Dexter Lawrence’s absence felt as Giants struggle against run

Dexter Lawrence’s absence felt as Giants struggle against run

Taking the field on defense without Dexter Lawrence is not something the Giants are accustomed to doing.

In his first four seasons, he did not miss a single game with an injury and the only game he missed was because of COVID-19. 

Lawrence started the first 11 games this season and was the Giants’ most dominant player.

He did not make it for Sunday’s 10-7 victory over the Patriots, missing his first game with an injury, out with a strained hamstring. 

His absence was felt.

The Patriots averaged 4.7 yards per attempt and ran for 147 rushing yards.

Rhamondre Stevenson scores during the Patriots’ loss to the Giants on Nov. 26, 2023. Bill Kostroun/New York Post

Rhamondre Stevenson ran for 98 yards and Ezekiel Elliott had 46 yards.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches and D.J. Davidson started at the defensive tackle spots and Lawrence not being there was noticeable. 

“One guy you can say the most about is Dexter, he allows all of us to eat,” linebacker Isaiah Simmons told The Post. “Allows us ’backers to come downhill and run through gaps, get tackles for loss. He wrecks the game for us.” 

Dexter Lawrence missed the Giants’ win over the Patriots on Nov. 26, 2023 with a hamstring injury. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

When two teams owning bottom-feeder records meet in late November it is impossible not to think about NFL draft-order ramifications.

So, Giants versus Patriots was about the game and the current season but also about the future. 

The Giants entered the day sitting with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2024 draft.

The Patriots were at No. 3. After the Giants’ victory, that draft order changed, slightly, with the Giants now sitting at No. 6 and the Patriots staying at No. 3, for now. 

Former Giants head coach Joe Judge before the game had an extended conversation with Giants co-owner John Mara and exchanged hugs with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton.

Joe Juge on the field prior to the Patriots’ loss to the Giants on Nov. 26, 2023. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

He also spoke with the current Giants head coach, Brian Daboll — the two previously worked together for four years in New England.

Judge, after getting fired just two years into his five-year contract, returned to Bill Belichick and the Patriots, where he is the assistant head coach. 

Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers, a New Jersey native and former Giants player, took the loss hard. 

“It’s definitely tough, definitely tough,” Peppers said. “I really wanted this one. If we don’t let them score, we can’t lose. There are a couple of plays that we wish could have back on defense, but it is what it is.” 

An early turnover — Tommy DeVito’s fumble off an exchange with Wan’Dale Robinson — meant the Giants’ penchant for not scoring a touchdown on their opening drive increased to 19 consecutive games, the longest such streak in the league. 

DeVito became the seventh rookie quarterback to ever beat Belichick as the head coach of the Patriots.

The previous six: Ben Roethlisberger (2004), Mark Sanchez (2009), Colt McCoy (2010), Russell Wilson (2012), Geno Smith (2013) and Tua Tagovailoa (2020). Daboll was McCoy’s quarterbacks coach with the Browns in 2010. 

Rookie DL Jordon Riley, given snaps with Lawrence inactive, hurt his finger in the first half.

Special teamer Carter Coughlin was forced out with a hip injury.