A team that made the playoffs a year ago, that believes it is on the rise, that spent the offseason adding play-making weapons and had a widely-praised draft, and that had raised hopes it was capable of playing with the big boys in the NFC, got obliterated on national television.
“Obviously, it wasn’t good enough,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “No area was good enough tonight, from protection to coaching to running to tackling, whatever it may be. You name it, it wasn’t good enough.”
By total points, this was the seventh-worst loss in franchise history. It was the Giants’ second-worst loss ever to Dallas, and the first time they have been shut out by the Cowboys since 1996. This was the most one-sided opening day loss in Giants history, overtaking another home loss to the Cowboys. On Sept. 4, 1995, they lost to Dallas, 35-0.
The Giants have now lost 12 of 13 to Dallas, and are 1-10 against Dallas in season-opening games.
GM Joe Schoen acknowledged after a 38-7 playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles that ended last season that there was a talent gap between the Giants and the top teams in the NFL — like the Eagles and Cowboys.
Schoen recently said “we’ll see” when asked if he felt that talent gap had been closed. The only way for the Giants to prove that they belong with the NFL’s big boys is to beat them — at least occasionally. After Sunday, the gap between the Giants and those top teams looks as big as the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water.
After a promising first drive ended with a false start inside the Dallas 10-yard line, a botched snap by rookie center John Michael Schmitz and a blocked Graham Gano field goal that Dallas returned for a touchdown the night just continued to get worse for the Giants.
“We came out, we drove the ball down the field and then things took a turn for the worse,” said offensive tackle Evan Neal.
Neal said “never in my life” had he been on the losing end of a game this lopsided.
“I feel horrible. I feel embarrassed,” Neal said. “What do you expect?”
Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson said the loss was “embarrassing.”
“Call a spade a spade,” he said.
Every area of the Giants deserved some form of criticism.
The offensive line was a sieve.
Daniel Jones was sacked seven times. He was hit 12 times. He ran 13 times for 43 yards, most of those runs coming when he was desperately trying to evade pass rushers.
A flustered Jones did not play well. He completed 15 of 28 passes, threw two interceptions, and probably should have thrown at least one more. He had no chance, but still made some poor decisions.
“We’ve got to own it,” Jones said. “Own what happened out there. We didn’t play well enough. Didn’t execute well enough, didn’t give ourselves a chance to win the game and we got to own that, and then we got to attack the process this week of correcting it, of being critical and finding what we got to work on and making sure we are prepared and doesn’t happen again.
The rookies had a rough night. Schmitz had the obvious botched snap, and a few others where Jones had to perform some gymnastics to reel them in. Cornerback Tre Hawkins had two penalties, a 37-yarder for pass interference and a holding penalty. Tae Banks left after the first half with cramps. Jalin Hyatt dropped the only pass thrown to him, albeit the ball was slightly behind him.
The special teams let the Giants down. There was the blocked field goal, which former Giant placekicker Lawrence Tynes dissected here:
Ezeudu has to stab with his left arm, protect inside out then go to the outside man. Bad technique! pic.twitter.com/PmJlhIIM2O— Lawrence Tynes (@lt4kicks) September 11, 2023
There was a 36-yard miss by Gano, who might need to be given a bit of a break after being cleated in the kicking leg on the blocked field goal.
The Giants fumbled five times, including the Schmitz botched snap, losing just one. Jones was intercepted twice, including a pick 6 that was returned for a touchdown after being knocked out of the hands of Saquon Barkley. Twenty of Dallas’s first 26 points came as a direct result of Giants’ miscues.
The revamped wide receiving group had just five catches for 41 yards. Of course, when the quarterback is running for his life on every drop back wide receivers are pretty useless.
The defense? For a third straight game, the Giants failed to sack a Dallas quarterback. They managed just three hits on Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush. In those three games, Dallas has sacked Giants quarterbacks 15 times.
Even Daboll, the reigning Coach of the Year, seemed to lose sight of reality, leaving Jones in to take hit after hit in the fourth quarter despite being behind by 40 points.
Daboll said he kept sending Jones out with the offense to “‘try to get something positive going there. We didn’t have much going, just wanted to try to get, you know, a positive drive and try to punch the ball into the end zone, but that didn’t happen.”
All that happened was that Jones took a bunch of hits from Dallas pass rushers that he probably should not have had to absorb.
Instead of the party that Giants fans were hoping for on a ‘Blue Out’ night, the Giants and their fan base received a heavy dose of reality.
On a rainy, miserable night in East Rutherford Giants fans were leaving MetLife Stadium in droves by the time it was 33-0 early in the third quarter. Pretty much the only noise from the crowd in the fourth quarter was chants of “Let’s go Cowboys” from drenched, but deliriously happy Dallas fans.
“It sucks,” said Neal when asked what it was like to hear that. “But I don’t control the fans. Obviously it didn’t feel good, but what can we do to control that? We just didn’t put together a good performance tonight.”
Tight end Darren Waller said “absolutely not” when asked if he thought a game could get away from the Giants the way Sunday did.
“We’ve got too many good football players on this team, too many good coaches, too many good people involved to allow things to go down the way they went,” Waller said. “Nobody wants that to happen. To get beat by 40 is crazy.
“We have no choice but to accept that, that’s what happened. We’ve got a choice in how we respond.”
How will the Giants respond? Did those who were, and perhaps still are, optimistic about the 2023 Giants, misjudge this team? Was this just a regrettable, forgettable game that got away from the Giants in the blink of an eye?
The Giants are, obviously, capable of playing better than they did against the Cowboys. The way Sunday unfolded, though, it is fair to wonder if the Giants are any closer to being on the level of the league’s best teams.