Joe Judge defends Giants’ conservative decisions vs. Dolphins

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The Oxford English Dictionary defines “aggressive” as “ready to attack.” 

Giants head coach Joe Judge defines it as trying to win the field-position battle. 

Judge’s game management again was under scrutiny Sunday because all decisions are magnified in a one-score game, which was the case for most of the Giants’ uninspiring 20-9 loss to the Dolphins. Despite acknowledging that last week’s blueprint for beating the Eagles — a suffocating defense paired with conservative offense in a 13-7 victory — was not a sustainable winning formula, Judge tried to replicate it. 

The Giants faced a fourth-and-2, a fourth-and-3 and a fourth-and-4, all within 4 yards in either direction of midfield. Judge, a longtime special teams coordinator who promised to play an “aggressive” style in his introductory news conference, punted all three times, including on fourth-and-2 from the Dolphins’ 46-yard line when the Giants trailed 10-6 with five minutes to go in the third quarter. 

“We had [forced] three straight three-and-outs at that point and the defense was really playing well,” Judge said. “Points were really at a premium in that game. We don’t want to give them a short field.” 

Giants
Joe Judge elected to punt on three critical fourth down decisions.
Getty Images

Except Riley Dixon — who has hurt the Giants all season with poor situational punting — booted it into the end zone for a touchback, so the Giants gained only 26 yards of field position on the kick compared to if a fourth-down risk to help their own meek offense had failed. 

“If we execute the plays, we’re probably going to get the ball back somewhere around midfield, maybe lose about 15-20 yards from the initial starting point,” Judge said. “If we can play to it, we have to do that. We’re not afraid to play to our defense.” 

The Dolphins managed three scoring drives of 10 plays or more and scored two red-zone touchdowns, while the Giants settled for a field goal on their only red-zone trip. The Giants also burned two timeouts to avoid delay of game penalties. 

The play clock and game clock were in virtual lockstep late in the first quarter. Fans saw a broadcast showing the game clock about a half-tick ahead, meaning the Giants didn’t have to run another play. 

But that wasn’t the case, and Judge gave the officials an earful as he called a timeout with 12 seconds left that might have come in handy later in the half when the Giants elected to cautiously run out the final 26 seconds despite kicking off to start the third quarter. 

In the third quarter, the offense had one of the worst 95-second stretches imaginable. Mike Glennon was sacked to set up a second-and-23. Then the Giants avoided a delay of game penalty with a timeout, which proved a waste in a close game when the sequence that followed was another sack and a delay of game penalty to set up third-and-33 and a fourth-down punt. 

“I wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the best chance of staying out of third-and-long,” Judge said of the timeout. “Obviously, they made a play.”

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