Jim Mancari, ContributorThe Giants’ undefeated streak at the new Cowboys Stadium eventually had to come to an end, but no one thought it would have ended in this fashion.
The Giants turned the ball over six times en route to an extremely frustrating 36-31 loss Sunday night to the Cowboys. Dallas scored 17 points off Giants’ turnovers.
For the offense in the preseason, the two main questions involved running back David Wilson adapting to a starting role and the offensive line trying to work through a multitude of injuries.
Of course, both areas contributed to the Giants’ loss, mainly Wilson’s two fumbles – one of which came on his very first carry of the season.
Wilson looked completely out of sorts, fumbling on 40 percent of his carries – two out of five. He seemed he might be redeeming himself after the opening fumble, but the second one, that was returned by Barry Church for a touchdown, cemented his seat on the bench for the rest of the game. It didn’t help that he missed several blitz pickups – an area that he apparently had improved on this offseason according to Giants’ offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
Don’t be surprised if the Giants sign an available running back this week – someone like Jonathan Dwyer or Michael Turner – to help strengthen the backfield. The Giants only rushed for a combined 50 yards, and Wilson will once again have to earn back Tom Coughlin’s trust before getting another chance. Talk about déjà vu.
Da’Rel Scott actually looked decent in his touches, but his poor timing on that screen pass led to the dagger being driven through the heart of the Giants.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, Eli Manning was constantly under pressure. David Diehl and David Baas can’t return soon enough.
Three turnovers in the first 6:10 wound up being a recipe for disaster. The game really shouldn’t even have been as close as it was at the end, but the Cowboys were unable to capitalize early on the Giants’ mistakes.
The interception from Manning to start the game was absolutely brutal, and his other one in the first quarter wasn’t pretty either. But from then until his deflected pass that Brandon Carr took to the house, Manning was spot on.
He finished the game 27-of-42 for 450 yards and four touchdowns, but it’s the three interceptions that clouded his performance. Those statistics look impressive, but with the Giants never leading in the game, Manning was forced to throw the ball constantly, thus adding to his stat line.
One positive to take away from Manning’s performance was his spreading of the ball to all his weapons. Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle all racked up over 100 yards receiving. Cruz’s three touchdowns were a great sign after he was banged up for most of the preseason. Nicks and Randle also made a few clutch catches each.
Even tight end Brandon Myers got in on the action, catching seven passes for 66 yards and touchdown, though most of that came on the Giants’ final drive when the Cowboys were playing a soft defense.
The entire first half was atrocious for the Giants, and Coughlin called it the worst half of football he’d ever seen. In addition to the turnovers, the G-Men were 0-for-2 in the red zone – a statistic that plagued the team last year. But the team finished off the game by scoring touchdowns on each of its three other trips inside the red zone.
When the Giants put up back-to-back touchdowns spanning the third and fourth quarters, it seemed like the script for another Manning late-game comeback was being written. But again, a devastating turnover was a fitting end to how the Giants’ offense had played all game.
The Cowboys dominated in time of possession, finishing with 37:10 compared to the Giants 22:50. The Giants’ defense obviously looked winded in this game, since they had barely any time to rest given the offense’s turnovers and a few quick three-and-outs.
The turnovers cannot become a habit for this team, especially against the Denver Broncos next Sunday. Let’s hope the jitters of opening night are out of Big Blue’s system, because that was a truly ugly performance.
If there is any shot of beating the Broncos, Manning will have to play a similar game without the turnovers, and the running game will have to be much more effective.
The Giants’ offense has its hands full to the brim. Let’s see how the unit responds.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.