week 3 blasting by the 49ers, 36-9.

This might have been a debilitating loss for the Giants (5-8) as far as holding onto their slim first-place lead in the NFC East. For the second consecutive season, the Cardinals walked into MetLife Stadium and took it to the Giants. Thus ends the Giants’ four-game winning streak and likely makes it imperative they come up with a way to upset the Browns or Ravens in the coming weeks in order to make their regular-season finale against the Cowboys a meaningful experience, as far as postseason aspirations.

The Cardinals (7-6) came in on a three-game losing streak but plowed back into the wild-card picture in the NFC. They put the hammer down on their opening series of the second half, moving 77 yards on 11 plays, fueled by a 36-yard run by Kenyan Drake. When Drake leaped in for a touchdown from one yard out, it was 20-0 and the Giants were in serious trouble.

Jones (11 of 21, 127 yards) looked as if he did not play in quite some time — he actually missed only one game, last week’s stunning upset victory in Seattle, with a strained right hamstring. But he got off to an excruciatingly slow start and ended the first half only 6 of 12 for 44 yards. He came in with 10 consecutive quarters without a turnover, but lost a fumble in the first quarter on a sack by former teammate Markus Golden. He finished with three fumbles, looked stiff in the pocket and did not run at all, which is not his game and showed he may have come back too soon, as he did not appear to have confidence his right leg would hold up if he took off with the ball.

Giants lose Cardinals Daniel Jones
Dennis Gardeck (l.) reacts after Zach Allen sacks Giants quarterback Daniel Jones.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Jones was sacked six times and was pulled with 2:34 remaining, replaced by Colt McCoy, who was sacked on his first play. The Giants allowed eight sacks and rushed for only 78 yards.

Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick was a one-man wrecking crew with five sacks and three forced fumbles.

Down by 20, the Giants finally broke through in the third quarter. Jones hit a leaping Golden Tate for 39 yards, setting up Dion Lewis’ 1-yard touchdown run to make it 20-7. That was it, though.

The defense suing the offense for lack of support was warranted. Throw another lawsuit at the special teams. In the first half, the Cardinals started their offensive possessions on the Giants’ 9-yard line, the Giants’ 36, the Cardinals’ 8, the Cardinals’ 47, the Giants’ 21 and the Cardinals’ 20. It was as if the field was tilted.

The Cardinals got 10 points on two Giants turnovers — one when Lewis fumbled on a kickoff return. The Giants managed only four first downs and 58 total yards in the first half. It was anemic display and it produced no points.

A goal-line stand was needed after Golden crashed in from the right edge and nailed Jones with a front-side hit for a sack and fumble that Golden scooped up and returned 30 yards to the Giants’ 9. On third down from the 1-yard line, Dexter Lawrence and Julian Love combined to stop Kenyan Drake for no gain and on fourth down Murray was flushed out of the pocket and his pass in the end zone for KeeSean Johnson was knocked away by James Bradberry.

The greatness on defense was followed by dullness on offense, as the Giants went three-and-out, had to punt the ball out of their own end zone and gave up a 24-yard return. That made it easy for the Cardinals to move into position for a field goal to make it 3-0.

Getting Jones onto the field was not the issue. How able and willing he would be to tuck it and run — a staple of his game — was always the question. Jones was largely immobile and not effective on the first two series and on the third possession, he was pressured and had room to run up the middle on third down — and did not. As a result, he was sacked.

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