Cowboys running back Rico Dowdle, center, scores a touchdown between Giants...

Cowboys running back Rico Dowdle, center, scores a touchdown between Giants cornerback Tre Hawkins III and long snapper Casey Kreiter, bottom, in the second half of an NFL game on Sunday in Arlington, Texas. Credit: AP/Roger Steinman

ARLINGTON, Texas — Thirty-three seconds into the game, coach Brian Daboll threw a challenge flag, seemingly regretted it, couldn’t take it back, went ahead with it and lost the challenge anyway.

It was a clunky start, but it ultimately didn’t matter.

What does matter is where these Giants go from here.

There was frustration on the field and in the locker room after Cowboys 49, Giants 17, a game that featured the hosts outgaining the visitors 640-172 in total yards.

Dallas didn’t score on its first two drives (despite a first-and-goal situation at the Giants’ 4 on the first one), but the Cowboys did on their third and kept pouring it on. It was 28-0 at the half. The Giants avoided a second shutout after losing to Dallas, 40-0, in their season opener, but there still was lots to be upset about.

On the sideline, Sterling Shepard tried to calm fellow wideout Darius Slayton after he argued with wide receivers coach Mike Groh.

That happens during losing seasons.

“Everybody’s frustrated. It’s as simple as that,” Shepard said after the Giants fell to 2-8. “You saw how the game went. We’re all competitors, we work our butts] off week in and week out, and we haven’t been getting the results that we wanted. So it’s going to be frustrating. And all we can do is stick together.

“In a time like this — I’ve been through this a couple of times — and what’s important is not breaking up within the team. Whatever we have to do to is what we have to do.”

Shepard has seen all of this before, but some of his teammates have not.

“All I can do is control what I can control, and that’s being a great teammate,” said Shepard, who caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tommy DeVito with six seconds left in the game. “What we got into on the sidelines was just that. That was what I could control at that moment. I was trying to be a great teammate to and trying to keep him motivated to go out there. I know it’s hard. I’ve been the starting ‘Z’ receiver and was not getting the targets I wanted.

“It’s frustrating. We’re not winning games. That’s what it comes down to. When I get in the game, I try to make something happen, try to give the offense energy, a spark. That’s what I’m here to do and I’m going to play my role to the max. Whatever they feel like I can do, I’m going to do.”

At least as concerning for the Giants has to be a defense that let Dak Prescott and Dallas go up and down the field. He was 26-for-35 for 404 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Backup Cooper Rush got into the game, too, and completed 7 of 9 passes for 68 yards with an interception.

CeeDee Lamb had 11 catches for 151 yards, and he wasn’t even the Cowboys’ leading receiver in yards. Brandin Cooks had 173 on nine receptions, including a touchdown.

In red-zone efficiency, the Cowboys (6-3) scored six TDs on seven trips. The lone stop came on their first drive when Dexter Lawrence and Azeez Ojulari stopped Tony Pollard on fourth-and-goal from the 2.

Are the Cowboys a better team? Of course. But the Giants didn’t give themselves much of a chance, and not just because DeVito, a third-stringer just a few weeks ago, was making his first NFL start. He was 14-for-27 for 86 yards, two TDs and one interception.

Daboll said he will start again next Sunday at Washington. “I thought he competed, did some good stuff,” Daboll said. “That’s why we competed the whole way to the end.”

Sunday’s loss was more about the starters on defense, not the fill-in quarterback.

“I’m not playing well enough to help this team win,” inside linebacker Bobby Okereke said. “I’m not making impact plays to help this team win. I got to go back to the drawing board this week and do whatever I can to spark this team.”

He admitted he was too “slow to react” to a touchdown.

On this day, the mea culpas could have been team-wide. And all of this, of course, will reverberate into the coming week one way or another.

“I think it is difficult not to get discouraged, but that’s where leadership can show up,” Okereke said. “Do what you can to stay encouraged, not discouraged. Obviously, no one likes this result. It’s tough, it’s embarrassing. But no one’s going to save us. The only thing we can do is control what we can control. That’s attitude and effort in practice and doing everything we can to turn this ship.”

The game started in challenging fashion for the Giants and never got easier.

DeVito, starting because Daniel Jones suffered an ACL tear last week and Tyrod Taylor has a rib injury, began his first drives at the Giants’ 1-yard line and 6-yard line. That seemed almost cruel.

“It’s tough,” said DeVito, who was sacked five times. “We put a lot into the week, a lot into the preparation, the meetings. We were just hurting ourselves. I don’t think they were doing so many things to stop us as we were stopping us. Obviously, it’s not what we want. We have to play better. In the second half, we started to click a little bit, but it was too late.”

Another frustrating loss in a season full of them. As Daboll said, “No fun to lose. No fun to lose.”

The turning point to this game came in the second quarter, when Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott found tight end Jake Ferguson for a one-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The drive went endline to endline, starting at the Dallas 4-yard line and ending with the score. The Cowboys converted five straight first downs on the drive, showing their dominance on this day.

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