Normally when we do these post-game “things we learned” posts, they will be lists of any number of things worth mentioning. Not this time. There are really only two things we learned from Dallas Cowboys 16, New York Giants 3 that are really significant.
The Giants’ offense is still a mess
Odell Beckham Jr. is the Giants’ best player. He didn’t play. In our pre-game staff picks, I indicated that you had to expect his absence would make the game a struggle for an offense with a questionable offensive line and so many new play-making pieces.
Still, Beckham can’t miss this much to the Giants offense. Can he?
Odell Beckham Jr is invaluable to the #NYG. His energy, emotion, play-making ability. All of it.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 11, 2017
The Giant offense was, well, offensive.
“The offense was very disappointing,” said coach Ben McAdoo.
The Giants scored three points. THREE! Against a defense that really isn’t all that good. Going back to last year it’s the seventh straight game in which the Giants have failed to score at least 20 points.
With or without Beckham, the Giants had lots of shiny new toys to play with on offense. Problem was, because of awful offensive line play and a couple of off-target throws by a seemingly jittery Eli Manning the Giants really had no chance to take advantage of those nice new toys.
This was, pretty much, the Giants 2016 offense. Without Beckham to do something extraordinary to bail them out.
The offensive line, which the Giants stubbornly stuck with after it wasn’t good enough last season, was putrid. There were three sacks, Manning got hit on four other passes and was harassed on several others. They ran the ball 12 times for 35 yards, 2.9 yards per carry.
John Jerry appeared to be late to pick up a stunt on the first Giants’ possession, giving up a sack. He had a declined holding penalty on the second possession. He seemed to spend most of his night getting pushed around.
After saying during the week that he felt like he was “the best right tackle in the league,” Bobby Hart played like what he was in 2016. That’s a guy who graded as one of the worst and was benched for the Giants’ playoff game.
Ereck Flowers was OK most of the night, but surrendered an awful-looking sack and had a holding penalty.
Manning had a nice-looking 75.7 percent completion rate. That will make coach Ben McAdoo happy, since the Giants are always looking for completions. He didn’t do anything with those, though, averaging just 7.6 yards per completion. Maybe it’s because those completions weren’t going to Beckham. Maybe it’s because a couple of them weren’t perfectly thrown, giving the receiver no chance to get yards after the catch.
Brandon Marshall was not a factor, with one meaningless 10-yard catch in the closing seconds. Sterling Shepard had six catches, but they were all underneath routes and he averaged a measly 6.3 yards per catch.
Manning? He threw an interception and a couple of his completions would have turned into bigger plays with more accurate throws. I can’t kill him, though. He spent a good chunk of his night trying to avoid the rush, either moving around or throwing quickly. And it’s not like there were receivers running open all over the place. There weren’t.
No, the Giants didn’t have Beckham. They’ve known, however, for weeks that they probably wouldn’t. They’ve known since last year that the offensive line was a problem. It’s still a problem. One they’ve done nothing tangible to remedy.
One game, especially one without Beckham, certainly doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. One loss doesn’t mean the season is over. This, though, was troubling. It looked was too much like the final six games of last season.
The Giants’ defense can’t do everything itself
Steve Spagnuolo’s group did as much as it could. The Giants held Dallas to four field goals, surrendering only one touchdown. The defensive was on the field forever. While the Giants ran only 50 offensive plays, Dallas had 70. Dallas had the ball for 34:14. The Giants managed just two first-half first downs while falling behind, 16-0.
Ezekiel Elliott got 104 yards on 24 carries, but he earned every last one. The defense couldn’t come up with turnovers or score on its own, but did everything else it possibly could.
As good as it is, the Giants defense isn’t going to be able to win games completely alone.
A Few Other Things We Learned
- The Dez Bryant-Janoris Jenkins matchup is getting good. Lots of jawing between the two all night. Bryant had two catches for 43 yards, managing one 35-yard catch-and-run, but Jackrabbit made his share of plays.
- Jason Witten still kills the Giants. He’s old, he’s slow and the Giants still can’t cover him. He had seven receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown. He broke the Cowboys franchise record for receiving yards — and it seems appropriate he did it against the Giants.
- Eli Apple is still getting picked on. Throw at Jackrabbit or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? Nah. The Cowboys attacked Eli Apple on Sunday night. They probably won’t be the last team to make that choice.
- It’s B.J. Goodson’s world. Or, well, it seemed like all of the tackles belonged to him on Sunday. He had 18 of ‘em, 14 solo.
- The Cowboys have at least one pass rusher. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is pretty good. Or was it that the Giants offensive line made him look that way. Lawrence had two sacks and two hits on Manning, and could have had more if the QB wasn’t so good as sliding just enough to avoid getting hit.