The Giants’ bid to go to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 came up short Monday night against division rival Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys left MetLife with a hard fought 23-16 victory as Giants’ mistakes compounded the swamping Cowboys defense. The offense was more about Jones running for his life rather than running an offense. We will break down this game as normal with our takeaways from last night.
The offense struggled around Daniel Jones
While the Giants only punted the ball once in the first half (3 times the whole game), they only had 3 points to show for it. Offensive drives stalled deep in Cowboys’ territory in the first half, penalties or sacks killed drives in the second half as the Giants struggled to keep drives alive. Daniel Jones was constantly under pressure, but receivers had trouble gaining separation against Dallas' talented secondary.
The running game outside of Daniel Jones running for his life was a struggle. Saquon Barkley found few running lanes to run through consistently, but finished with 81 yards and a TD. Daniel Jones was effective in using Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence pass rush aggressiveness against them as he rushed for 79 yards. The line got up the field too much, Jones was able to step up in the pocket and scramble for significant yards. Only an apparent leg injury could slow down Lawrence in the game (he would return later).
The offense as a whole admitted they played poorly around Jones. On top of Jones seeing a career-high 24 pressures, he was also hit 12 times. Giants receivers dropped a total of 3 passes, one drop by embattled WR Kenny Golladay who complains of playing time. As much as I give Daniel Jones a hard time, I will say he has at least taken care of the football so far this season and not put the Giants in a bad position. “All of us, we’ve got to be better,” star RB Saquon Barkley said. “We’ve got to make plays for him. Daniel, he’s a hell of a competitor, a heck of player. I know a lot of people say a lot of negative things about him, but like I say, he comes to work every single today and he made some great plays today”
Despite being under pressure all game, Daniel Jones did manage 196 passing yards on top of the 79 rushing yards. Jones did however have one late turnover when David Stills fell down at the top of his route that sealed the game for the Cowboys. The Trevon Diggs interception was ruled a catch and the game was in victory formation from there. Unfortunately on that play, Sterling Shepard went down with a non-contract injury that may have sealed his fate as a New York Giant.
For the third straight game offensive coordinator Mike Kafka was able to get a rhythm in the second half and get the Giants offense moving. The Giants opened the second half with a nice drive that led to a field goal. Their second drive was capped off by a 36-yard run by Saquon Barkley. In the second half Barkley was able to find running lanes because of good scheming by the offensive coordinator. First halves have been a struggle for the Giants, but the second half proves to be where the Giants offense finds its rhythm and exploits matchups. The Giants use the Cowboys over aggressiveness on the defensive line to perfection with misdirection and roll outs. However, in the fourth quarter when the Giants needed a touchdown drive they went 3 and it with a few dropped passes.
Offensive line also continues to struggle
The Giants offensive line, as we know, is a work in progress. But the Dallas Cowboys presented a whole different challenge Monday night. The Dallas Cowboys' speed was too much for the Giants to handle as Daniel Jones was under pressure all night. The Giants offensive line let up 5 sacks and 27 quarterback pressures. Saying the offensive line needs time to gel is an understatement, but time is running out. Daniel Jones was unable to settle in the pocket and make strong throws most of the game. There were little schemes that the offensive coordinator Mike Kafka could do to slow down the pass rush.
Micah Parsons may not have racked up sacks, but his presence freed up other players to make plays. The interior for the Dallas Cowboys pushed the pocket and Demarcus Lawrence was able to come off the edge one on one. Only tackle Andrew Thomas was up to the challenge as he continues to show he's the cornerstone. Head coach Brian Daboll said after the game. “He fought and battled. He made some really good plays out there under some duress. There’s no question we got to do a better job of protecting him.”
“We just got to come out and get in a better rhythm and have 8’s back, like I said. I don’t think particularly we played very well up front and other places that are not my job. And they know,” center Jon Feliciano said. “Everyone knows we got to help 8, especially when he’s out there doing what he’s doing: just never giving up on the play, taking big hits, making plays with his legs.” Tackle Evan Neal continued his rookie struggles as he was matched up with before mentioned Lawrence for most of the game. Lawrence was a terror throughout the game, had 3 sacks and was constantly in the backfield. The Giants struggled to contain him and even had trouble executing chips by running backs and tight ends.
Giants' defense was "bend, don't break" all night
The offensive game plan for the Cowboys with Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz inactive was to run the ball. But the Giants without their top tackle Leonard Williams had trouble stopping the run. The combination of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard were able to gain 176 rushing yards at 5.9 yards per carry. Pollard was the more effective back as he gained 103 yards to Elliott's 73 yards. A running game is the quarterback's best friend and Cooper Rush needed that running game to have any success. Azzez Ojuiari had issues setting the edge in the first half and Tony Pollard was able to rip off a 42-yard run that eventually led to a field goal.
For most of game, the Giants were able to stifle the struggling Cowboys offense. The Cowboys were not able to be as explosive as they normally are without star quarterback Dak Prescott. QB Cooper Rush wasn't able to hit receivers downfield consistently in the first half, but he was able to find them in the second half. Rush had open receivers down the field all night as Martindale opted to play single high and play closer to the line of scrimmage. He dared Rush to beat them downfield and in the second half he burned them. If not for a critical drop by CeeDee Lamb (another drop), the Cowboys would have put more touchdowns on the board. The return of Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari was a lift for the defense but did not equate to pressure on Rush. The Giants weren’t able to get pressure on the QB and in the second half, Rush was able to settle into the pocket and make plays.
But after the Giants scored their first touchdown to make it 23-6, the Cowboys would go on to rip off 17 points in around 10 minutes. The defense was unable to make stops and get off the field, including a crucial 4th and 4 that led to a CeeDee Lamb one-handed catch in the end zone. The defense was on the field for a good amount of the second half and Rush started hitting open receivers as he finished with 215 yards passing.
Kudos to cornerback Adoree Jackson, who continues to play solid football for the New York Giants. In the early season where the secondary breakdowns have been common, Jackson has been the one constant playing excellent coverage and making sure tackles. Jackson was able to break up passes downfield and get key tackles to limit receivers yards after catch. Jackson had two critical breakups on potential CeeDee Lamb catches.
Sloppy football on both sides
Penalties were a killer for the game as the Giants committed 8 penalties for 57 yards. While the Cowboys also committed 8 penalties for 70 yards in the first half to kill drives, it seemed the Giants penalties sealed their doom in the second half. Critical penalties like illegal man downfield by Jon Feliciano erased a long pass gain by Saquon Barkley. Jones ripped off a long scramble for a first down, was hit out of bounds and drew a penalty. But Sterling Shepard came on the field and took exception to the hit. Shepard generated an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for coming into the field. His penalty would offset the late hit and canceled out a big gain to put the Giants in Cowboys territory. Critical mistakes on both teams kept the score low in the first half, but the Giants aren't good enough to make those types of mistakes.
The Giants put a nice drive together and had opportunities to put three points on the board. But the Giants special teams blocking broke down and Graham Gano's field goal attempt was blocked. In a low scoring game, taking points off the board is critical. Later in the 4th quarter after Dallas drove 80+ yards for a touchdown, critical drops by Shepard and Golladay were sandwiched by a delay of game penalty. The Giants punted the ball back and KaVontae Turpin ripped off a long return to set Dallas up deep in Giants territory. Even though the defense stiffened, it led to a Cowboys field goal that extended to leave the 10 points.
On a critical 3rd down, Daniel Jones found wide receiver Kenny Galloday downfield after he was flushed out of the pocket. But a questionable offensive pass interference call moved the Giants out of field goal range and essentially killed the drive to end the half. The contact was questionable to say the least but that was one of many gut punches in the second half that went against the G-Men and they aren't good enough to overcome those.