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Cowboys 21, Giants 6: 5 Things we learned from another bad loss

How much more can we really say about this team?

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The New York Giants fell 21-6 to the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys, in a slow, plodding, slog of a game. The Giants’ loss ensures their fourth-straight season with double-digit losses, and it likely means that the Giants will finish in the basement of the NFC East.

The outcome of this game really did feel like a foregone conclusion, though it didn’t include the fireworks many were expecting. And while we can offer the same platitudes about the Giants being tough and playing hard, they’re still 4-10 and suffered their eighth double-digit loss of the season.

There were a couple bright spots buried in the muck, as well as a few things we need to talk about.

Lorenzo Carter’s big day

The Giants’ defense did its best to contain the Cowboys’ potent offense, and their scheme of forcing the ball underneath was somewhat successful. Twenty-one points was far too much for the Giants’ offense to score with the opposing defense actually trying to stop them.

But if there was one really bright spot on the field for the Giants, it was the play of EDGE/LB Lorenzo Carter. Carter has largely been an afterthought for the Giants in the final season of his rookie contract, but he got an opportunity against Dallas and made the most of it. Dallas opted to platoon backup tackles with Tyron Smith injured, and Carter made their lives hell. He was consistently in the backfield and was the best pass rusher on either team.

Carter finished with two sacks, a forced fumble, a pass defensed, and four tackles. It’s only too bad that the offense made his sack-fumble utterly meaningless.

Toothless aggression

I have no clue what Joe Judge was thinking when he lined up to attempt a fourth-down conversion around the Giants’ own 30-yard line three separate times. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it blew up in the Giants’ face all three times — mercifully, the final time it was just a false start penalty that forced a punt.

I like aggressive decision making, but there’s a time and a place for attempting to convert fourth-and-short. That time and place is on your opponent’s side of the field, in that no-man’s land where you can’t attempt a field goal but punting puts too much pressure on your special teams to down the ball with no margin for error. In other words, between the 50 and your opponent’s 35-yard line.

Maybe Joe Judge doesn’t trust Riley Dixon anymore, and the offense has him feeling as though he’s always playing from a three-score deficit. Or perhaps he’s heard all the talk about him being overly conservative, got his hackles up, and decided “Okay, I’ll try it your way.”

Or maybe the Giants are just desperate to get something going and finish the season on with the kind of “momentum” we’ve heard about before.

Whatever the reason, Judge needs to be smarter.

Too many turnovers

The Giants finished the game with a putrid 4:1 turnover ratio, and honestly, it was worse than that. It would have been 5:1 if Trevon Diggs hadn’t touched Collin Johnson’s back, and 6:1 if we count turnovers on downs.

Dallas never really got any traction on offense. The Cowboys were able to move the ball well enough, picking up a solid 328 yards and converting 8 of 14 third downs, which is fine. Not great — particularly by the standards of Dak Prescott and the rest of the playmakers on that offense — but not terrible either.

The Giants’ emphasis on preventing big plays forced Dallas to take a slow and methodical approach and settle for field goals on three separate occasions. Combined with inopportune penalties by the Cowboys and Greg Zuerlein somehow missing both of his point-after attempts, there were opportunities there for the Giants to take advantage.

But the Giants just couldn’t stop coughing the ball up.

The most egregious sequence happened when Lorenzo Carter got his strip sack, giving the Giants the ball with a great chance to score while it might have mattered. But then Glennon got flushed from the pocket and attempted to throw on the run, giving Trevon Diggs his 10th interception of the year and the Cowboys the ball back right where Carter took it away.

Most of the blame hangs on Glennon for this game, but the rest of the offense just struggled to get out of its own way. And that’s something we have consistently seen from these Giants. The temptation is there to blame injuries, but every team deals with injuries. Good teams persevere while bad teams make more bad luck.

How about Jake Fromm?

We finally got to see Jake Fromm in the game after Glennon’s third interception, and it really begs the question of why we didn’t see him earlier.

Earlier in the game, and earlier in the season.

Fromm only got to see the field for one drive, during the 2:00 drill. That, obviously, features a pared back offense and quick, simple reads. But still, Fromm executed well and the offense played with the kind of efficiency and urgency we’ve only rarely seen from it.

Fromm doesn’t have the biggest arm and he needs to play with plenty of anticipation to make sure the ball gets where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. But he generally accomplished that, and showed some of the best precision placement we’ve seen from any of the Giants’ quarterbacks.

Personally, I’ve seen enough that I’d be fine with Fromm starting next week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Maybe he flames out, maybe he proves to be a young quarterback worth hanging onto and developing. Either way, at least it wouldn’t be another game of Mike Glennon.

The offensive line actually wasn’t that bad

Let’s get this out of the way: The Giants’ offensive line still wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t the reason why they lost this game. And yeah, Matt Peart’s false start penalties were bad, and the Giants are probably lucky that Billy Price’s high snap didn’t end in disaster.

But both of the Giants’ quarterbacks actually saw some solid pass protection. Micah Parsons didn’t take over the game (though his play in coverage of Kenny Golladay was quietly brilliant and two of his pressures lead to turnovers), and Dallas really only rarely got to the Giants quarterbacks. Glennon had a surprising amount of time and space in the pocket for much of the game, and, final play aside, Fromm was pretty comfortable as well.

On top of that, there were flashes (flashes) of solid run blocking as well. The run game was still very hit-or-miss and depended on missed tackles around the line of scrimmage as much as big blocks.

Considering where the Giants set the bar for offensive line play this year, staving off this talented of an a defensive front as much as the Giants did is noteworthy.