Giants Hurt Themselves in 37-34 Loss to Cowboys | Takeaways
The Giants showed some uncharacteristic creativity this week, but it wasn’t enough to get into the win column, as New York fell 37-34 to the Dallas Cowboys.
What were the problems this week? Well, go ahead and pull up any post-game article from this season, and basically, it’s a repeat of what’s been dogging this team all year.
We can start with the offensive line, which allowed ten quarterback hits, two of which were sacks against Daniel Jones this week. Jones might be at fault for many things that are wrong with his game, but if he’s not getting a fair chance to make things right, how exactly is he supposed to improve?
Speaking of the offense, when they scored on tight end Evan Engram’s end-around on the opening drive, that broke a string of eight quarters without a touchdown scored by the offense and looked to set the tone for what appeared to be a promising day.
But almost in a snap, the magic wore off, and the Giants went right back to settling for field goals.
Mistakes? Yeah, they made a few, which we’ll cover below, as we will the latest turnover by Jones.
And for good measure, the Giants threw a new wrinkle in finding a way to lose, that being two significant penalties called that wiped points off the board—points they could have used in the end.
After the game, the Giants players made available on the video conference calls spoke of keeping their heads up and not quitting.
But at some point, one has to wonder if the losses continue to pile up what effect it’s going to have on this young group of players who are still very much in search of their football identity.
Three Drives that Mattered
Second Quarter, Giants at 5:00
After the Cowboys tied the score 17-17, the Giants had a golden opportunity to swing the momentum back to their side when they pulled out their fake field goal play.
The design couldn’t have been more perfect. Tight end Evan Engram snuck out wide where he wasn’t covered and made the catch.
But then came a little yellow flag nullifying the touchdown, and instead of getting seven, the Giants had to settle for three.
The day that the Giants offense puts up more touchdowns than field goals will be when this team starts winning games. Today was not that day.
Fourth Quarter, Giants at 1:56
In search of his third career game-winning drive, Jones came up woefully short.
After tying the game 34-34, the Giants got the ball back with 1:50 left in the fourth quarter. Given how well kicker Graham Gano was kicking field goals—he became the first Giants kicker in the Super Bowl era to convert three field-goal attempts of at least 50 yards—all Jones had to do was get the offense within Gano’s range by chewing up the clock so that even if Gano missed it, there would still be overtime.
Instead, on a drive starting from his 24-yard line, Jones threw an incomplete pass intended for receiver Darius Slayton before connecting with the receiver for 14 yards. From there, a pass to Dion Lewis resulted in a net loss of one yard while a second pass, that one on third and long, fell incomplete.
Fourth Quarter, Cowboys at 0:52
So not only did the Giants fail to get into scoring range, but they also left the Cowboys with 52 seconds on the clock. The Cowboys, who were being quarterbacked by Andy Dalton, showed young Mr. Jones and the Giants how to run an efficient 2:00 offense and chew up the clock.
Dalton, who began the drive at his 12-yard line, connected with Amari Cooper for 15 yards and then Michael Gallup for 19, both passes along the sidelines, which stopped the clock and allowed the Cowboys to regroup.
Dalton then hit Gallup again, this time for 16 yards to set up a 34-yard field goal attempt by kicker Greg Zuerlein with three seconds left, the final nail in the Giants’ coffin in what was the turning point in a back-and-forth game.
On this drive is the 38-yard pass completion to Gallup, a play in which defensive back Ryan Lewis appeared to lose his footing. While Lewis was able to force Gallup out of bounds, it looked like he was staying almost stride for stride with Gallup until he lost his feet under him.
If he had stayed on his feet, you wonder if he might have been able to get a hand in there to break up that field-goal setting pass completion.
Jones’s Ball Security Issues Continue
Daniel Jones’ second-quarter fumble was his 22nd in 18 games. Jones has yet to have a game without committing some turnover, be it an interception or a fumble, though he did record one game last year against Washington on December 22, 2019, in which although he had a fumble in that game, he didn’t lose the ball, the only such game where there wasn’t a turnover.
"I felt pressure, and I’ve got to do a better job stepping up and protecting the ball in that situation,” Jones said when asked what happened with his fumble.
That goes without saying, as opponents have now scored 26 off Giants turnovers this season.
How lucky did the Giants get when they scooped kicker Graham Gano off the unemployment pile? Gano has been nothing short of superb.
This week he hit three field goals of 50, 55, and 54 yards, becoming the first Giants kicker in the Super Bowl era to convert three field goals of 50 or more yards.
Best of all, none of Gano’s conversions came stress-free, as he sent each right down Broadway.
Giants Try a Little Razzle Dazzle
Earlier this week, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, when asked if the Giants could have some crazy onside kicks such as the Cowboys watermelon kick, flashed a grin.
“We have different stuff,” McGaughey teased. “Everybody has options--we can go crazy, we can get as plain as you want. Graham Gano is a pretty good kicker. We have some stuff up our sleeve.”
Well, they certainly did have something up their sleeve, and it almost worked to perfection.
That something was a fake field goal in which punter Riley Dixon, who can throw a pass as good as any, connected with a wide-open Engram, who snuck to the outside and was wide open for the score.
However, the Giants were flagged for an illegal shift, which nullified the score, forcing the Giants to settle for a 50-yard field goal by Graham Gano to give the Giants a 20-17 lead at the half.
Head coach Joe Judge was livid with the lack of execution, so much so that he ripped the headset off himself and flung it to the ground.
“I was mad at our execution, that we took points off the board and that was it,” he said.
“You prepare for something like that. You call it a certain time. It came up. You want to see it work. We've got cleaned that up.”
Giants Lose Lorenzo Carter to Injury
Giants strongside edge rusher Lorenzo Carter left the game in the first quarter with an Achilles injury after coming up lame on a play in which he didn’t make contact with anyone.
Carter appeared to suffer the non-contact injury and had to be carted off the field. Head coach Joe Judge wouldn’t say after the game if Carter’s was season-ending, only saying that the linebacker would undergo further evaluation when the team returned to New York.
Considering that Carter couldn’t put weight on his leg, his chances of getting back on the football field any time soon don’t look very promising, as the Giants now find themselves thin at outside linebacker.
The “Oy Vey” Stats of the Week
8 - The Giants finished this game with eight penalties, two of which negated touchdowns.
124 - Cowboys rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb finished with 124 yards on eight receptions, becoming the first opposing receiver the Giants defense allowed to top the 100-yard receiving mark. New York had gone eight games without allowing a receiver to top 100 yards, the longest streak in the NFL.
Daniel Jones Watch
Jones finished 20 of 33 for 222 yards this week. Despite the Giants scoring 34 points—the first time in six games going back to last season that they’ve scored that many, Jones didn’t throw a single touchdown pass.
Jones is currently averaging 222.2 passing yards per game and hasn’t thrown for over 300 yards since last year’s regular-season finale when he threw for 301 yards in a 34-17 loss to the Eagles on December 29, 2019.
The Giants scoring came from two rushing touchdowns (one each by Devonta Freeman and Evan Engram), four field goals by Graham Gano, and a defensive pick-6 by linebacker Kyler Fackrell.
Practice Makes Perfect
During the open part of practice Friday, the Giants offensive linemen were lined up running receiving drills with the receivers, a drill that raised a few eyebrows at the time.
It turns out those drills came in handy as on the Giants' last touchdown drive of the game, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, who caught his pass in the drills, caught the two-point conversion to give the Giants a 34-31 lead.
At some point, I’ll sit down and do a “Players the Giants Should Trade Before the Deadline” piece. But let me get on the record right now as saying if I’m Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, I try to move running back Wayne Gallman to the Panthers for a seventh-round draft pick.
The Panthers, for those who aren’t aware, are banged up at the running back position. Even though Christian McCaffery (high ankle sprain) is due to come off injured reserve next week.
While every injury is different, we all saw last year what happened when Saquon Barkley returned from his high ankle sprain, how ineffective he was, so I would think it wouldn’t make much sense to rush McCaffrey back if I’m the Panthers.
This week, Carolina had more injuries to their running backs, so if I’m them, sending a seventh-round pick for Gallman, whom I doubt is in the Giants long-term plans anyway, makes too much sense.
If I’m the Giants, who are already down a fifth-rounder (Leonard Williams) and a seventh (Isaac Yiadom) in next year’s draft and who are unlikely to get any comp picks next year, I make that move, and I promote Alfred Morris from the practice squad to fill the opening.
The Giants have two more games against divisional opponents, starting with a home contest next weekend against the Washington Football Team before hitting the road to go down the Turnpike to visit the Philadelphia Eagles.
Washington, who benched quarterback Dwayne Haskins and demoted him to third-string, didn’t quite get the jumpstart they were seeking in their game this week, falling to the Rams 30-10, which drops their record to 1-4. The Giants are 4-2 against Washington since the 2017 season and have won the last three games in a row.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were no match for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who dismantled them 38-29. The Eagles now hold a 1-3-1 record as they continue to fight injuries and their incompetence in what is otherwise a wide-open NFC East division.
The Giants last beat the Eagles in a regular-season game on November 6, 2016, a 28-23 victory at home. They last beat the Eagles on their home turf on October 27, 2013, in a low-scoring 15-7 decision.
The Final Word
The Giants need to stop talking about being in reach for the division lead, because it’s clear to these eyes that this team is a long way off, even if it should manage to steal a win here and there.
Seriously, before the Giants can run, they better learn how to crawl and that starts with winning a game—any game.
Right now, given how they are still trying to figure out who they are as a team and play fundamentally sound football to where they’re not hurting themselves as they did this week.
Until they do so, they have no business even thinking about challenging for the NFC East, no matter how much the division is up for grabs.
Last week I came down somewhat hard on receiver Golden Tate for his involvement in the game-ending brawl with Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
While I still think the entire thing was unnecessary, I owe an apology to Tate, whom I initially believed to be equally responsible for the whole ugly affair, but who was indeed trying to defend himself based on the league’s findings from the overaggressive cornerback.
I’m an older sibling, so I understand where Tate was coming from. And I tip my hat to him for agreeing to go on a conference call with reporters last week, knowing full well that the subject was going to come up.