Restless Dexter Lawrence is path to Giants’ first victory in Arizona: ‘I hate losing’

The path to the Giants’ first win Sunday in Arizona leads straight through Dexter Lawrence.

The way the L.A. Rams always follow Aaron Donald’s lead is the way the Giants need to follow Lawrence to a bounce-back game now.

The proud, second-team All-Pro defensive tackle was seething a bit on Thursday, four days removed from a 40-0 blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

He was asked if he had played well in defeat and won his matchup with Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz.

“What did it look like?” Lawrence shot back. “Ask him.”

Lawrence quickly lamented: “Obviously it wasn’t good enough. But I’m all about dominating the guy in front of me.”

This is the angry, restless, 6-4, 340-pound leader the Giants (0-1) should follow to victory on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., against the Cardinals (0-1).

Arizona center Hjalte Froholdt is on his third team in five seasons. Lawrence is taking no prisoners. He said this preseason that he was done building; it was time for the Giants to win and shine and contend for a Super Bowl.

“I hate losing,” he said in training camp.

The defense wasn’t the reason Sunday’s season-opener spiraled in the first half at MetLife Stadium, and they’re eager to put their stamp on a win.

“It starts with the leaders,” Lawrence said. “I’m excited about this week coming up.”

The defense was to blame, however, for how they finished the game in the second half.

On the first drive of the third quarter, Lawrence was consistently bullying Biadasz, but he subbed out for a breather. And Cowboys running back Tony Pollard promptly gashed the Giants for a 25-yard run, with defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson getting pinned down to open a wide hole on Dallas’ right side.

Safety Xavier McKinney could be seen showing frustration at the end of the play.

Eventually, it felt like the defense let go of the rope a bit under the weight of the ineptitude of the offense and special teams units. And KaVontae Turpin’s 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was an embarrassing play to put on tape for a lot of Giants defenders.

Azeez Ojulari, Nick McCloud, Bobby Okereke and McKinney were blocked much too easily. Isaiah Simmons provided minimal resistance as a second linebacker at the goal line.

Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said he didn’t think his players threw in the towel, but he definitely had a problem with the first drive of the second half, when Dallas increased its lead to 33-0.

“I just think it was one of those things [where] you just keep hammering the rock, hammering the rock,” Martindale said of the defense wearing down. “I didn’t think that anybody gave up, if that’s where you’re going. I don’t think that at all.”

“I wasn’t happy with the first series coming out of the half,” he added. “I was not happy with that. I told them that. But I think like everything else, it’s just little things that we need to fix. And I think we will.”

The Giants’ defense can become the Cardinals’ worst nightmare on Sunday, just like the Cowboys’ defense haunted Daniel Jones’ Giants offense last week.

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Arizona quarterback Joshua Dobbs fumbled three times and lost two in the Cardinals’ 20-16 season-opening road loss to the Washington Commanders.

The Cardinals had a measly 210 net yards of total offense, not much better than the Giants’ pathetic 171. There is an opportunity here. Lawrence said the defense is close.

“The chemistry of the defense is going through the roof,” he said. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been to where we want to be. We’ve been rolling at practice. We’re getting better.”

Second-year edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux must show up after a Week 1 dud. Okereke has to be better on the second level. McKinney has to be a ballhawk in the back.

Adoree Jackson has to give them more at corner. Leonard Williams, who flashed early in the Cowboys game, has to team up with Lawrence to terrorize the interior.

“Keep your composure,” Martindale said. “That’s what I told them. I don’t lose my composure. I’m going to be the same. We’ve just got to move on. I still think we’re a good defense.”

Lawrence is their leader, though. He is the fifth-highest paid D-tackle in the NFL now for a reason. And he played like it last Sunday in defeat.

“Our goal each week is to be dominant,” Lawrence said.

Now it’s time to dominate and lead the Giants to their first win — a must-win in the desert.