The final score is set in stone. The Giants’ 36-9 home loss Sunday to the 49ers, who were missing about one-third of their starters to injury, will forever rank among the franchise’s most embarrassing efforts this century.
But, if not for two poorly timed penalties, the Giants could have been in position to seize their first victory of the season.
The defense was doing its job. With the score tied, 6-6, and San Francisco holding the ball midway through the second quarter, defensive lineman Leonard Williams recorded his second sack of the season. That forced the 49ers into a third-and-22 situation.
Or did it?
Instead of getting the ball back with an opportunity to take the lead before halftime, however, rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes was called for illegal contact on the play, giving the 49ers an automatic first down. Eight plays later, San Francisco finished the drive with Jerick McKinnon’s 10-yard touchdown run with 1:07 left in the half.
“We gotta play with clean technique and make sure we don’t give them an opportunity in that situation to extend a drive,” head coach Joe Judge said. “It’s something we work on on a consistent basis and [we’ll] make sure we do a better job of coaching those techniques and executing on the field.”
Opening the second half down 16-6, the Giants put together their most promising drive of the day.
It was sparked by Daniel Jones’ 23-yard run. It featured a 9-yard catch from Evan Engram on fourth down, moving the Giants across midfield. It included new running back Devonta Freeman converting a run on third-and-short, putting the Giants 30 yards from the end zone.
Two plays later, Jones executed another zone read to perfection and rushed for 16 more yards — but flags flew. The 49ers were whistled for a face-mask penalty, but Giants receiver Darius Slayton was called for holding, so the infractions offset. The Giants had to settle for a field goal.
They never snapped the ball in the red zone all afternoon.
“I was watching a different part of the field and I did not get a clean look at Darius there,” Judge said. “I gotta see where his hand placement was on that and what happened specifically on that play, [but] we don’t want to have penalties at any time.”