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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Big Blue in big trouble after delivering a dud in Dallas

Eli Manning looked old, Odell Beckham Jr. looked invisible, Saquon Barkley looked overused and the much-maligned offensive line looked overmatched.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. points to

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. points to a first down after a catch against the Cowboys on Sept. 16 in Arllington, Texas.   Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tom Pennington

ARLINGTON, Texas

The win-now Giants still have not won, and now find themselves in major trouble even before the official arrival of autumn.

At least there were glimmers of positiveness in their 20-15 loss to the Jaguars in Week 1, a loss that looked even better after the Jags defeated the Patriots on Sunday.

Then came a Sunday night game against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, and it suggested nothing but a long week — and perhaps a long season — ahead after an embarrassing 20-13 dud on national prime-time television that was not as competitive as the final score might suggest.

Afterward, coaches and players were properly somber, with rookie running back Saquon Barkley spending nearly five minutes sitting motionless at his locker with a white towel on his head, pondering what went wrong. Or maybe he was just exhausted from catching a team-record 14 passes and carrying the ball 11 times.

What would the message be from an aspiring young team leader to his teammates?

“Stay together,” he said. “Every team in the NFL is really talented. I think a lot of teams separate themselves in the locker room. We can’t do that.”

But with a challenging schedule upcoming, this could get worse before it gets better, if that is possible.

The offense in particular was cause for concern, to say the least. Eli Manning looked old, Odell Beckham Jr. looked invisible, Barkley looked overused and the much-maligned line looked overmatched.

“It’s not good enough,” said Manning, who nevertheless insisted he has not lost confidence in the team or in himself.

Coach Pat Shurmur agreed, saying: “Eli is confident. He’s a pro and he battled throughout the game, and I thought he did a good job.”

He did not, despite his misleading 98.6 passer rating. But in fairness, he was sacked six times and took an additional lick on a third-down scramble. Then the Giants lost starting center Jon Halapio to what looked like a serious right leg injury.

The last time the Giants scored as many as 30 points was the last game of the 2015 season, when Tom Coughlin was the coach.

They rushed for 35 yards Sunday night and lost a total of 59 on sacks.

What happened to an offense that was supposed to be dynamic behind its three big stars, supplemented by the likes of receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram?

It was missing in action. Amazingly, the Giants could not even score on a drive that featured Shurmur twice going for it on fourth-and-1 inside his own territory and twice converting via quarterback sneaks, an extreme rarity for Manning.

Shurmur and his players said the Cowboys sought to take away deep passes in general and ones to Beckham in particular. Hence all the checkdowns to Barkley. But that is not the way this was supposed to work.

“I think at some point in time, it’s going to be hard for teams to play us the way they did,” said Beckham, who then acknowledged it is getting late early this season.

Without pass protection, nothing else will matter. Said highly paid tackle Nate Solder: “They blitzed. They ran stunts. They rushed four. They did a number of things and we didn’t pick up any of it.”

True enough.

At halftime, the Giants had 79 yards of total offense. Seventy-nine! They did not cross midfield until midway through the third quarter.

An 0-2 record is a problem for any team. It is an even bigger problem for a team with short-term aspirations, which was part of the point in keeping the 37-year-old Manning and drafting Barkley rather than a quarterback in the first round.

Yet here they are, a year after they began 0-5, with the also-desperate, also 0-2 Texans up next in Houston.

This might well get out of control quickly, and if it does, this time the Giants will not be changing head coaches in the offseason. The quarterback could be next.

 

 

 

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