I thought putting up a 3-spot in Dallas in Week 1 last season was as low as it could get for the Giants on the road in Dallas. And then Sunday night happened.
Let me start by saying the Cowboys aren’t good this season. In fact, they suck. Their best player is out with an unfortunate illness, they released the team’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions and possibly the best kicker in the history of football, their Hall of Fame tight end retired, their quarterback can’t throw the ball accurately over seven yards, their running back is in effective without the offensive line completely healthy, they don’t have a No. 1 wide receiver and they might not even have a real No. 2 and their defense is blah. So yes, the Cowboys suck.
All of this was evident in their Week 1 loss in Carolina when they put up 8. It’s why I was stunned to see the Giants getting so much disrespect on the money line and why I once again jumped on it. The idea that the Giants need to be at least 4-4 entering their bye week has always felt a little easier despite their schedule because of this game in Dallas.
It took three plays for all of that to go away. On the third play of the game, Dak Prescott hit Tavon Austin for a 64-yard touchdown. It was everything the Cowboys aren’t in 2018 and a play I wasn’t even remotely worried or concerned about occuring against the inconsistent Giants defense. But one minute and 34 seconds into the game, the Giants were down 7-0 and AT&T Stadium was rocking like it was the Super Bowl.
How did that play happen? How could Austin, a complete bust with the Rams, torch the Giants defense that bad? How could Prescott, who could barely achieve a first down passing against the Panthers a week prior make that pass? I have no idea.
The game never got better from there.
The Giants had five first-half possessions and punted on all of them. Then they fumbled to open the second half, giving the Cowboys three points to go down 10-0. Then they finally got the offense going, driving to the Cowboys’ 3 before settling for a field goal in true Giants fashion. After another punt, the Cowboys scored a second touchdown to take a 20-3 and end the game with 8:23 left to play. Sure, the Giants scored 10 garbage time points when the Cowboys were giving them the entire middle of the field, but the game was effectively over at 20-3. Before those 10 points were given to the Giants, they had scored one touchdown in seven-and-a-half quarters of the season. The 20-13 final score is in no way indicative of what happened in the game.
The only thing to take away from this game was how bad the offensive line was and it was bad as the line allowed Eli Manning to get sacked six times for a combined loss of 59 yards. When Manning wasn’t getting sacked, he was getting hurried or hit, forced to dump the ball off to Saquon Barkley 14 times (he was targeted 16 times), only being to complete four passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and three passes to Sterling Shepard, including the garbage time stats.
If someone wants to think Manning is no longer a starting quarterback, they’re wrong, but they can have that opinion as long as it’s not based on his actual abilities. Manning can still throw and can still throw the deep ball and his health is fine and he should still have his consecutive start streak intact. He’s not mobile, and he never has been, and certainly isn’t going to start being at age 37. But no mobile quarterback would be able to produce with this offensive line. It’s impossible to produce when the ball is hiked and you’re already about to be hit.
Unfortunately, Pat Shurmur’s illogical in-game decisions will be lost in all the attention the offensive line will receive. On the Giants’ first possession of the game, the Giants had fourth-and-1 on their own 48 and Shurmur decided to punt. In the second quarter, the Giants had a fourth-and-1 on their own 35 and Shurmur decided to go for it. Later on that same drive, the Giants had a fourth-and-1 on their own 46 and Shurmur decided to go for it again. I love his aggressiveness to go for it the second and third times, but how can he defend not going for it on the 48, but going for it on the 35? I don’t want decisions being made by his gut. I don’t want someone coaching the Giants who stays on 16 with the dealer show a 7 in blackjack sometimes, but hits with the same hand other times. It makes no sense. The decision not to go for it on the 48 immediately after the Cowboys’ big-play touchdown likely changed the momentum in the game and quite possibly changed the game as a whole. Luckily for Shurmur, his Hall of Fame quarterback, who didn’t stand a chance behind his embarrassing offensive line will be dealing with all the criticisms from the game.
Those dreams of winning the division or even making the playoffs are now on the brink of destruction. The Giants are 0-2 and everyone knows the history of 0-3 teams: they don’t make the playoffs. The Giants are now faced with going 4-2 before their bye week and essentially 10-4 the rest of the season and there was absolutely nothing on Sunday night that showed that that is even a remote possibility.
The good news is if the Giants win next week, their season is saved. And if they don’t win, well every Giants fan got about 39 hours of their life back that they would have wasted watching this team in the remaining 13 games after Week 3.
The Giants will once again play a must-win game in Week 3 in Houston. The NFL playoffs don’t start until January, but for the Giants, the playoffs start on September 23.