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The season opener for the New York Giants was highly anticipated and full of promise. However, it was a disaster from start to finish and the Giants fell to the rival Dallas Cowboys 40-0 at MetLife Stadium. The Mike McCarthy led Cowboys took it to the Giants and humbled them in front of their home crowd. The Giants thought the talent gap had closed after two close games last season, but now they have lost the 12th out of their last 13 games against Dallas. We have the recap of an ugly Week 1 beatdown.
So much promise on the first drive...
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The Giants got the opening kickoff against the Dallas Cowboys and promptly drove down the field. It was a mix of power running from Saquon Barkley and QB scrambles from Daniel Jones that moved the drive. The Giants were able to negate the Cowboys' speed by running right at them.
The Giants had moved the ball inside the 10-yard line for a first and goal step up. But a false start penalty and then an aborted snap by rookie center John Michael Schmitz on back-to-back plays pushed them back to the 27-yard line. The Giants had to settle for a field goal that was eventually blocked and returned for a touchdown. A strong opening drive by the Giants offense not only turned up empty with no points, but gave the Cowboys the early lead. The Giants then followed up the blocked field goal with 2 three-and-outs, a pick-six, and a missed field goal attempt. No points, no momentum, no chance.
Turnovers, miscues and poor scheme doomed the Giants
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The story of 2022 was how Brian Daboll came in and put this offense in positions not to turn the football over. The Giants recorded the second fewest turnovers last season, but to start this season the Giants could not take care of the football against Dallas. The mental mistakes started early as Cowboys' safety Juanyeh Thomas jumped the line to block Graham Gano's 45-year-old field goal attempt on the opening drive of the game. That allowed Noah Igbinoghene to scoop it up and return it 58 yards for a touchdown. Instead of taking an early lead, the momentum swung to the Cowboys and they never looked back.
The turnovers issued came back to haunt the Giants as QB Daniel Jones threw his first of 2 INTs, this one off a deflection from Saquon Barkley by corner Daron Bland. Daniel Jones threw a short pass to Barkley on 3rd down to get a little room for the ensuing punt. But Barkley was hit hard by star CB Trevon Diggs and the ball popped free for Bland to take to the house for a 16-0 lead. Then Jones threw another interception to CB Stephon Gilmore on the sideline. Instead of throwing the ball away after escaping the Cowboys pass rush, Jones threw an errant pass to no one in particular. That turnover led to points and helped eventually push the Cowboys lead. The Giants finished the game with 5 fumbles and 1 loss.
Even when things were going right, it still went bad. Surprise 2022 stud WR Isaiah Hodgins caught a 24-yard pass from Jones at the start of the 4th quarter. This was their longest play from scrimmage as protection held up and receivers got free down field. As Hodgins streaked upfield, Trevon Diggs ripped the ball free to force a fumble that Dallas recovered. This was a microcosm of the whole game.
The Giants offense was horrible because they could block up the speed of the Cowboys. When they played physical at the line and ran right at Dallas, they were able to move the ball. But too often, the Giants played straight drop back and tried to attack the defense in the air. It was a complete switch from last year's game plan where they out scheme the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day to keep the game close. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka came with an awful game plan and needs to be held accountable for it. He abandoned the run to play with his new offensive toys because he thought he could stay toe to toe with that defense. Too often did I see right tackle Evan Neal on an island without help, a guard pulling across the formation to block Micah Parsons or putting Jones in straight drop back situations to be a sitting duck.
Offensive line couldn't handle the Dallas Front Seven
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The hope for this season was the improvement of the offense online that's led by Pro Bowler Andrew Thomas. But the Giants couldn't handle the pressure of the Cowboys' pass rush. Whether it was stunts, twists or straight speed rush, Daniel Jones was under duress all game. In the first half the Giants gave up four sacks and Daniel Jones could not get the passing game going. Micah Parsons was all over the field but particularly in the background. Through the first two quarters, Parsons recorded four pressures and a sack on 18 pass rushes according to Next Gen Stats. Dan Quinn's defense finished the game with 7 sacks, 12 QB hits and 3 turnovers as the Giants liked overnight all game. To add injury to insult, Thomas will get an MRI for his apparent hamstring injury. The Giants can't afford to have things miss time.
Because of the Cowboys' pass rush getting after Jones all game, the Giants were forced into numerous third-and-long situations. This played right into the Cowboys' hands as they were able to tee off on the QB at will. The Giants ran 65 offensive plays and 40 plays went for zero or negative yards. This is why the Giants left MetLife Stadium with no points.
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Evan Neal is in a critical juncture in his young NFL career. Neal needed to show improvement after our up and down rookie season, but so far it's more the same. Same. Neal was beaten all night with speed as the Cowboys exploited and attacked the right side of the offense. Whether it was lining up Micah Parsons or DeMarcus Lawrence over the young tackle, Neal could not stop anyone from getting after Jones. Guards Ben Bredeson and Mark Glowinski didn’t do much to slow the Dallas pressure up the middle as Parsons was able to get consistent pressure up the A-gap. The decision to rotate Bredeson, Glowinski and Josh Ezeudu during the preseason may have hurt the line’s cohesion. We need a few games to gel this line together and now we may be without our best lineman next week.
Wide receivers unable to get separation
As previously noted, the Giants were in third-and-long situations for most of the game. The lack of protection never allowed the passing game to develop. The Giants managed -19 passing yards in the first quarter and the passing game never got on track after that. The talented Cowboys' secondary led by Diggs and Gilmore locked up the Giants revamped receiving team. The wide receivers caught 5 passes for 41 yards and didn’t look explosive at all. You can’t expect big plays from wide receivers when the quarterback is on his back in less than 2 seconds.
Isaiah Hodgins (1 catch for 24 yards), Parris Campbell (1 catch for 2 yards), rookie Jylan Hyatt (0 catches) and Darren Waller (3 catch for 36 yards) were unable to get free downfield in their first game together. In fact, no wide receiver got a catch in the first half as catches were recorded by Darren Waller (3 catches) and Saquon Barkley (2 catches).
The defense was put in the impossible situation to stop the bleeding
Before the Giants defense could get on the field, the Giants were in a 9-0 home and it was on them to stop them bleeding. But the Giants defense was unable to stop the Cowboys' offense as they gave up long drives all game. QB Dak Prescott was 13 for 24 for 143 passing yards. Tony Pollard gashed the Giants defense for 70 yards rushing yards and CeeDee Lamb caught all four of his targets for 77 yards. Tony Pollard averaged 5.0 yards per carry as he got 2 touchdowns. The new big 3 was able to do whatever they wanted, and they didn't need to do much because of the elite play of the defense.
The Giants were unable to get a pass rush on Prescott as rush ends Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari seemed like they weren't on the field. The hype all offseason was the prospects of having these two ends available. But the defense were only able to hit Prescott 3 times and didn't generate a sack. I read on BigBlueView that the Giants haven’t sacked a Cowboys QB since 2021, ouch.
Tre Hawkins III and Deonte Banks are the two impressive rookie cornerbacks that the Giants drafted this offseason. But Hawkins, the 6th rounder, was baptized by veteran WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks was able to draw a pass interference call in the first half by using veteran tricks to draw the contact. It wasn't a terrible pass interference call, but it was one of those veteran moves that he got baited on. In all, Hawkins committed two penalties, the before mentioned 37-yard pass interference and a defensive hold. The rookie wasn’t terrible as he had a nice hit on Cooks later on, but he will need to grow up fast since he's thrust into the starting lineup.
Banks' number was rarely called in the game, which isn't a terrible thing. But he did go down with an apparent injury near the end of the first half as he battled with Michael Gallup. I was called cramps and he did not return to the game. Nick McCloud replaced the rookie as we will look for more info on this injury.
The emergence of the two rookies in camp had moved veteran CB Adoree Jackson into the slot corner position. It's not a position that he is accustomed to playing and you can see as he was out of position quite often in the first half. This is a heavy man to man coverage team, so the corners will need to come together quickly.