The New York Giants just had their best showing of the season by far, but still dropped to an 0-5 by falling to the Dallas Cowboys 37-34 .
The top story from this game is Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott‘s horrifying ankle injury, reminiscent of Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward’s injury a few years ago. Prescott, who had been playing on the franchise tag, will likely miss the rest of the year. His future with the Cowboys is now completely uncertain.
From a Giants perspective, this loss is a heartbreaker. They held Dallas’ potent passing offense in check. They had their own best offensive performance of the year. But they still managed to lose in the end. Bafflingly enough, two areas in which New York had previously excelled, discipline and run defense, were the ones that failed them most.
Coming into Sunday, the Giants were averaging only 23.25 yards in penalties per game. In Dallas, they committed eight penalties for 81 total yards, including two that negated scores. Near the end of the first half, an illegal shift call on tackle Cameron Fleming took back a touchdown pass on a fake field goal to Evan Engram. That forced the Giants to settle for three, and allowed the Cowboys to take a four-point lead into halftime after scoring on a trick play of their own, when reciever Cedrick Wilson threw a touchdown to Prescott. In the third quarter, an offensive pass interference on Damion Ratley wiped away another touchdown pass to Darius Slayton. Safety Adrian Colbert also committed two personal fouls that aided Cowboys scoring drives.
New York was fourth in the NFL with 3.6 rushing yards allowed per attempt by opponents prior to Sunday’s game. But they still allowed Dallas to rush for 126 total yards at 4.3 yards per attempt. The Giants only gave up 276 total yards through the air, which is well below the Cowboys’ standard, but they couldn’t stop tailback Ezekiel Elliott in the second half when it mattered.
These are just a couple frustrating examples of how a floundering team like the Giants can’t seem to put together a complete effort to earn a victory.
New York also had their own terrible injury news. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who had been playing very well in his third season, left the game in the first quarter with a non-contact achilles injury. Achilles injuries are typically quite serious, so Carter could be out for a significant amount of time.
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There were, though, things to be encouraged by from this Giants performance. The offense finally broke the 20-point barrier. Quarterback Daniel Jones had his first interception-free game of the season. The running game was effective, if not dominant, for a second straight week. Coordinator Jason Garrett’s offensive playcalling was for the most part creative and productive.
New York was in position to win it late. With just under two minutes left and the game tied at 34, Jones and the offense got the ball at their own 24-yard line. After only managing one first down due to a ferocious Cowboys pass rush, they punted the ball away. Dallas, with 52 seconds left, moved the ball quickly into field goal range thanks to two spectacular Michael Gallup catches and a blatant holding on B.J. Hill not called.
CLOSE UP OF THE MISSED CALL!
Unreal you don't call this 5 feet from your face. Ref even goes for the flag and pulls it back, why? pic.twitter.com/nGBOgkJnyB
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) October 11, 2020
A divisional loss to Dallas puts a serious dent into any quasi-delusional hopes of Big Blue making a run at the NFC East crown. But this team is showing signs it won’t be the basement dwelling pushover fans had feared a couple weeks ago.
Here are your Week 5 “Podium/Sodium Players”, i.e., three Giants players fans would like to reward for their play, and three they’re feeling pretty salty about.
Gold Medal: CB James Bradberry
It wasn’t a banner day for Big Blue’s defense as a whole, but Bradberry was once again a bright spot. He kept Dallas’ top wideout Amari Cooper to just 23 yards on two catches. Through five weeks, he’s been comfortably the best and most consistent Giant. If general manager Dave Gettleman gets fired at the end of the year, his signing of Bradberry this offseason will make a pretty awesome parting gift.
Silver Medal: WR Darius Slayton
Slayton needed to have a big day against this porous Dallas secondary for New York to have a chance. The Giants’ number-one receiver obliged, catching eight passes for 129 yards. He would’ve had a touchdown too if not for the pass interference on Ratley. It was an important bounce back game for the second-year pro after a few quiet weeks. He’ll need to maintain this kind of production to keep Big Blue’s offense afloat.
Bronze Medal: K Graham Gano
The Giants’ placekicker went four for four on field goal attempts on Sunday, including three of over 50 yards. When the offense stalled inside Cowboys territory, he was there to ensure possessions didn’t go for naught. His 12 points were vital in giving Big Blue a chance to win.
Salty: LT Andrew Thomas
The fourth overall pick from this year’s draft had a strong season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has struggled ever since. On the strip-sack fumble by Jones that gave Dallas their second touchdown, he got beaten clean around the edge by DeMarcus Lawrence. Thomas’ foot speed and hand placement have gotten him in trouble in pass protection. He’s still a rookie, so patience needs to be maintained for his development. But Giants fans are getting nervous with terror flashbacks of Ereck Flowers still in their minds.
Saltier: TE Evan Engram
Engram has become a weekly fixture of the Sodium Players. No matter his draft stock and physical talent, it’s clear he just can’t be relied upon as the focal point of a passing game. The tight end only had one catch for 16 yards in Dallas. He simply doesn’t have the route running skills to get open in the middle of the field where Jones needs him to work. Engram did score a touchdown on an end-around, and was robbed of another on the negated fake field goal, so his presence was greater than his stat line would indicate. But it’s looking like the former first-round pick is nearing his end in Giants blue.
Saltiest: DL Leonard Williams
The Cowboys were missing three starters on their offensive line Sunday. Williams, the highest paid player on the Giants, was in great position to take advantage. Instead, he was virtually invisible. He had only one tackle on the day, and put no pressure on the quarterback. He was also part of a front-seven that allowed Dallas to gash New York on the ground in the second half. Williams has played well overall this season, so it’s hard to criticize him too severely. But the Giants can’t afford to have their big-ticket defensive lineman take weeks off against divisional rivals.