James Bradberry had the interception that should have put the New York Giants at 1-1 on the season and avoided the dreaded 0-2 start. Instead, New York's playoff chances became a lot more difficult thanks to a questionable offensive strategy.
Bradberry arguably had the biggest play for the Giants in Thursday's loss to the Washington Football Team, picking off Taylor Heinicke at the Washington 25-yard line with 2:22 to play and New York trailing 27-26. The Giants didn't take advantage of the excellent field position, deciding to be conservative on the ensuing series and playing for the field goal.
New York took a 29-27 lead, but ended up losing 30-29 as Dustin Hopkins kicked a game-winning 43-yard field goal with no time left on the clock. If the Giants play to score a touchdown, Washington would have needed a touchdown to win the game instead of a field goal. If the Giants get a touchdown and a two-point conversion, Washington would have needed a touchdown and two point conversion to force overtime.
Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett played not to lose, despite starting the drive at the Washington 20. Bradberry, who made what should have been the play of the night, could only sit back and wonder what could have been.
"I really don't try to have too much thought on the offense and what they do. But at the end of the day I can't control it," Bradberry said. "I don't make any play calls. I play corner and that's what they ask me to do and it's what I give them."
Bradberry felt the Giants should have won and the game was over after his interception.
"I did. I did," Bradberry said when asked if he thought he sealed the victory. "It's very disappointing. Have to get back to focusing on getting a win, it obviously didn't work that way."
The Giants offensive game plan has every right to be criticized after the Bradberry interception. The next three plays were:
- First-and-10 (Washington 20): Saquon Barkley 1-yard run
- Second-and-9 (Washington 19): Barkley 1-yard run
- Third-and-7 (Washington 17): Daniel Jones incomplete pass to Sterling Shepard
- Fourth-and-7 (Washington 17): Graham Gano 35-yard field goal
Judge and Garrett played not to lose, even with Jones playing very well at quarterback throughout the night. Jones threw for 249 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 95 yards and a score -- yet the Giants had him throw one pass with plenty of time left to score and the lead.
"It had nothing to do with not trusting Daniel [Jones]," Judge said. "It was also trusting our run game as well. It was trusting the offensive line, the front. We talk all the time about the strategy of being in that situation. It's obviously one of those things you go back and forth on.
"Ultimately, you want to control as much as you can, control the points you have, not put yourself in a position for a negative play. Obviously, on third down, we threw that ball right there. We have a lot of trust in our offense right there to really make it look easy and go out there and run the ball one at a time. And that's not saying that's a right or wrong move. A lot of times teams do that and have a lot of success. We've done it before with plenty of success. We felt at that time it was the best thing for us.
"We had confidence in our running game, confidence in our offensive line, confidence in our quarterback to call his number on third down. So, in terms of how we do it, we finish that situation and we gotta turn around finish the next situation coming up."
Jones admitted he needed to throw a better pass to Shepard, but the Giants were obviously playing to burn Washington's timeouts. Washington used two of them, but a first down wouldn't have given them the opportunity to get the ball back with two minutes to spare.
The Giants played not to lose -- and lost anyway.
"Those are situations where you need to run the ball to make sure the clock goes," Jones said. "They were some of our best runs, so I certainly agree, and we've got to execute better."