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Daniel Jones had the moment in hand, with a chance to turn his doubters into believers. He had the ball in his hands in a tie game, with 1:50 remaining, probably only needing about 40 yards to get into game-winning field goal range.
But turning his doubters into believers would have to wait.
Jones, under heavy pressure, couldn’t move the ball, and the Giants were forced to punt the game away. The Cowboys responded, setting up for game-winning, 34-yard field goal and a 37-34 win.
It was a heartbreaking way for the Giants to lose, especially since they were up 17-3 earlier in the game. They gave their finest offensive performance of the season, but couldn’t get the job done when it mattered most. As a result, they dropped to 0-5 on the year.
It would’ve been a huge win for the Giants, since it could’ve brought them within a half game of the lead in the awful NFC East. But more than that, it could’ve been a defining win for Jones, who has gotten off to a very shaky start this season. He was OK in this game, going 20 of 33 for 222 yards, but the offense couldn’t mount a touchdown drive after the first quarter. They’ve now had just that one touchdown in the last three games.
But a game-winning drive for the 23-year-old quarterback would’ve changed the narrative.
Instead, the Giants will carry all the same worries and concerns into next week. Again.
Here are some more takeaways from the Giants’ fifth loss of the year ...
- The 34 points look nice for a Giants team that only scored 47 in their first four games, but a look under the hood is not as enticing. They scored a touchdown on their opening drive – their first on any drive since Week 2 – but it was aided by two big Cowboys penalties. Jones went 3 for 3 for 47 yards on that drive. But after that, the offense became a pop-gun attack again, settling for little movement and nothing but field goals.
- The good news for the offense was signs of life from the rushing attack, including 60 yards on 17 carries from Devonta Freeman. They are not going to be able to sustain their offense in this post-Saquon Barkley world if they can’t get that running game going.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking the offensive line was much better. It wasn’t. Jones was pummeled again and on the run constantly. And outside of the first quarter there weren’t a lot of holes for the running backs to run through. LT Andrew Thomas struggled again, and his whiff on Demarcus Lawrence led to Jones’ lone turnover of the game (a fumble, recovered by the Cowboys and returned for a touchdown). And center Nick Gates remains very much a work in progress. There is a lot of pressure coming up the middle and very little push.
- Nice to see offensive coordinator Jason Garrett unveiling some razzle dazzle in his return to Dallas – especially early. He drew up a flea flicker that ended with an outstanding catch along the sideline by WR Darius Slayton. And the first touchdown was a two-yard end-around to TE Even Engram, who nearly lost yardage on the play but avoided Everson Griffen and got into the end zone. Of course, everyone’s favorite was the two-point conversion pass to Thomas. The Giants had their offensive linemen running routes and catching passes in practice on Friday. Now we know why.
- Speaking of razzle dazzle... Special teams coach Thomas McGaughey unveiled a fake field goal in the second quarter, and it worked! Almost. He caught the Cowboys sleeping and got a 27-yard touchdown pass from punter/holder Riley Dixon to a wide open Engram. But tackle Cam Fleming didn’t get set and the Giants got called for an illegal shift, nullifying the play. Joe Judge, the old special teams coach, was furious and smashed his headset. The Giants did salvage it with a 50-yard field goal by Graham Gano, but still...
- The Giants defense has had some really big plays this season, but maybe the biggest so far was the first quarter pick-6 by LB Kyler Fackrell. The interception was one thing – a ball that bounced off an through the hands of RB Ezekiel Elliott, but his rumbling, 46-yard return was pure effort and gave the Giants, at the time, a 14-3 lead. LB Blake Martinez also recovered a fumbled snap by Cowboys backup QB Andy Dalton in the fourth quarter. That would’ve been huge if it hadn’t only led to a field goal.
- Fackrell will be needed for plays like that, because it sounds like the Giants will be without LB Lorenzo Carter for a while. He suffered a non-contact Achilles injury in the first quarter. We’ll have to wait for a post-game update, but hearing “Achilles” and “non-contact” together is not a good sign. And remember, Oshane Ximines is already on injured reserve. The outside pass rush is now in the hands of Fackrell and Markus Golden.
- I’ve been saying this since last season, but it’s pretty clear now: Darius Slayton isn’t just the Giants’ best receiver, he’s a legitimate No. 1. If this offense ever gets clicking and his quarterback puts it all together, he has a chance to be a star. Against the Cowboys, he caught eight passes for 129 yards and he is clearly Jones’ go-to guy in big spots.
- The injury to Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was just devastating to watch – when his right ankle turned so awkwardly during a hard tackle by Giants DB Logan Ryan. It was immediately clear it was serious. And it was quite the sign of respect for him that several Giants players and Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett (the former Cowboys coach) joined nearly every Cowboys player in coming over to wish him well before he was carted off. Prescott was playing like an MVP through the first 4 ½ games. Veteran Andy Dalton has big shoes to fill.