Well, at least the Giants did one thing right.
At least they did the sensible thing and decided not to subject Odell Beckham Jr. to any further damage to his injured left ankle, making him inactive for Sunday night’s season opener in Dallas.
But that was it. On a night when the rest of the Giants’ players and coaches needed to step up against their biggest rivals, they laid an egg the likes of which we haven’t seen for quite some time.
It was a pathetic way to start the season, a 19-3 loss to a Cowboys team they beat twice last season on the way to their first playoff appearance since their Super Bowl run in the 2011 season.
Not having Beckham certainly was a factor in game-planning against a resourceful Cowboys defense. But c’mon. If the Giants are as good a team as they’ve made themselves out to be, they’ve got to find a way to overcome Beckham’s absence and at least make it a competitive game.
Beckham is a great player — a difference-maker and a generational-type player. But he’s not a franchise quarterback, so there’s no excuse for this team’s inability to put up a better fight. Especially given that the Giants swept Dallas last season, including a Week 1 road win.
Coach Ben McAdoo, who presides over an offense that was a problem all last season, stated the obvious after Sunday night’s stinker when asked what it meant not to have Beckham.
“We have plenty of players who can make plays on the offense outside of Odell,” he said. “That’s no excuse.”
No excuse at all.
The Giants went to great lengths to address deficiencies in the offense, signing free-agent receiver Brandon Marshall and free-agent tight end Rhett Ellison and drafting tight end Evan Engram in the first round. But the offense still was a collective non-factor — from Eli Manning facing consistent pressure because of continued problems on the offensive line, to a running game stuck in mud for most of the game, to Marshall’s only catch coming on the last play of the game.
Manning was 29-for-38 for 220 yards, no touchdowns and one interception, and the offense scored fewer than 20 points for the seventh straight game. The quarterback refused to look anywhere but in the mirror.
“I think the whole offense needs to be better, and it starts with me,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job. I’ve got to be better prepared and make this team better. I’ll start with me and go from there.”
Manning again was besieged by the opposing defense. The Cowboys’ defensive line used stunts and some other trickery to fool the Giants’ offensive linemen, and Manning paid the price, finding himself with too little time to set up for his throws. The running game produced only 35 yards.
McAdoo, the play-caller, continued to struggle against teams using only the most basic defense. The Cowboys used more Cover-2 zone against the Giants than they had in last season’s matchups, and McAdoo couldn’t properly adjust with his play-calling. One of the reasons the Giants added Ellison and particularly Engram was to better deal with zone coverages, but Engram had only 44 yards on four catches and Ellison had one catch.
Not having Beckham hurt, but that’s still no excuse for the Giants to struggle this badly. “Obviously, [Beckham] is a tremendous player, but we got [other] players,” Manning said. “We got to play better than that.”
They do. And if the Giants are to be considered among the NFC’s elite teams, they’ll have to figure out how to deal with situations like this.
Unless it’s Manning who can’t play, there’s no excuse for a performance like this one.
Not even the absence of a dynamic playmaker like Beckham. If he makes that much of a difference, this team is in some serious trouble.