EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After a fifth straight loss, the New York Giants were pretty much out of answers.
“All the things you can’t do in a ballgame happened, and hurt, and we lost,” coach Pat Shurmur said following Monday’s demoralizing 38-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
There was a deflated, resigned feeling that was apparent in the Giants locker room after the game.
“If I had the answer, I think I would be able to tell you guys and I think we would know as a team. But hey, things aren’t going our way right now, we can’t just cry about it. It’s part of football, it’s part of your profession, it’s part of your job,” said running back Saquon Barkley. “You just have to go back, watch film and learn from it and try to get better throughout the rest of the season and focus on the next game with that being the Jets.”
The biggest issue is that many of the problems that cropped up Monday night are the same ones that have plagued the Giants all season. Let’s go through some of what we saw.
Red zone failures
This was a game in which the Giants had opportunities. Antoine Bethea intercepted Dak Prescott on the game’s first play, setting the Giants up at the Dallas 9-yard line. They ended up settling for a field goal. Five times the Giants reached the red zone. They settled for field goals on four of those possessions, three times getting inside the Dallas 10-yard line and once the 11.
“We’ve got to score. We’ve got to score,” said tight end Evan Engram. “Like I said, small things. Got to get them done.”
They couldn’t. When they tried to run, Saquon Barkley couldn’t find anywhere to go. When they tried to pass, Daniel Jones couldn’t find anyone open.
“It’s the NFL. They make plays, they did a good job getting penetration,” Barkley said. “I have to do a better job helping the offensive line and getting downhill a little more. But that’s what it is. They made plays, it’s the NFL. We have to be better.”
Secondary woes continue
The Giants gave up two more passing plays of more than 40 yards Monday night, both of which went for touchdowns.
A 42-yard second-quarter touchdown by Giant-killing backup tight end Blake Jarwin came when Dak Prescott got out of the pocket and found an open Jarwin, who rumbled more than 30 yards for the score after making the catch.
Perhaps more egregious was the back-breaking 45-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to a wide open Amari Cooper on a third-and-12 play.
One of the two rookie defensive backs on the field for the Giants, either DeAndre Baker or Corey Ballentine, busted this coverage. The Giants weren’t going to assign blame after the game.
“Young team, there ain’t no excuses,” said defensive back Michael Thomas. “I don’t undress teammates, I don’t undress players, but we’ve just got some young mistakes right now.”
Judge for yourself.
Here’s the Amari Cooper TD. pic.twitter.com/oUZ4w2H8pC— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 5, 2019
Maybe Ballentine, getting his first significant action, was supposed to cover that part of the field rather than carry a man. Maybe Baker shouldn’t have passed him off. No matter who you blame this one on, it typified the kind of mistakes that have hurt the Giants all season.
Ball security blues ... again
Daniel Jones had three more turnovers, two fumbles and an interception, increasing his league-leading total to 16.
Jones had two fumbles, one returned for a score, and a crushing interception at the end of the first half that ended up costing the Giants a lead they would never get back. It was incidentally, the Giants first lead in five games.
“Obviously, this week he fumbled, right? Then he got hit in the pocket and he fumbled. Threw an interception,” Shurmur said. “They are isolated incidents ... it needs to get corrected.”
Problem is, for the past five games they show no signs of getting corrected.
Game management ... again
Maybe the biggest problem with the Jones interception at the end of the first half is that he shouldn’t have been put in position to make that mistake in the first place.
Clinging to a 12-10 lead after the Jarwin touchdown, the Giants took possession at their 26-yard line with 57 seconds left in the half. Rather than run out the clock and be certain to take a lead into halftime Shurmur said he never considered taking the safe route.
“We had 50 something seconds to go,” Shurmur said. “Go play. Why not?”
Well, because of what happened next.
A Darius Slayton drop. An incompletion. Then, on third-and-10 Shurmur dialed up a deep route to Slayton, Jones made an ill-advised throw, Xavier Woods intercepted and Dallas ended the half with the lead after a 52-yard Brett Mahar field goal.
“Yeah, we threw a pass, dropped it, and then we had another one that was sort of deflected off-target,” Shurmur said. “I think on the third one there, Slayton, the ball was designed to go to Slayton against the specific coverage. You just have to look for the ball there, break it up in that case. So, you don’t want that — right? The flip side of it is you just take a knee and go into the locker room, but we wanted to give our guys a chance. But we can’t have the bad things happen.”
The problem here, in my view, is that Shurmur put his turnover-prone young quarterback in a position where something bad could happen.
There have now been several games this season where questionable in-game decisions at the end of halves and games have been costly for the Giants.
The Cowboys are a team with a terrific offensive line and a great running back in Ezekiel Elliott that wants to use the run set up the play action pass game, much like the Minnesota Vikings. The Giants acquired defensive tackle Leonard Williams last week to bolster their defensive line and deepen their rotation up front.
Mystifyingly, though, the Giants spent much of Monday’s game with only two defensive tackles on the field, leaving themselves vulnerable to the run — the thing the Cowboys do best and want to do the most.
The fact that Elliott ran 23 times for 139 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, is no surprise considering the way the Giants defended Dallas.
“It was the easiest 140 yards I’ve ever gained. I don’t even know If I broke a tackle, I just ran inside the scheme,” Elliott said after the game. “Those guys just mauled them up front, thank them for making it easier on me. Got to love the big fellas.’
The Giants made the job easier for Elliott and those big fellas from Dallas by not fully utilizing their defensive line strength to negate the rushing attack.
There was plenty more
- A missed extra point by Aldrick Rosas.
- Five sacks allowed by the Giants, although some came in garbage time at the end of game.
- There was also the embarrassment of the plethora of Cowboys fans chanting and celebrating at game’s end long after many Giants fans had headed for the exit.