There is starting games slowly. Then there is what the New York Giants have done to open the season.
Big Blue has been down by double digits in each of the three contests to open the 2023 season. In Week 1, they trailed Dallas 26-0 at the break. In Week 2 in Arizona, 20-0. Thursday night in San Francisco, they finally put points on the board, but it was still a 17-6 halftime deficit. Add it up, and New York has trailed 63-6 in the first halves of games thus far.
"Yes, it's not what we're trying to do, so we have to find a way to figure that out," quarterback Daniel Jones said via team transcript following Thursday's 30-12 loss to the Niners. "Execute better early in the game, finish in the end zone, take advantage of opportunities, but it comes down to making plays and executing better in those situations."
The Giants went 49 yards in 12 plays for an opening-drive field goal and bookended the half with a 2-minute drive for another three points. In between, they went three-and-out twice, and the defense couldn't get off the field, allowing the Niners to score on three of their four first-half non-kneel drives.
"We went down there and got points," Giants coach Brian Daboll responded when asked about the first-half deficit. "Obviously, you want to start fast. That's a heck of a team. It usually comes down to making plays when you have an opportunity to make plays. They did a good job, give them credit. That's a heck of a football team there. We came back out in the second half, had a score, went for two to try to cut it to three. It was a 17-12 game. Just give them credit. They did a lot of good stuff. That's a good team."
The -57 scoring margin in the first half through three weeks is the worst of any team since at least 1991, per Josh Dubow of The Associated Press. At least some solace Giants fans can take from that sad start: The 2006 Giants tied for the fifth-worst start in that span with a -51 point differential. That club made the postseason with an 8-8 record.
The Giants' slow first halves are mostly a product of a sluggish offense. New York is the first team since the 2008 Rams with 100 or fewer total yards in the first half of three straight games to open a season -- 81 yards, Week 1 vs. Dallas; 81 yards, Week 2 at Arizona; 88 yards, Week 3 at San Francisco.
"We didn't create a rhythm," Jones said. "We didn't execute, didn't take advantage of our opportunities. Certainly is a good defense. It's a good team. When you're playing good teams, you can't afford to do that. We didn't play well enough."
Thursday's stats were about as lopsided as an NFL game can get. The Giants were outgained 441-150, generated 10 first downs to 26, ran 46 plays to 78 and racked up 29 rush yards to 141 and 121 net passing yards to 300.
The Giants had one drive over 40 total yards (the opening series). The Niners had six. Is it better or worse that New York was so offensively challenged yet only turned the ball over once?
Even with all the glum, it was still an eight-point game entering the fourth quarter despite Big Blue missing Saquon Barkley (ankle), the offensive line being woefully banged up, and key contributors on defense absent.
You can spin it one of two ways: 1. The Giants battled one of the NFC powers on the road in a short week, showing promise down the stretch; or 2. The lack of depth is a fatal flaw and an indication New York might not be as far along in its rebuild as last year's postseason appearance suggested.
"You have to take the good from it and you have to learn from the bad," Daboll said of playing shorthanded. "Just like every game. The guys competed. We competed all the way to the end. They made more plays than we did. You go back and take a look at it and get going on the next week."
Next week brings the Seattle Seahawks to New York for a Monday Night Football affair at MetLife Stadium.