It was not a good day for the Giants, but it was not unexpected. For the Giants to have had a chance, they needed to score points and they did not score enough. I expected Dallas to score points and they did; the breakdowns in the secondary were not surprising to me. They were beaten by a better team and I expect them to improve as the season progresses. I was hoping the Giants could steal a win, but it did not happen.
The Good: While scoring 17 points, the offensive line was nowhere near as porous as it was the last two years. On their opening drive, the line was aided on Saquon Barkley’s long run by seal blocks from Evan Engram and Cody Latimer, with Nate Solder and Will Hernandez moving the pile to the right. The offense looked very good on their first drive, scoring a touchdown instead of settling for a field goal. The following drive featured a screen to Engram, with good blocking by Jon Halapio and Mike Remmers in the open field, enabling Engram to get the first down.
Engram caught 11 passes for 116 yards and one touchdown. Sterling Sheppard caught some passes in his return to action after breaking his thumb early in training camp. Latimer and Bennie Fowler played very well at wide receiver: I have liked Latimer since he arrived last year and he has a knack for making plays, including difficult catches.
The Cowboys made it look easy beating Giant defenders in the passing game. On the first touchdown pass to a wide open Blake Jarwin down the middle of the field, it looked like there was a communication problem between the two safeties. Each of them broke to one side of the field, leaving the middle wide open. The same scenario occurred when Dax Prescott found Randall Cobb wide open for a touchdown to make it 28-10 in the third – judging by his reaction, I will guess Jabrill Peppers was at fault. Shortly before that, Antoine Bethea was beaten by Amari Cooper down the middle for an easy completion.
DeAndre Baker was beaten by Gallup on a 50-yard pass down the left sideline and beaten for a touchdown by Amari Cooper for a score later on the same drive. On the touchdown pass, I give credit to Prescott for throwing a pass that was on the money to Cooper. Baker was beaten by Gallup again in the third quarter and there was no help from his teammates after that. He chased Gallup down the middle of the field and eventually caught him. Bethea took a poor angle toward Gallup just after the ball was caught and slowed Baker down in the process.
While Baker was beaten, he was not beaten by much; he was slightly behind the receiver. A yard or two closer to the front side of the receiver would have made a difference and he may have broken up a pass. For example, before the Giants kicked a field goal in the third quarter, the pass intended for the Giants receiver was nicely broken up by Jourdan Lewis on the goal line, getting his hand in front of the receiver to break it up. That was the difference between a touchdown and a field goal.
Alonzo Hamilton showed he is a good special teams player and that’s probably it. He badly missed Randall Cobb on the sideline, enabling Cobb to get the first down on third-and-10. If he tackles him, it’s probably a field goal instead of a touchdown – much like the pass breakup by Lewis of the Cowboys. On the touchdown that followed, Michael Thomas came in, went too far inside, and it was too late when he reacted to Jason Witten.
The Giant run defense was not bad, but the Cowboys had no need to challenge them when they were successful through the air.
Offensively, the Giants were adequate and should have been a little better. I was initially critical of Barkley after the game, but watching highlights, he had a good game. It could have been better had he been used more often. On that, I question some of the Giant play calling.
I didn’t like Eli Manning rolling out, as I don’t think he is athletic enough to do that consistently. The intentional grounding call is one example: throwing it short of Barkley and drawing an intentional grounding penalty; all while missing a wide open Eric Tomlinson. Had Manning seen Tomlinson, he would not be in the position of avoiding the rusher and throwing the ball away on a bounce. Maybe he would have seen him by simply fading back.
I also did not like the call on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter, with Manning rolling out. The play was a failure and turned the ball over to the Cowboys. The play took too long and it did not look like anyone was open. Perhaps a play to get Barkley the ball with room to run would have been a better option.
In addition, I wished the Giants offense sped things up before halftime, as it seemed they bogged down in the middle of the field and did not get into field goal position soon enough.
While the receivers played well, they were not wide open the way the Cowboys receivers were. One of the few plays I remember a receiver being open was when Latimer caught a pass down the left sideline. There was not much in the way of yards after the catch with Cowboy defenders doing a very good job.
It was ugly. But realistically, the Giants were playing one of the best teams in football. There wasn’t much pass rush, but the Cowboys have one of the best lines in football, if not the best. They will be playing lines the next three weeks that are closer to their level and that will give us a better indication.
The secondary has to get better and I think it will be in the second half of the season – we are going to have to live with the growing pains. Something must be done about the middle of the field and the communication: I’m banking on the players getting to know one another better on the field of play.
The offensive line showed good signs and I expect that to continue. I hope Barkley is used more next week against Buffalo. Keep in mind, he did not play in the preseason and this was his first action. The same goes for Sterling Sheppard. Back to the line, there are two newcomers in Reimers and Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio missed most of last season. The communication and work among the starters will improve during the year and the line will only get better.
In the spring, I said the Giants would win between 6 and 8 games and I still think it is realistic. They need to win two of the next three and I think it’s doable. I thought beating Dallas was a long shot, but I am still disappointed. But it’s only one game and there is room for reasonable improvement. Go Giants!
To view a nine-minute highlight clip, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EcUz37uHu4. It is published by the NFL.