Sports

Daniel Jones Lifts Giants; Jets Hit a Familiar Low

Time is a flat circle, but we want to help you break it. To that end, we’ve enlisted two experts — one familiar with the ins and outs of New York’s professional football teams, the other a nationally focused football analyst — to answer an essential question as a weekly service to readers: Are these teams good yet?

Devin Gordon, the author of “So Many Ways to Lose: The Amazin’ True Story of the New York Mets, the Best Worst Team in Sports,” observed the Giants and the Jets from a locally focused perspective.

Diante Lee, an N.F.L. analyst at Pro Football Focus, offered a national view.

Giants

The Giants ruined Sam Darnold’s homecoming at MetLife Stadium, beating the Carolina Panthers, 25-3, Sunday afternoon.

Insider’s perspective:

What happened to the young, frisky, “funnible” Giants of the season’s first month? Well, with the exception of quarterback Daniel Jones, they’re all hurt. Running back Saquon Barkley is still out with a sprained ankle, and all three starting wide receivers, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney, were scratched on Sunday because of injuries.

The Panthers (3-4) were missing the All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, and were stuck with Sam Darnold, a Jets castoff, at quarterback. No surprise, then, that the Giants’ first points came on a safety, when Darnold doinked a pass off an offensive lineman’s helmet while in the end zone. This was the only “funnible” moment (fun and terrible) in the first half, which ended with a baseball score, 5-3.

Darnold, making his grand return to MetLife after starting for the Jets from 2018 to 2020, was benched for the fourth quarter, with his Panthers down an insurmountable 12 points. That’s the kind of game it was: a slow, sloppy battle of second- and third-stringers between teams going nowhere.

The Giants (2-5), though, had the best player on the field: Jones, who continues to provide hope that this team can get healthy and return to its frisky ways. With yards hard to come by on Sunday, Jones was careful, steady and turnover-free. The Giants controlled the second half and won going away, 25-3. They’re just 2-5 on the season, but let’s not miss the big picture: The Giants have a legit quarterback.

VERDICT: Tune back in when Daniel Jones gets some help.

Outsider’s view:

I know it’s tempting, but don’t fall for what you saw.

The Giants pulled away from Carolina late in the second half, but the margin of victory is more indicative of what is wrong with the Panthers than what is right with the Giants. This is still an injured, ineffective, uninspiring product, but it found the perfect dancing partner on Sunday.

Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold came back to New York and put on a vintage performance. With the Panthers down, 15-3, in the fourth quarter, Coach Matt Rhule mercifully directed Darnold to take a seat and put on the Benched Quarterback Cap after taking a beating from the Giants’ pass rush.

For the first time this season, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones didn’t need to have a superhero’s arm to be competitive. Instead, he was the Giants’ best running back — he averaged 3.5 yards on eight carries, adding a needed dynamic to the offense — and even caught a one-handed, 16-yard pass out of the backfield, which is the highlight of the season so far.

Perhaps the Giants’ offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, and Coach Joe Judge have had enough of watching tackle Nate Solder and the rest of the offensive line being abused by pass rushers. They kept Jones rolling out to his right and out of harm’s way. It caught Carolina off guard, but there’s no elite N.F.L. offense that uses only half the field.

The franchise quarterback, Jones, took control in a much-needed win, but the Giants’ corner is much too wide to feel as if it has been turned just yet.

VERDICT: Don’t look too closely. Just enjoy the moment.

Jets

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson left the game after a hit by Patriots linebacker Matt Judon.Credit…David Butler Ii/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Zach Wilson left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and the Jets lost, 54-13, to the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

Insider’s perspective:

Two months into the Jets’ season, and the potential silver linings are looking dim.

Yes, the Jets (1-5) lost again to the Patriots, and yes, the game was over by halftime. But the Patriots (3-4) are still below .500, too! Bill Belichick is just 10-13 post-Tom Brady.

Yes, the Jets still haven’t scored any points in first quarters this season. But they did make it into scoring range with two minutes left! (The backup kicker, Matt Ammendola, missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt.)

Yes, the Jets’ rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson, was knocked out of the game with a lower leg injury. But at least he walked to the locker room on his own power!

Yes, the Jets had to replace Wilson with a fourth-year backup named Mike White, who had never taken a regular-season snap before. But then White completed his first pass for a touchdown to Corey Davis! That made it 17-7, Patriots.

“You never know,” Jets fans might have thought, fleetingly and adorably. “Maybe Mike White is our Tom Brady.”

Yes, the Patriots immediately scored again to go ahead, 24-7. But if you flipped channels to the Giants-Panthers game just then, you would have caught the former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throwing a red-zone interception to kill another Carolina drive. Darnold, in fact, appears to be the weak link on a playoff-caliber team, so at least there’s that: Darnold stinks, too. The Jets were right about him, after all, and it took only four years to figure it out.

VERDICT: Spend a half searching for upside, then spend the rest of the afternoon taking a nap.

Outsider’s view:

O-o-h child, things are gonna get easier. Someday!

Find a blanket and go to your happy place on weekends, because there’s not much warmth or solace to be found in watching the A.F.C.-worst Jets.

The Patriots may not be the N.F.L.’s bully anymore, but the Jets are still being stuffed into a locker when these teams play. The Jets had to be using their second meeting with New England this season as a progress report of sorts, and we can celebrate the game not being an abject disasterthat inspires hopeless wailing throughout the city. This time, it’s just an abject disaster that inspires curling into a fetal position and wondering which would be better: starting this year over or skipping ahead to 2022?

Zach Wilson had pass rushers at his feet a few times in the first half, and a low hit after a throw ended his day before halftime. With or without Wilson, the 2021 N.F.L. draft’s second overall pick, this offense has had no prayer of getting the ball into the end zone. Entering Sunday, the Jets had the last-ranked offense in points scored, by a wide margin, and the couple of touchdowns against New England won’t put much distance between 32nd and 31st place.

The defense did not do much to help, as New England quarterback Mac Jones put up the best performance of his career. Should Jones somehow manage to win the Rookie of the Year Award, the Jets deserve a few mentions in his acceptance speech.

VERDICT: Find out which 2022 draft prospect will fit this team best.

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