KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Running out the clock is not an option.
Playing keep-away is not an option.
Matching point-for-point is not an option.
What are the options for the Giants on Monday night, as they venture into primetime to take on a Super Bowl favorite that is either vulnerable, desperate, wildly undervalued or suddenly overrated?
“Actually, there’s different ways you can look at it,” coach Joe Judge said. “I think you’ve got to find what best suits who you are as a team.”
What best suits the Giants (2-5) when facing the Chiefs (3-4) at Arrowhead Stadium in what amounts to a last-stand of sorts for the home team? Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are all healthy and pose immense threats to the Giants on defense. Despite the sub-.500 record, the Chiefs remain an offensive juggernaut, other than last week’s uncharacteristic nose-dive in Nashville, resulting in a 27-3 loss to the Titans. The Chiefs are averaging nearly 27 points a game and there is every reason to believe they will get close to or surpass that total in this game. Thus, there is every reason to believe the Giants, averaging 19.9 points a game, will need to raise their performance and produce more points here than they have at any time this season.
There will be opportunities, to be sure. The Chiefs are a mess on defense, as coordinator Steve Spagnuolo — the former mastermind of the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl defense — has lost his touch with this group. The Chiefs give up 29 points a game and do not stop the run or the pass with any effectiveness.
Can the Giants take advantage of this? If so, how?
“There’s that element of do you try to play four corners basketball and just keep the ball out of their hands?” Judge said. “Do you try to go out there and do everything you can to roll the dice, take shots and just try to match points for points? We’ve got to look internally in terms of what we think we are as a team and what our strengths are and play to that. That goes into a lot of who’s available, how we think the flow of the game can go.”
As far as who’s available, it is not great for the Giants, as Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay remain out. The anticipated return of rookie receiver Kadarius Toney from an ankle injury — he’s listed as questionable — should be a boost, as long as Toney can make his sharp stops and starts and zigs and zags without aggravating the ankle issue. Sterling Shepard also returns from a strained hamstring.
“Sometimes you get in the flow of the game and the game goes completely different than what you planned all week,” Judge said. “There are some games we’ve gotten into where we say, ‘Hey, look, we’re going to play pure ball control and really just go ahead and move this thing methodically and try to keep their offense off the field.’ You get into the game and start moving fast and you say, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re pushing the envelope, let’s go.’
“There’s other games you think, ‘Let’s go warp speed,’ and you get into the game and you say, ‘You know what? Let’s settle it on down. Their defense is reacting to our tempo. Let’s just make sure we get in the best offensive play and make sure we execute the best way possible.’ Sometimes, the flow of the game really dictates a lot of that.”
The flow of the game will go much more smoothly if the Giants can run the ball, something they have not done with any consistency all season. Barkley was slow to get into gear and Devontae Booker, a priority free-agent signing, is averaging only 3.2 yards per attempt, forcing the offense to put the ball in the hands of fullback Eli Penny more often than planned.
The play-fakes Daniel Jones wants to lean on in the passing game are simply not there, as the threat of the run is not there, as well.
“I’ve been in games where we’ve had different game plans where we’d say, ‘We’re going to grind it out,’ and the entire game plan is dink, dunk passes, screens, things of that nature,” Judge said.
“But the run game has got to factor in some way, shape or form. You have to be able to be balanced and run the ball. When I talk about balance, it’s not always you’ve got 25 runs, 25 passes. To me, balance is you have to be able to run the ball or throw the ball when you have to.”