ARLINGTON, Texas — The Giants have problems.
And their 0-2 record is the least of them.
They can’t run the ball effectively. Even Saquon Barkley struggles to gain positive yardage on his carries while the world waits for him to break off long runs that — Sunday night, at least — never materialize.
They can’t get Odell Beckham Jr. open in space and allow him to do his thing, which is making tacklers miss and turning short passes into dazzling highlight- reel plays.
They can’t protect Eli Manning, who was sacked six times as the Cowboys used a series of rudimentary stunts that baffled an overmatched offensive line.
So yeah, they lost to Dallas, 20-13, at AT&T Stadium, which puts them in a gigantic hole in the standings. But even worse than that, they’ve shown little to no indication that they have any ability to rectify the situation.
Pat Shurmur, who was supposed to add diversity and efficiency to the offense, has been unable to squeeze much from this group. Certainly not anything close to a victory.
“We didn’t do anything on offense well enough to win this game,” Shurmur said.
Worse, they didn’t do anything to engender confidence that they can win any going forward.
The Giants, who failed to cross the 50-yard line in the first half, were down 13-0 and 13-3 for most of the game. The only thing that kept it feeling close was the threat that one of the playmakers could do something special. When that failed to happen, they were a team spinning its wheels and sinking deeper into the sands of despair.
Beckham said the Giants have to do more with their routine plays and manufacture drives rather than wait for miracles. But . . .
“The guys we have on our team, it’s hard to say that because we are some of those home run-hitter guys and big-play guys,” Beckham said. “Today we obviously just didn’t have enough.”
The Cowboys (1-1) didn’t do anything tricky. They did exactly what teams have been doing to the Giants for the past three seasons. They put two safeties deep and kept a lid on the big plays, giving up underneath short gains all game. Sixteen of Manning’s 44 passes were to Barkley.
“You’d rather him not be catching all those checkdowns,” Shurmur said. “When you throw a lot of checkdowns, there are reasons for that because they’re legislating against some of the deeper throws.”
Barkley’s presence was supposed to change that and open everything up. He was supposed to be the one who demanded that defenses respect the run and bring extra personnel into the box. But with the Giants’ poor play on the offensive line, teams are able to stop him with minimal numbers (28 yards on 11 carries Sunday). Barkley makes would-be first tacklers miss routinely, but the swarm never seems to be far behind.
“I think it’ll get to the point where they can’t do it,” Beckham said. “At some point in time, it’s going to be hard for teams to play us the way they did.”
Until then, how can the Giants beat that umbrella defense?
“Hit the mid-range stuff and see if we can pop one?” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said with a shrug, offering more of a prayer than a strategy. “I don’t know. The coaches will figure out something.”
Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-yard touchdown run with 5:45 left made it 20-3 and put the game out of reach for the limp Giants. Manning hit Evan Engram for an 18-yard touchdown with 1:27 left to cut the deficit to 20-10. The Giants recovered the onside kick, and Aldrick Rosas’ 38-yard field goal with 11 seconds to play made it 20-13. Another onside kick went out of bounds to squash the Giants’ minuscule chances of a comeback.
The Giants came to Dallas hoping to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. Instead, they left with more issues than they arrived with. They return to the Lone Star State next week to face the 0-2 Texans.
“You can’t do anything about being 0-2 right now, so you have to figure out a way to get everything back on track,” Shepard said. “We have to put points on the board at the end of the day.”
Given the names the Giants have on offense, that should not be the struggle it has turned out to be.
Notes & quotes: Cornerback Eli Apple (groin) left the game in the third quarter . . . Center Jon Halapio was carted off in the third quarter after trainers applied an air cast to his right leg. He was replaced by John Greco.