The New York Giants suffered their first loss of the Brian Daboll era on Monday. The Cooper Rush-led Dallas Cowboys defeated the Giants at home, 23-16. The Cowboys were efficient on offense in the second half, were able to constantly harass Daniel Jones in the pocket, and stayed poised when it mattered most.
Rush finished the game with 215 passing yards and one touchdown to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who finished the game with eight catches for 89 yards, and one crucial drop.
The loss of Leonard Williams proved to be dire as the Giants' defense surrendered 178 yards on the ground to Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The game-changing ability of Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley seized the momentum in the third quarter before two subsequent Dallas drives went for 75 and 82 yards, both resulting in a touchdown.
New York’s defense mustered little pressure, and Rush seemed comfortable when asked to pass. Comfortability in the pocket was but a dream for Daniel Jones, as the Giants quarterback falls to 0-8 in primetime, albeit this loss can hardly be pinned at the active feet of Jones.
Special teams’ errors could have easily made the list. The field goal team has to protect the inside from penetration, and the punt coverage team can’t allow a big return like they did in the fourth quarter. Those are unacceptable plays by a unit that must perform better. Here are the five plays (or play sequences) that defined the Giants’ loss.
Play(s) 1: Cue David Bowie and Queen
Jones (8) was battered and under pressure for much of the night. Here are the five sacks:
The Giants' inability to block four rushers cleanly forced offensive coordinator Mike Kafka to alter his game plan. In the first quarter, the Giants attempted to isolate running back Saquon Barkley against linebacker Anthony Barr; it caused a penalty early on, and Dallas adjusted its defense to focus on Barkley out of the backfield. However, the threat of Barkley was virtually neutralized because the running back was tasked to be the sixth man in protection to assist the Giants in blocking Dallas’ relentless pass rush.
New York also used rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger on pivot routes off play action rollouts and in the flat against Dallas when they were in Cover-3. The tight ends were also asked to help block in protection, removing an easy passing option for Jones. Dallas sent four and got pressure; when they blitzed, it was a mad-scramble for Jones. The fourth-year quarterback could do little behind an improved offensive line that was abused by Dallas’ defensive front.
Play 2: Barkley run
Barkley rushed for this 36-yard touchdown with the score tied. The run seemed like a momentum-swinging moment, especially since the offenses were both struggling to move downfield.
The Giants’ star running back outruns the unblocked defender to the hole, and then jump-cut outside two defenders into space before out-running Trevon Diggs (7) to the near pylon. A beautiful run by Barkley to give the Giants energy that was unfortunately short-lived.
Play(s) 3: Dallas offense after Barkley touchdown
Credit to Dallas’ offense in the second half. There was a point where Cooper Rush was 12 of 13 passing. In a pivotal part of the game, Rush remained poised and unfazed by Martindale’s defense. The momentum swung like a massive pendulum as Dallas led a nine-play, 75 yard drive. Here was the first play of that drive.
Adoree’ Jackson bites on the inside stem of CeeDee Lamb (88), who releases outside and the underneath defender was occupied in the flat. The catch goes for 17 yards. Lamb helped clear Jackson out of his zone on the first-and-10 throw to Peyton Hendershot (82) on the vertical replace route.
These two explosive plays helped set up a 1-yard Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run.
This drive was bad enough, but the score is still tied with New York receiving the football. However, the Giants go four plays and out after being gifted 15 yards after a Donovan Wilson unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Giants punt the ball back to the Cowboys who proceeded on an 11-play, 89-yard drive that was finished with this touchdown to Lamb.
The Cowboys also converted a fourth-and-4 on this drive to Lamb. These two offensive drives by Dallas were the difference in this game. Dallas staying calm on the road with a backup quarterback helped earn them this victory.
Play (s) 4: Run, Daniel...RUN!
Jones had nine carries for 79 yards, and was very decisive on when and how to run the football. His ability to use his legs was one of the more consistent parts of the Giants offense on Monday:
Not only did Jones do a good job extending plays and maneuvering in the pocket, but he succeeded on designed quarterback runs. Kafka dialed up quarterback draws in the game that opened up the middle of the field where Jones was able to get a big chunk with his legs. Head coach Brian Daboll praised Jones for his ability to pick up yards with his feet after a Week 2 win over Carolina, and the 25-year-old deserves recognition after his efforts in this loss.
Play(s) 5: Before halftime and drops
The Giants are lucky that Brett Maher missed the 59-yard field goal attempt to close the first half, but New York could have easily put points on the board to conclude the half, which is a novel thought for those who watch the team.
For the second consecutive week, the Giants suffered a questionable offensive pass interference penalty that negates this third-and-13 conversion by Daniel Jones and Kenny Golladay (19). Sterling Shepard (3) runs into Trevon Diggs as he is running a route; it was not intentional, and it was downfield. The refs - who were atrocious on both sides - flagged the play, which eventually led to this fourth-and-2 conversion attempt by New York.
Jones throws back shoulder to Kenny Golladay running the slant and the disgruntled wide receiver fails to haul in the pass. It’s not the easiest catch in the world, but it is certainly important. Golladay, who has received less playing time and been vocal about how he disapproves, came up short when his number was called in a very high leverage situation at the end of the half. However, it wasn’t his only drop.
Golladay does a solid job creating separation at the top of his break on this third-and-fourteen, but he drops the ball as he attempts to go back inside. Just a horrendous way to prove you deserve more playing time, but the injury to Shepard may result in more Golladay. Hopefully, the wide receiver can make up for mistakes like the two above. It should also be mentioned that Shepard had a bad drop on the second-and-9 before a false start and the Golladay drop above.
The Giants' wide receiver situation continues to be an issue. There’s not a lot of separation, the receivers are dropping passes, and the injuries to Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson are hurting this team’s ability to move the football. Now the Giants have to find a way to replace Shepard, who earned 20 targets over the last two games. My thoughts are with Shepard after another terrible injury.