The Giants had eight months to fix their offense in the time between their final game of the 2016 season and Sunday night’s loss to the Cowboys. They did not. All the offseason moves, meetings and practices, and the game-planning that went into the season opener, produced three measly points. “No part of the offense was functional,” Ben McAdoo said after the game.
Now they have a week to figure out how to get it there.
That’s the challenge for the Giants as they close the books on the Cowboys and prepare for the Lions in Monday night’s home opener. After that performance at AT&T Stadium, they’ll gladly take all the extra time they can get.
“We have to make a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2,” McAdoo said on a Monday conference call. “We’re blessed to have a long week this week.”
The best thing that could happen would be for Odell Beckham Jr. to return to action. The best player on the team left a cavernous hole in the offense when he was inactive with a sprained left ankle Sunday night. But even with Beckham last year, the unit struggled to score, so there is no guarantee that his presence will be a cure-all for the problems showcased in the first game of the season.
No, the issues with this team seem to burn deeper. It wasn’t an abnormally bad game. Every team has those. It was actually a game like many the Giants have played over the past year. This is a team that beat the Cowboys, 10-7, last December. It’s a team that has not scored 20 points the last seven times they have taken the field.
“The way we looked tonight ain’t going to win us any football games in the NFL,” guard Justin Pugh said.
For his part, McAdoo’s answers to the questions he faced Monday were disappointingly similar to the answers he gave on a near weekly basis last season.
“There were just breakdowns across the board,” he said in this most recent iteration. “It wasn’t one group or one position or one player or whatever the case may be. There was enough [blame] spread around.”
There are very few things a team can do at this point to create a makeover. The Giants can’t acquire a new offensive line. They can’t throw out their playbook and start over.
“We have to learn and grow from it as a team,” McAdoo said.
Eli Manning, in his weekly radio appearance on WFAN, spoke vaguely about rebounding from the Cowboys loss.
“The coaches are going to jump on us and challenge us,” he said. “We have to practice better, we have to prepare better and make sure that if we make mistakes during the week, those don’t carry over. Just be sharper and make sure we’re dialed in to what we need to do to be a better team offensively.”
That the performance came on opening night did little to diminish its significance. It’s not so much the one in the 0-1 record that stands out. Every NFL team since 1973 has had at least one loss. Nobody’s perfect. Not in today’s league.
It’s more the zero. The nothing to show. The immediate and overwhelming lack of anything gained from all of that time and effort pointing toward a date and opponent that was circled on the calendar back in April.
But to score just three points, well, that brings it to a different level.
“A loss is a loss,” Manning said. “But I think the style of loss can make an impact on that, as well. Offensively, scoring three points is nowhere near where we want to be.”
The Giants haven’t been near that for so long, it’s fair to wonder when they’ll ever get close to it again.