Struggling Giants head to LA in search of Judge’s first win

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Although Joe Judge is still looking for his first victory as the New York Giants’ head coach, he already has a win over Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams that was so big, he got a ring for it.

Judge was New England’s special teams coordinator when the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 in the Super Bowl 20 months ago. He moved on last year to a rebuilding job with the Giants (0-3) that’s even more massive than it seemed, if the results of New York’s three mostly miserable games this season are any indication.

When New York visits brand-new SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Judge doesn’t think he’ll get much of an advantage out of his knowledge of the Rams (2-1) from two seasons ago, or from his more recent conversations with McVay when he was seeking tips on how to succeed as a first-time head coach.

“Obviously there’s some information I gathered, but I’ll tell you right now, Sean is always evolving,” Judge said. “He’s always changing. He’s always improving and getting better. What we may have game-planned based on another club I was with will have nothing to do with what we do going forward here.”

McVay’s evolution also seems like a revitalization. He acknowledged being exhausted last season by that Super Bowl run and the subsequent short offseason, but several months spent mostly at home this year left McVay clearly re-energized for his job, and the results have shown up on the field.

Despite losing Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, and despite only replacing them with rookies who haven’t yet made a mark, McVay’s offense is off to a strong start. The Rams have gained at least 400 yards in all three games, with Jared Goff putting up strong passing numbers to complement a revitalized running attack.

The Rams are heavy favorites in their second game at their new football palace, but they don’t seem overconfident. Los Angeles is still smarting from last week’s trip to Buffalo, in which it rallied from a 25-point deficit before losing in the final minute.

The Rams’ first taste of defeat left McVay praising his team’s resilience and tenacity, and the Giants provide an opportunity to back it up.

“They just kept battling,” McVay said. “They just kept swinging. We’re a tough group, a mentally tough group. We’re going to use this (week) as an opportunity to respond, and we’re not going to allow the Bills to beat us twice.”

Here are more things to know about the Giants’ first game in the Los Angeles area since 1994:

HERE COMES 99

Aaron Donald has three sacks and eight quarterback hits in the Rams’ first three games. The NFL’s premier interior defensive linemen could feast on Giants left guard Will Hernandez or center Nick Gates, who have both struggled this season.

“This guy will really ruin your birthday party in a hurry,” Judge said.

New York undoubtedly will send multiple blockers at Donald, but this week seems a prime opportunity to see evidence of McVay’s biggest takeaway from watching film of the Rams’ loss in Buffalo: “Aaron Donald is a freak.”

OFFENSIVE MISMATCH

The Rams and Giants are on different ends of the statistical spectrum on offense. Los Angeles is in the NFL’s top four in total yards (449.7), rushing (170.3), third-down conversions (56.41) and time of possession (33:01) while averaging 29.7 points per game. Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s injury-plagued group is in the bottom three in total yards (273.3), rushing (56.7), red zone (33.33), time of possession (24:41) and points (12.7).

The Giants have a total of three touchdowns, and they haven’t had a lead since the first half of their season opener. They didn’t run a play in the red zone last week against San Francisco, and their leading rusher is their quarterback.

“We have to do a better job controlling the ball, and turnovers play a big part in that,” said quarterback Daniel Jones, who also has six turnovers. “It’s tough to win when you’re turning over the ball as much as we have.”

HENDO ON THE RUN

While the Giants can’t run the ball, the Rams are moving it tremendously on the ground in their first three games since releasing Todd Gurley last spring. Darrell Henderson grabbed the starting job last week and promptly surpassed his career high in yards rushing for the second straight game. New York’s unimpressive group of linebackers will have to bring down LA’s relentless ball-carrier to keep the Giants in the game.

THIRD DOWNS

The Giants’ defense is not getting off the field. Against the 49ers last weekend, New York got exactly one stop while allowing seven scores. Pat Graham’s defense is tied for 12th in total yards (357.7), but has allowed opponents to convert on 58.14% of third-down chances, worst in the NFL.

Oh, and the Rams have converted 56.4% of their third downs, tops in the NFL by a significant margin.

“It’s not good, it’s not the standard, it’s unacceptable,” defensive back Logan Ryan said. “You just have to do better. Football isn’t easy, but it’s simple. You have to get off the field. The best defense you can play is on the bench, honestly. We just have to get off the field and give our offense the ball.”

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AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report.

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