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Grading the Giants: Improvement curve comes up short of victory

Daniel Jones #8 of the Giants looks to

Daniel Jones #8 of the Giants looks to pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images/Tom Pennington

OFFENSE: C

Well, they scored. Finally. After posting no more than 16 points in any of their first four games and 47 total in that span, they put up a season-high 34 points. It was also their first game gaining 300 yards of offense (which they hit on the nose). Evan Engram was an exciting part of the scheme, Devonta Freeman scored his first Giants touchdown and looked, at times, like the Pro Bowler he was with the Falcons, and Darius Slayton caught eight passes for 129 yards (not to mention a 31-yard TD negated by a pass interference call against teammate Damion Ratley).

But two things sour all of that. First, the fumble by Daniel Jones when DeMarcus Lawrence obliterated rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas for one of just two sacks allowed by the Giants, this one leading to a fumble (Jones’ fourth of the year and 22nd of his career) and a touchdown. Second, the chance to drive for the game-winning points on the final possession with the score tied and just under two minutes remaining. Jones’ last three passes were all to Dion Lewis, two of them complete, for a total of 1 yard.

DEFENSE: D

Maybe the grade should be a Cee and a Dee because CeeDee Lamb ate them up. The rookie receiver caught eight passes for 124 yards, breaking the Giants’ streak of eight consecutive games without allowing an opposing receiver to gain 100 yards (the longest in the NFL before Sunday).

The Giants did do some good things, such as scoring their first defensive touchdown of the season when Kyler Fackrell picked off Dak Prescott in the first quarter, or when Blake Martinez recovered a fumble in the fourth to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

But there were too many near-miss moments too, including Martinez’s missed tackle on Amari Cooper that might have squelched the final drive deep in Cowboys territory, an almost interception by James Bradberry late in the third. The Giants also need to clean up their 2:00 drives. Martinez called it "a splinter in our foot." More on that a bit later.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Graham Gano became the first Giants kicker to connect on three field goals of 50 yards or more in a single game. That’s the only reason the team avoids an F here, because Cam Fleming’s inability to get set on a fake field goal on which holder/punter Riley Dixon hit a wide open Evan Engram for a touchdown led to an illegal shift penalty and negated the score. "You prepare for something like that, you call it at a certain time, it came up, you want to see it work," Joe Judge said.

Dixon did have a booming punt that pinned the Cowboys at the 14 on their final drive, but they were able to move down the field and win the game anyway. The Giants also caught the Cowboys with 12 men on the field on another punt in the third quarter, that penalty pushing them into field-goal range for Gano’s 54-yarder.

COACHING: C

The Giants certainly opened up the offensive playbook with a flea-flicker, a pair of key handoffs to Evan Engram (who became the first Giants tight end to score a rushing TD since Aaron Pierce in 1996), and of course that fake field goal they’d been keeping in their holster for just the right time (if not the right execution). They even threw a two-point conversion pass to Andrew Thomas, making him the first player listed as an offensive lineman to ever do so in NFL history (the league instituted two-point options in 1994).

Defensively, the Giants need to figure out how to stop teams in two-minute drills. The Cowboys scored 13 points in the final combined 2:22 of the first and second halves. That’s unacceptable. The Giants were penalized eight times for 81 yards — and avoided two delay of games by calling timeouts just before the clock ran out — which is not only uncharacteristic but took two touchdowns off the scoreboard.

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