A game with a sleepy start picked up considerably after halftime, but the Giants’ two late touchdowns were not enough to catch the host Atlanta Falcons, who held on for a 23-20 victory on Monday night.
The matchup between struggling teams opened with six consecutive punts. The first half rarely offered anything beyond a lot of passing yards and several drives that ended with little or nothing to show for them. Both teams struggled to find a rhythm, but while the Falcons’ high-powered offense was far from at its best, the team offered enough to take care of business at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Coach Pat Shurmur said he was proud of the Giants’ effort, even if their execution was lacking.
“Did our guys not play hard?” he said at his postgame news conference. “Did our guys not fight to the end? Did our guys do a lot of good things but not enough to win? Yes. So the encouragement is to keep doing it and do more things right.”
The Falcons finally broke the scoring drought midway through the second quarter when Matt Ryan decided to be aggressive on a drive that started on the Atlanta 14. After a 3-yard run by Tevin Coleman, it was all Ryan, as the veteran quarterback found his tight end, Austin Hooper, for a 36-yard catch and run. He then threw deep to a striding Marvin Hall, who caught the ball just as he crossed the goal line for a 47-yard touchdown.
Atlanta then got some insurance in the fourth quarter with a 30-yard touchdown run by Coleman, who broke through the center of the line and then ran untouched down the right sideline for a 20-6 lead.
The Giants repeatedly tried to answer, with Eli Manning doing a great deal of damage with passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, but the team’s long drives kept falling short until the fourth quarter. The team’s frustration reached its boiling point in the third when they got the ball to Atlanta’s 1 but failed to punch it in, turning the ball over on downs when Manning’s pass to Scott Simonson fell incomplete.
“We made a lot of big plays today and did some good things, but we have to finish,” Manning told reporters. “That’s the theme of the year.”
Saquon Barkley finally got the Giants into the end zone with a 2-yard run late in the fourth quarter, and Beckham hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass with five seconds remaining in the game, but it was too little too late, and the Giants (1-6) fell to their fourth consecutive loss.
Shepard finished with five receptions for 167 yards, and Beckham had eight receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown, outshining Julio Jones in a matchup of two of the game’s best wide receivers — Jones had nine catches for 104 yards. But Ryan spread the ball around to his receivers, working his way through some early pressure to complete 31 of 39 passes for 379 yards. He completed his final 18 passes.
Ryan’s output might not have been enough if not for a huge game from the second-year place-kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, signed to fill in for the injured Matt Bryant. Tavecchio hit field goals of 40, 50 and 56 yards; the last gave the Falcons the insurance they needed to fend off the Giants’ comeback attempt.
With the win, the Falcons have a two-game winning streak after a three-game losing streak. At 3-4, they trail the first-place New Orleans Saints by two and a half games in the N.F.C. South heading into their bye week. The Giants, meanwhile, are a nonfactor even in the somewhat soft N.F.C. East.