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HomeSPORTSGiants’ Promising Start Fades Under Cowboy Pressure

Giants’ Promising Start Fades Under Cowboy Pressure

Daniel Jones took five sacks as the Giants’ offense failed to make a case it should remain intact.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One drive late in the fourth quarter Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys summed up the state of the Giants perfectly. Trailing by 7 with about seven minutes remaining, Daniel Jones threw two of his best passes of the night, but his receivers, Sterling Shepard and Kenny Golladay, dropped them.

The drive stalled at the Giants’ 22-yard line, and KaVontae Turpin’s punt return put the Cowboys in position for a 44-yard field goal, essentially sealing the contest, which finished as a 23-16 Dallas victory.

“You can’t let these things linger, just like you can’t let a win linger,” the first-year coach Brian Daboll said in a postgame news conference. “To ride the roller coaster, there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs throughout the year with any team.”

The optimism surrounding the Giants’ first 2-0 start since 2016 quickly turned to frustration as the game opened with a sloppy first half in which both teams missed field-goal attempts and went into halftime with the Cowboys ahead, 6-3. Dallas receiver CeeDee Lamb also dropped a potential touchdown pass.

It soon transformed into a back-and-forth affair, as both teams scored rushing touchdowns on successive drives. After the Giants opened the second half with Graham Gano kicking a 51-yard field goal to tie the score, the team’s next possession finished with running back Saquon Barkley sorting through a congested line of scrimmage to burst into the end zone for a 36-yard score to put the Giants up by 13-6 after the extra point.

The Cowboys responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with an Ezekiel Elliott 1-yard touchdown run.

But in the fourth quarter, Giants errors allowed Dallas to pull away. On a Cowboys’ first-and-10 from the Giants’ 27-yard line, a defensive breakdown allowed Dallas quarterback Cooper Rush to find Lamb for a 26-yard completion. Lamb finished the drive with an acrobatic one-handed catch for a 1-yard touchdown that pushed the score to 20-13 with nearly eight minutes remaining.

Jones could find no such breakthroughs. He finished with 196 passing yards and was sacked five times as the Cowboys’ pass rush constantly pressured him.

In the Giants’ final offensive possession, with about one minute remaining and a chance to tie the game, Jones threw an interception to cornerback Trevon Diggs, ending any comeback attempt.

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But Jones’s teammates said they admired his toughness and blamed the offensive performance on drops and poor protection.

“We have to be better — we have to make plays for him,” Barkley said after the game. “Daniel is a hell of a competitor.”

On the Giants’ last offensive play, Shepard appeared to injure his leg and was carted off the field. Barkley, who is trying to revive his career after years of serious injuries, rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.

The Giants had earned close victories in their first two games, overcoming a 13-point deficit to beat the Titans, 21-20, in Week 1 and besting the Panthers, 19-13, in a sluggish offensive outing in Week 2. The contests allowed Daboll and the new general manager, Joe Schoen, to evaluate their roster with an eye toward the future. Because of questionable contracts doled out by the previous leadership group, the Giants’ brass entered the season with salary-cap trouble. Next year, when those contracts are alleviated, they will have an expected $60 million to operate in free agency. The Giants this off-season must also decide on the future of Jones and Barkley, who are both playing on the last years of their rookie contracts.

“I think where we are right now, we’re going to compete as hard as we can in 2022 with what we have and continue to turn over the back end of the roster,” Schoen said in an interview at the Giants facility in late August. “But you come out of it next year maybe in good financial health and a second draft and really start to really build the foundation. We’re going to try to build it the right way.”

The new leadership has been bold in its strategy, and has not apologized for its methods. Golladay, the receiver acquired in free agency by the Giants’ former leadership last season, has played sparingly, as has the 2021 first-round pick Kadarius Toney.

“I think something we want to create is as competitive of a team as we can,” Daboll said last week in a news conference. “Regardless of where you’re drafted, how you got here, how much money you make, we believe in everybody goes out there and competes, and we play the guys that earn the right to play that week.”

The rookie offensive tackle Evan Neal struggled on Monday night, allowing three sacks against the veteran defensive tackle DeMarcus Lawrence. Kayvon Thibodeaux, the rookie edge rusher who played in his first game for the Giants since injuring his knee in a preseason game, registered one tackle.

The Cowboys, contrastingly, won while overcoming key injuries and mistakes. The backup quarterback, Rush, playing while Dallas’s star quarterback, Dak Prescott, recovers from thumb surgery, threw for 215 yards and a touchdown, while the running backs Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for 178 rushing yards. Lamb caught eight passes for 87 yards and a score.

2022 NFL season, Week 3: What we learned from Cowboys’ win over Giants on Monday night

No Dak, no problem. Cooper Rush started his second game of 2022 and once again got the job done, completing 21 of 31 passes for 215 yards and a crucial touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb to push the Cowboys ahead of the Giants midway through the final quarter. Through two games, Rush has handled the monumental responsibilities of a Cowboys starting quarterback with grace, showing he’s capable of handling the reins while Dak Prescott recovers. His performance helped the Cowboys out gain the Giants by more than a yard per play, and his series of completions on the aforementioned touchdown drive — including a bullet to Lamb to convert a fourth-and-4 — powered the Cowboys to a big win early in the season. We’ll leave the illogical quarterback controversy discussion for Twitter users to kill time in the days ahead, and in its place we can acknowledge Rush has certainly helped himself a whole lot with his play in the last two games. Dallas is 2-1 because of it.

The Giants’ line still has problems. The statistics don’t show it, but Daniel Jones played quite well (save for his final attempt, which ended in the hands of Trevon Diggs). Jones looked like the quarterback Giants fans have been praying he’d become for the last few years. He was poised, and even if some of his attempts came a tick too slow, he still let it rip throughout the night. Unfortunately, his receivers often didn’t do him any favors on the other end of his passes, nor did those tasked with protecting him. This loss is not on Jones, but the offensive line, which surrendered QB pressures on an astounding 40.5% of his dropbacks Monday night. Jones was quite literally under duress for much of the game, was sacked five times, and still found a way to keep the Giants afloat. He just never had enough time to get settled, which points more toward New York’s current state up front. Rookie tackle Evan Neal — the chosen target of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — won’t want to watch this tape, but it will be a valuable teaching tool for the first-round pick.

Saquon is…back? Saquon Barkley leads all running backs in rush yards over expected through three weeks (+112) and trails only Lamar Jackson among all positions. Barkley gained 27 of that RYOE total on Monday night, with +31 coming on his 36-yard touchdown run. That play was a longtime coming for Giants fans, who have been forced to wait years for Barkley to return to the form that saw him selected second overall in 2018. Barkley finally appears healthy and capable of making a weekly difference for this Giants offense, displaying the burst, agility, change of direction and top speed that once endeared him to the entire NFL. The timing is great, of course, coming in a contract year. If he can stay healthy all season, the Giants will undoubtedly be in a better position in each game because of his contributions.

Dallas’ rushing attack: Also back. A tip of the 10-gallon hat is due to both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, who combined to rush for 178 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Their efforts perfectly insulated Rush, establishing a ground attack that controlled the game and helped Dallas’ offense move the ball consistently throughout the night. Penalties undercut their offensive ambitions, but Elliott stepped up in a couple of key short-yardage moments on a drive that ended with a game-tying, 1-yard Elliott score. The threat of the run also helped keep New York’s defense honest, affording Rush the opportunities to push the ball down the field. It was especially valuable on the drive that produced the decisive touchdown, and much of the credit is due to the insertion of Jason Peters at left guard. The perfect example came on third-and-12 in the first half, when Dallas called a toss left and easily picked up the first down on a 27-yard Elliott run. This is what made the Cowboys an elite team early in Elliott’s career, and while he’s not the same home run hitter of years past, the one-two punch of Elliott and Pollard can be a real weapon for Dallas if it keeps blocking this well up front — regardless of who is playing quarterback.

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Dallas’ defense is more than just Micah Parsons. The second-year linebacker is an absolute game-wrecker, but Monday night truly belonged to Demarcus Lawrence. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn played around with Lawrence’s alignment for much of the night, causing issues for New York’s maligned offensive line, and Lawrence capitalized to the tune of three sacks and four pressures. Parsons chipped in four more pressures, with the two teaming up with Dorance Armstrong (four pressures, one sack) to harass Jones all night. Dallas finally took advantage of the success up front when Diggs made a diving interception to seal the win, capping a night that should make Quinn proud of his unit’s consistent ability to make a difference. It’s going to matter much more in the weeks ahead.

Dallas’ defense is more than just Micah Parsons. The second-year linebacker is an absolute game-wrecker, but Monday night truly belonged to Demarcus Lawrence. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn played around with Lawrence’s alignment for much of the night, causing issues for New York’s maligned offensive line, and Lawrence capitalized to the tune of three sacks and four pressures. Parsons chipped in four more pressures, with the two teaming up with Dorance Armstrong (four pressures, one sack) to harass Jones all night. Dallas finally took advantage of the success up front when Diggs made a diving interception to seal the win, capping a night that should make Quinn proud of his unit’s consistent ability to make a difference. It’s going to matter much more in the weeks ahead.

The Giants’ line still has problems. The statistics don’t show it, but Daniel Jones played quite well (save for his final attempt, which ended in the hands of Trevon Diggs). Jones looked like the quarterback Giants fans have been praying he’d become for the last few years. He was poised, and even if some of his attempts came a tick too slow, he still let it rip throughout the night. Unfortunately, his receivers often didn’t do him any favors on the other end of his passes, nor did those tasked with protecting him. This loss is not on Jones, but the offensive line, which surrendered QB pressures on an astounding 40.5% of his dropbacks Monday night. Jones was quite literally under duress for much of the game, was sacked five times, and still found a way to keep the Giants afloat. He just never had enough time to get settled, which points more toward New York’s current state up front. Rookie tackle Evan Neal — the chosen target of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — won’t want to watch this tape, but it will be a valuable teaching tool for the first-round pick.

Saquon is…back? Saquon Barkley leads all running backs in rush yards over expected through three weeks (+112) and trails only Lamar Jackson among all positions. Barkley gained 27 of that RYOE total on Monday night, with +31 coming on his 36-yard touchdown run. That play was a longtime coming for Giants fans, who have been forced to wait years for Barkley to return to the form that saw him selected second overall in 2018. Barkley finally appears healthy and capable of making a weekly difference for this Giants offense, displaying the burst, agility, change of direction and top speed that once endeared him to the entire NFL. The timing is great, of course, coming in a contract year. If he can stay healthy all season, the Giants will undoubtedly be in a better position in each game because of his contributions.

Dallas’ rushing attack: Also back. A tip of the 10-gallon hat is due to both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, who combined to rush for 178 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Their efforts perfectly insulated Rush, establishing a ground attack that controlled the game and helped Dallas’ offense move the ball consistently throughout the night. Penalties undercut their offensive ambitions, but Elliott stepped up in a couple of key short-yardage moments on a drive that ended with a game-tying, 1-yard Elliott score. The threat of the run also helped keep New York’s defense honest, affording Rush the opportunities to push the ball down the field. It was especially valuable on the drive that produced the decisive touchdown, and much of the credit is due to the insertion of Jason Peters at left guard. The perfect example came on third-and-12 in the first half, when Dallas called a toss left and easily picked up the first down on a 27-yard Elliott run. This is what made the Cowboys an elite team early in Elliott’s career, and while he’s not the same home run hitter of years past, the one-two punch of Elliott and Pollard can be a real weapon for Dallas if it keeps blocking this well up front — regardless of who is playing quarterback.

Dallas’ defense is more than just Micah Parsons. The second-year linebacker is an absolute game-wrecker, but Monday night truly belonged to Demarcus Lawrence. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn played around with Lawrence’s alignment for much of the night, causing issues for New York’s maligned offensive line, and Lawrence capitalized to the tune of three sacks and four pressures. Parsons chipped in four more pressures, with the two teaming up with Dorance Armstrong (four pressures, one sack) to harass Jones all night. Dallas finally took advantage of the success up front when Diggs made a diving interception to seal the win, capping a night that should make Quinn proud of his unit’s consistent ability to make a difference. It’s going to matter much more in the weeks ahead.

Next Gen stat of the game: Cooper Rush completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown against the blitz.

NFL Research: With the Monday night victory, Cooper Rush joined Roger Staubach and Jason Garrett as the only Cowboys quarterbacks in franchise history to win their first three career starts.

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