When is the first game of the NFL season not really just the first game? Not really just one of 16? Not really one whose results should cause you to overreact? Well, in the case of the New York Giants when you lose that one game, that season-opener, in an ugly fashion that saw all the issues that were present in 2016 come roaring back. After you spent eight months trying to fix them.
And that’s the situation the Giants find themselves in Monday night against the Detroit Lions. They want us to believe that the season-opening 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was just one game. Just listen to them.
“It is just one game. Fifteen years of doing this. The one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that where teams are after the first week of the season – there’s no direct correlation to where they are at the end of the regular season or at the end of the postseason,” said offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
“We had a bad game. We had bad games last year. Dallas lost the first game last year and went (13-3). It’s one game. I, for sure, am not panicking. I don’t think anybody over here is panicking,” said Odell Beckham Jr., who did not play due to his ankle injury.
“First game. Guys were playing fast, got some good guys out there, some new bodies. So, we’ll bounce back. We’ll be fine. We just have to slow down, everybody take a breath and just run the plays the way we’ve been running them all spring and all summer,” said quarterback Eli Manning. “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish in the NFL.”
All of those things may be true. In fact, are true. Yet, the Giants are under pressure Monday night. And not only because 0-2 teams since 1990 have only a 12 percent chance of reaching the playoffs.
They are under pressure because against Dallas it looked like nothing had changed since last season. Every single flaw that held them back from a deeper playoff run, that they spent eight months either trying to fix by changing personnel or telling us would be OK because players would improve, was still there.
The Giants haven’t reached the 20-point mark in their last seven games, and haven’t scored 30 since the 2015 season.
Despite new and improved personnel it still looked against Dallas like Beckham was the whole offense. And, since Beckham didn’t play, there was no offense. There was no running game or downfield passing game. The offensive line didn’t hold up. Eli Manning was inaccurate sometimes, and despite his protestations to the contrary, at times looked like he didn’t trust his protection. Maybe the ball didn’t go down the field because Manning was in self-preservation mode. Ben McAdoo faced questions last season about whether he could successfully call the offensive plays and function as head coach. The decibel level on that cry, and the heat on McAdoo in general, went up quite a bit after Week 1.
The Giants need a win Monday night. Even more than that, they need a performance that offer at least some evidence that they are making progress toward fixing the problems that short-circuited their playoff hopes last season, and caused such a firestorm after Week 1 of this season.
Maybe they do have the answers. They need to begin showing them, though. And soon. Like Monday night. Otherwise, the questions and criticisms are just going to get louder.