It’s dangerous to make sweeping judgments about the course of a season after just a game. Or even just a month.
So for all the well-deserved criticism of the Giants’ performance in a 19-3 loss to the Cowboys, particularly the brutal showing on offense, this is no time to suggest the Giants are about to go into free fall. The NFL season is too long, the variables too great, and the twists and turns too frequent and dramatic to go all “hot take” and sound the alarm.
But it isn’t too soon to suggest that Ben McAdoo must prove to his players, his coaches and, just as importantly, the paying customers that he has better answers than the ones he offered Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
He built an impressive resume as offensive coordinator in his first two seasons with the Giants, and McAdoo the head coach has earned genuine respect inside the locker room. It’s McAdoo the offensive play-caller who must figure out a better plan than the one the Giants used against the Cowboys. And the ones they used down the stretch last season, when they made the playoffs by virtue of what happened more on defense than on offense.
McAdoo has presided over an offense that hasn’t scored 20 points in a game over his last seven. If not for the fine work of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was passed over in the Giants’ coaching search two years ago, this team wouldn’t even be in the conversation for another playoff run, no less a meaningful shot at a fifth Super Bowl championship.
The defense was good enough against the Cowboys, keeping the defending NFC East champs to 19 points. That’s about all you can ask for, even if the Giants could have been better on third down and even if they gave up too many chunk plays that gave Dallas a telling advantage in field position. But scoring defense is what counts most, and keeping the Cowboys under 20 points should have at least made this game competitive.
But McAdoo’s offense floundered nearly the entire game. There were continual three-and-outs and a woeful running game, and Eli Manning was under such duress he was forced to throw way too many checkdowns. The blocking of a line that entered the season as the biggest question mark did nothing to assuage those concerns. The Cowboys didn’t even have to blitz much — instead they used stunts by linemen to fool the blockers — and therefore could devote more manpower to defending the pass.
McAdoo said the Cowboys used more zone defense than the Giants expected. But he ended up being schooled by wily defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who solved the Giants’ offense at every turn.
McAdoo refused to single out anyone — including himself — when assessing the damage. “There were just breakdowns across the board,” he said. “It wasn’t one group or one position or one player. There was enough spread around.”
He didn’t include coaching in there, but he should have, because he was badly outcoached on a big stage. It didn’t help that McAdoo didn’t have his most prolific playmaker, Odell Beckham Jr., who is still not right after suffering an ankle sprain three weeks ago. But these weren’t the ’85 Bears the Giants were up against. That was about as bad an offensive performance by the Giants since McAdoo became their offensive coordinator in 2014, and he needs to find a way to make this work.
He still has the luxury of time just one week into the season, and has an extra day to prepare for next Monday night’s home game against the Lions. But on a night when the Giants will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their unlikely run to Super Bowl XLII, McAdoo needs to make sure this year’s team is worthy of one day being in the conversation with that one.
Or else a team that came into this season with what appeared to be legitimate promise risks becoming a colossal disappointment.
It’s up to the coach to make sure it doesn’t happen.
The Giants haven’t scored 20 points in a game since last Nov. 27, when they put up 27 in a road win at Cleveland. Their seven-game string of offensive inefficiency:
Week 13: Steelers 24, Giants 14
Week 14: Giants 10, Cowboys 7
Week 15: Giants 17, Lions 6
Week 16: Eagles 24, Giants 19
Week 17: Giants 19, Redskins 10
WC Game: Packers 38, Giants 13
Week 1: Cowboys 19, Giants 3