Please do not be fooled by Eli Manning’s completion percentage (33-for-44) or passer rating (98.6), both of which fell into the range of respectability. The Giants’ inability to move the ball without dynamic plays from one of their superstar cogs continues to be the thing that holds them back. They are basically a home run hitting team, and every team that plays them moves the fences back to 600 feet. So it was great that the Giants got the ball in the hands of Barkley 25 times (11 carries, 14 receptions) but pitiful that it resulted in a combined 108 yards. The offensive line plays like it has never seen a stunt and expects every opponent to stand there like a blocking sled. The skill players are no better. Even when the Giants went with maximum protection, they had minimal chances to stop the pass rush. Fullback Shane Smith was asked to provide extra eyes in the backfield and failed terribly.
The Giants allowed 10 points in the game’s first nine minutes. Yuck. After that, though, they did seem to settle in for most of the rest of the game. “We did tighten up and we did the job,” safety Landon Collins said. They held Ezekiel Elliott to 78 rushing yards on 17 carries. It was Dak Prescott’s 45 rushing yards that killed them the most (with Texans QB Dashaun Watson on deck!). Prescott hit Tavon Austin on the big TD pass to open the scoring, but besides that one play he was pedestrian, finishing with 160 yards on 16-for-25 passing. The Cowboys converted 3 of 10 third downs and managed just 298 yards. For the second week in a row the Giants held an opponent to 20 points. That’s about what this defense was supposed to be, and that’s what they are. The only trouble is the offense was supposed to be better than this.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Riley Dixon’s first two punts were ugly. With a chance to pin the Cowboys deep, his first kick was instead fair caught at the 19, then his second punt sailed into the end zone for a touchback. Kalein Clay provides adventure on each of his return opportunities. After muffing one last week, on Sunday he called for a fair catch, tried to back away from the ball at the last moment, caught it on a short hop, and then was swarmed by the coverage. Aldrick Rosas was 2-for-2 on field goals (5-for-5 on the season), and the Giants did recover an onside kick with 1:25 remaining when Michael Thomas pounced on a fumble. The Giants needed a second onside recovery to have a last-second shot, which was probably too much to ask for.
The Giants seem unprepared for what teams are throwing at them. Twice they have started slowly on defense, seemingly caught off guard by a team’s gameplan, and twice they are outsmarted by simple maneuvers on the defensive line that have made their offensive blockers look like wide-eyed Times Square tourists. That Pat Shurmur was in desperation mode going for two fourth downs in the second quarter shows how much every drive means to the Giants. That he did not go for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield earlier in the first quarter was a head-scratcher. Shurmur’s biggest problems now are keeping the Giants together and focused, not having the defense turn on the struggling offense, and getting that first win before the season comes to a crashing end by October for the second straight year.