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‘Things I think’ after the Giants are battered by the Cowboys

For the Giants, pretty much everything went wrong on Sunday

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys could probably not have been a bigger disaster for the New York Giants.

The Giants went to Dallas looking for an upset that might stamp them as a legitimate, up-and-coming team that had a chance to be a factor in the NFC East.

They left AT&T Stadium a battered, bloodied, beaten 1-4 mess. Let’s go through some of the ‘things I think’ in the wake of this brutal defeat.

Scary scene for Daniel Jones

All I can say is I think watching Daniel Jones stagger trying to walk after the helmet-to-helmet hit with Jabril Cox of Dallas on Sunday was scary. Emily Iannaconi messaged me that it was “terrifying,” and I can’t disagree.

The Giants want, no need, Jones to be a major part of the rushing attack. It was fun to watch Jones run through 350-pound defensive tackle Grady Jarrett a couple of weeks ago. This, though, is the danger of making your quarterback a primary part of the running game. You expose him to injuries.

Jones was trying to score on a third-and-goal play inside the 1-yard line. He attempted to make a physical play, lowering his head and trying to drive through Cox. He paid the price.

This is now two years in a row that Jones has suffered a debilitating injury. As much as the Giants benefit from Jones’ running ability, I think how much they rely on it going forward is something they are seriously going to have to consider.

At least there was some apparently good news post-game.

Saquon can’t catch a break

The last thing the Giants wanted to see was Saquon Barkley suffer another injury. Yet, here we are.

Just when Barkley was beginning to look like Barkley after last season’s devastating torn ACL, and just when the Giants were beginning to really try and take advantage of Barkley as a receiver out of the backfield, Barkley suffered another scary-looking injury.

On the Giants’ second possession, Jones sailed a pass over Barkley’s head, and Barkley grotesquely rolled his left ankle on top of the foot of Dallas defensive back Jourdan Lewis. Moments later, TV cameras showed Barkley’s swelling massively.

He left the field on a cart and the stadium on crutches.

The Giants can only hope this is a low ankle sprain, not a high ankle sprain like the one he suffered two years ago that affected him for most of the 2019 season.

Kadarius Toney is a star, but ...

You really can’t do much more than Toney did on Sunday, with 10 catches for 189 yards and 196 yards of total offense. Well, then again, you actually can. You can not act like an immature 22-year-old kid, throw a punch with a closed fist when you’re unhappy with how you were tackled, and get yourself booted out of a game.

On Sunday, Toney showed everything that could make him a great player, and the one thing that many were most concerned about pre-draft.

Toney was brilliant. He had catches of 38, 25, 28, 26, 16 and 13 yards. He made high-degree of difficulty catches. He made defenders miss. He showed toughness, battling through injuries of his own to keep making plays while so many of his teammates were sidelined.

In the fourth quarter, though, Toney threw a punch at Dallas defensive back Davontae Kazee after a tackle he didn’t like. It earned him an ejection.

“There’s a pretty distinct line in terms of competing and doing things that we’re not going to condone as a team,” said head coach Joe Judge. “That’s not going to be accepted. It’s not going to be condoned. That’s as far as I’m going to go right now with that.”

Toney, quite obviously, has growing up to do.

Over the past two weeks Toney has shown us why the Giants drafted him. He is a special talent. He has, unfortunately, also shown us why some were concerned about his maturity and character coming out of Florida.

Let’s hope the Giants are able to help Toney mature and reach his full potential.

The Giants went through this with another amazingly talented wide receiver not that long ago. No one wants to go down that road again.

The defense is a problem

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham threw the kitchen sink at Dallas. It didn’t work. Dallas ended up with 515 yards of total offense. They ran it when they wanted to run it. They threw it when they wanted to throw it. They did, basically, what they wanted when they wanted.

The Cowboy offense is good. Really good. No one will argue that. The Giants’ defense, though, is also supposed to be good. It’s not.

Dallas ran for 201 yards, with Ezekiel Elliott running around and through defenders all day. A mostly comfortable Dak Prescott was sacked once for a loss of a measly yard while throwing for 302 yards.

James Bradberry, a Pro Bowl cornerback last season, was again a liability. He was burned by CeeDee Lamb for a 49-yard touchdown, though Julian Love was also out of position on that play, had a pass interference call that extended a Dallas drive and led to a touchdown, and dropped a must-have interception late in the first half that enabled the Cowboys to score a touchdown and take a 17-10 halftime lead.

The Giants’ secondary can’t cover. They aren’t impacting quarterbacks nearly enough. They are among the worst teams in the league against the run.

Yes, Blake Martinez is out, but the Giants weren’t playing all that well defensively with him. I don’t have the answer, but I know I didn’t expect defense to be this big of an issue for the Giants.

Wasted opportunities

The score ended up looking like a blowout. NFL games, though, almost always turn on a handful of plays. The Giants, as has been the case in all of their losses, failed to make the ones that counted.

  • The Bradberry missed interception is a play that has to be made. It cost the Giants seven points, as Dallas scored a touchdown on the next play. It killed their momentum after the wounded Giants fought back from a 10-0 deficit to tie the game. It was the latest example of a Giants’ star player not making a game-changing play when the opportunity presented itself.
  • After a Lorenzo Carter interception on the first Dallas drive gave them the ball at midfield, the Giants did not score.
  • On their first drive of the third quarter the Giants got three points on a Graham Gano field goal. They had a chance for more. Mike Glennon mishandled a shotgun snap, turning third-and-4 ant the Dallas 24-yard line into fourth-and-13 at the 33, forcing the Giants to take the field goal.
  • An Azeez Ojulari roughing the passer penalty extended a Dallas third-quarter drive that ended in a field goal.

I think winning teams take advantage of their opportunities more often than they don’t. Losing ones can’t capitalize, or make their own breaks. At 1-4, we know which side the Giants have generally been on.

Optimism? What optimism?

I think Sunday is a great example of how quickly things change in the NFL. A week ago, the Giants at least temporarily rescued their season with a come-from-behind victory over the New Orleans Saints. Jones was NFC Offensive Player of the Week. Barkley looked like his old self. The defense did enough. Even the offensive line drew praise.

Now? The Giants are a mess. Again. We’re back to staring into the abyss and trying to figure out how the Giants avoid going 1-9 in their first 10 games.

All I know for sure is that Sunday wasn’t a fair fight.

Things I don’t want to hear

Don’t come at me with chatter about how awful the offensive line was. I know it wasn’t great. What did you expect when the team’s best offensive lineman didn’t play a snap? Nate Solder struggled mightily at left tackle, which we knew he would. Wes Martin, a Giant for less than two weeks, played a fair amount of snaps at left guard. Matt Peart played the entire game at right tackle.

Jones and Mike Glennon were under duress, especially Jones early in the game, but neither was sacked. I’m not blaming anything on the offensive line right now.

I don’t want to hear about Jason Garrett’s play-calling, either. I actually saw tweets complaining about Garrett taking too many shots down the field, after a season-plus of complaints that he didn’t take enough shots. The FOX broadcast mentioned that with Jones, Golladay, Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton out, 70 percent of the offense wasn’t playing.

Pretty much all the Giants could do is throw the ball to Toney and hope.