If you look at the basic numbers from the New York Giants loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it would look like the two teams played a close game. Dallas had the advantage in time of possession, 32:18 to 27:42, but the two teams played almost the same number of offensive snaps, 69 for the Giants, 68 for the Cowboys.
The two teams both put up more than 400 yards of offense, with Dallas racking up 494 to the Giants’ 470 yards. The Giants lead the way in first downs (25 to 23) and in rushing yards (151 to 89).
So then, how did Dallas wind up with a 35-17 victory that didn’t even feel that close?
The Giants’ quarterback played about as we have come to expect under Pat Shurmur. By and large he was efficient with the football, completing 30-of-44 pass attempts (68 percent completion) for 306 yards and a touchdown. Eli was reasonably well protected by the offensive line, with his 2.69 seconds to throw coming in 14th among quarterbacks who have played as of this writing (the two Monday night games have yet to be played as I write this). Eli was forced to play out of a smaller than average pocket, with the Cowboys’ top four pass rushers getting within an average of 4.39 yards of Manning (4.49 was league average Sunday), but they only came away with 6 QB hits and 1 sack.
But, as we have come to expect from this offense, the Giants’ passing game was focused on the short game. Thirty-three of Eli’s 44 pass attempts came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and only five of those passes fell incomplete.
The Giants’ penchant for quick passes showed itself in how far Manning looked downfield. Per NFL NextGenStats, Manning’s average target was just 6.6 yards downfield and 2.7 yards short of the first down markers. The average distance of completed passes was just 4.7 yards.
By contrast, Dallas QB Dak Prescott averaged 8.7 yards downfield (8.6 completed air yards) and 0.4 yards beyond the first down markers.
And while Prescott was much better protected — the Giants were credited with just one QB pressure on 32 drop backs by NextGenStats, and not one Giants’ defender came closer than Dalvin Tomlinson who averaged 4.87 yards from Prescott — he still got the ball out in 2.53 seconds.
That disparity shows that it is certainly possible to look further down the field without holding the ball for an extended period of time.
Barkley played nearly every offensive snap with 55 (80 percent), trailing only Cody Latimer (61 snaps, 88 percent) and Sterling Shepard (68 snaps, 99 percent) among the offensive skill players. He had an excellent night running the ball, toting the rock 11 times for 120 yards (10.9 yards per carry).
Most of Barkley’s carries came through the left A or B gaps, picking up 97 yards on those six attempts. Really the Giants couldn’t have asked for much more from Barkley as a rusher. Most of the time when a running back has Barkley’s numbers and averages, the offense is in pretty good shape. But between the Giants’ defensive issues and their inability to look downfield in the passing game, it didn’t matter.
Barkley also saw six targets as a receiver, hauling in four of them for 19 yards (4.9 per catch). This was an issue for this was an issue with how the Giants used Barkley as a receiver in 2018 as well.
And speaking of players who were bright spots but still needed to get the ball further downfield, we come to Evan Engram. Engram saw 53 of the Giants’ 69 offensive snaps. But while he picked up 116 yards (and a touchdown) on 11 receptions, few of his targets came further than 10 yards down the field.
Per NextGenStats, 6 of Engram’s 14 targets were 5 yards or less downfield, and another three were 10 yards or less downfield.
Engram had eight snaps as a run blocker and acquitted himself well, perhaps never better than on Barkley’s explosive 59-yard run.
Latimer was obviously the Giants’ number 2 receiver, playing 61 of 69 snaps and seeing 8 targets, second behind Engram’s 14.
But while he hauled in a nice 43-yard grab on a nifty escape by Eli Manning, he struggled to do much else. Latimer only had three receptions, and only averaged 1.72 yards of separation on the game (the average across the league was 2.82 yards of separation). Meanwhile Bennie Fowler (50 snaps, 72 percent) created 4.68 yards of separation and caught all five of his targets for 40 yards.
This was only one game, but if Fowler continues to create so much more separation, Latimer might find their positions on the depth chart switched.
Pass Rush? Pass Rush? Bueller?
Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter are clearly the Giants’ starting EDGE defenders, playing 55 and 50 snaps (of 68) respectively. Meanwhile veteran Kareem Martin played just 10 defensive snaps and rookie Oshane Ximines played 21 snaps (31 percent). Unfortunately, none of them generated much of a pass rush, with only Carter being credited with a quarterback hit.
While the Giants’ front seven wasstout against the run, giving up just 89 total rushing yards on 30 carries (2.97 per carry), they were largely unable to pressure Prescott.
Two of the three players to stay on the field every snap were in the Giants’ secondary. The first (alphabetically) is safety Antoine Bethea and the second is Janoris Jenkins.
Jenkins had a good night, rarely having his name called and coming up with one of the Giants’ three passes defensed — the second was from Alec Ogletree (68 snaps) and the third was by Lorenzo Carter (or rather, his head) in coverage down the field on Dallas’ fullback. Likewise, slot corner Grant Haley had a very quiet game, playing 43 snaps and rarely, if ever, heard his name called.
The corners opposite Jenkins struggled, however. The Cowboys made a point of picking on Antonio Hamilton (36 snaps) and targeting whoever he was covering. They also targeted rookie DeAndre Baker when he was on the field in relief of Hamilton, and Baker surrendered a trio of big plays. Each time, a Dallas receiver was able to get a step on Baker and he was unable to shift gears and close the passing window. He will need to learn to walk a fine line in the NFL, playing with enough physicality to disrupt receivers’ routes and timing, but not so physical that he is called for pass interference.
Rookie snap counts
Daniel Jones - 5 snaps
Dexter Lawrence - 28 snaps
DeAndre Baker - 31 snaps
Oshane Ximines - 21 snaps
Julian Love - 0 snaps (2 special teams)
Ryan Connelly - 26 snaps
Corey Ballentine - 9 snaps