The New York Giants opened up their 2017 season in the worst of ways, losing to the Dallas Cowboys 19-3 on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
For the majority of the first half, the Giants defense had the Cowboys number. However, the theme of the game would be the Giants lack of offense.
With the Giants offense only getting 46 yards of total offense in the first half, the defense could only stop so much, especially with being on the field for so long. In the final three and a half minutes of the half, the Cowboys would impose their will on the groggy defense.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott would throw the ball to his star receiver Dez Bryant, who was hands on with Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Both players would hold onto each other in attempt to get the ball. The referee would throw the flag and call Jenkins for pass interference. The call was rather questionable, as there were other instances in the Bryant-Jenkins matchup that warranted a penalty more than the one called towards the end of the first half. The Cowboys would capitalize on this, as Prescott would connect on a 12-yard pass to tight end Jason Witten for a Dallas touchdown.
Big Blue would find themselves in the red zone to start of the third quarter. However, questionable play calls, such as throwing a short pass on a slant route on a third and goal on the Dallas 13-yard line, would give the Giants their only points, a 25-yard field goal from kicker Aldrick Rosas.
The final dagger was put in the back of the Giants with less than eight minutes to go in the game. Down 19-3, the Giants had to muster up some offense. Manning would complete a 31-yard pass to rookie tight end Evan Engram on the first play on the drive. That would be all the Giants could do, however, as Manning would throw a pass intended for wide receiver Roger Lewis Jr. The pass would be intercepted by Cowboys linebacker Anthony Brown, to seal the Cowboys victory.
“It’s one of 16 games. We have to be careful getting too emotional about one football game,” said Giants head coach Ben McAdoo during his post game press conference. “…A lot of effort and energy goes into the first game. [You have to] tip your hat to Dallas and move onto the next.”
Offensive Line Woes Continue
The offensive line is the same as it was last season. No matter how many bells and whistles you put around them, it is still the same line. Due to their ineffectiveness, the Giants run game was essentially nonexistent, finishing with 35 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Not only that, but the o-line would implode within two seconds after hiking the ball, leading to Manning having to get rid of the ball quickly. Just as the old saying goes, “If you put makeup on a pig, it’s still a pig.”
“We need to go back, take a look at the film,” said McAdoo. “I don’t think any part of the offense was functional [Sunday].”
Questionable Offensive Play Calls
Now to the offensive play calling. Sure, it can be attributed to the lack of time given by the offensive line. However, throwing screen passes on third-and-long plays will not get the job done. It appeared as though the Giants’ were banking on Odell Beckham Jr. to playing in the season opener. The play calls from McAdoo showed that. The team can’t rely solely on Beckham. Other players had the opportunity to step up, but a majority failed to do so.
“We got players. We got to play better than that,” said Manning, in regards to the unimpressive offensive performance on Sunday. “We’ve got to do a better job finding completions on third down and converting those third downs…”
With a tall, outside receiver such as Brandon Marshall at the Giantsdisposal, he was a non-factor. Marshall has made a living in the red-zone throughout his 12-year career. Why not throw a fade pass to the six-foot-five receiver against a relatively young and inexperienced Cowboys’ secondary?
“We weren’t able to get anyone going,” said McAdoo. “No one got going.”
“I thought we struggled a little bit on offense, and when we really started moving in the passing game, I thought [Sterling Shepard] led us well,” said Marshall. “…So we’ll build on it, and when the opportunities come, I’ll be ready for them. The only thing that matters is that ‘W’ and we didn’t get that [Sunday].”
Defense Can Only Stop So Much
With the lack of offense, the Giants defense spent a total of 34:14 on the field. That’s not good. The defense can only stop so much without feeling the effects of fatigue. Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott took advantage of that, rushing for 104 yards on 24 carries, as well as catching three passes for 36 yards.
Regardless, the defense did a good job of keeping the game tight, holding Bryant to just two receptions for 43 yards. However, they received no help from their teammates on the offense
“It’s not difficult at all. All our job is to get off the field on third downs,” said Giants safety Landon Collins in regards to defending the Cowboys’ offense. “So if we get off the field on third downs, then it is a different game.”
Linebacker B.J. Goodson was one of the lone bright spots on the Giants on Sunday. Goodson racked up 18 tackles (14 solo, four assisted) in his debut as the starting middle linebacker. Despite his strong game, the Giants could not capitalize on it.
“That’s not even what’s on my mind,” said Goodson, in regards to his 18 tackles in the Week 1 loss. “It doesn’t matter…I know the team that we have and I know what we’re capable of. We just got to get back to work and get better.”
The Giants will have a lot of game film to study in order to improve from this dreadful performance in Dallas. Fortunately, the Giants will have an extra day to prepare, as they face off against the Detroit Lion (1-0) on Monday Night Football in their home opener.