Grading the Giants’ 23-16 loss to the Cowboys on Monday:
If you didn’t know better, you might think the plan of the offense was to let the pass rushers get around the edge and flush Daniel Jones from the pocket so that he could run for his life. It happened that often. Jones scrambled nine times for 79 yards and Saquon Barkley rushed 14 times for 81 yards, including a cutback 36-yard touchdown dazzler. The offensive line was a total failure, with five sacks and 12 quarterback hits allowed. And now the Giants’ only consistent receiver, Sterling Shepard, is staring at a potential season-ending knee injury. Kenny Golladay was catch-less.
The Giants can’t hang their hat on anything in this game. Stop the run? The Cowboys averaged 6.4 yards per carry in Leonard Williams’ absence. Defend the pass? Cooper Rush threw for 215 yards, completed darts on a fourth-and-4 and a touchdown fade on the same drive, and finished with a 98.2 quarterback rating. Zero takeaways and zero sacks. Adoree’ Jackson traveled with CeeDee Lamb and allowed eight catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Here’s a couple highlights: The Giants stopped eight of 13 third-down attempts and held for two field goals on two first-half red-zone possessions.
Graham Gano is so automatic that it was stunning to see his 47-yard field goal attempt blocked at the end of the opening drive. It was his second miss in his first 52 attempts inside the 50-yard line since joining the Giants in 2020. He rebounded to make kicks from 42, 51 and 51 again. Richie James gained one return yard after fielding two punts. A killer was allowing a 28-yard punt return to KaVontae Turpin in the fourth quarter so that the Cowboys were in possession to kick a field goal and open up a 23-13 lead without even gaining a first down.
Could the Giants have tried something else to better protect Jones, especially shading help to right tackle Evan Neal as he allowed three sacks to Demarcus Lawrence? More max-protection with running backs and tight ends, perhaps. The turning point was head coach Brian Daboll’s decision to burn a fourth-quarter timeout on defense to prepare for a fourth-and-4 and then, after the Cowboys completed a pass and were given a first down, not throwing the challenge flag before the next snap after Lamb was dropped by safety Dane Belton within inches one way or another of the line to go.