Kayvon Thibodeaux – © USA TODAY Sports
The Giants entered Week 3 undefeated for the first time since 2016. To provide context, that’s when they faced off against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins with leading rusher Matt Jones (retired 4 years ago) and top receivers DeSean Jackson (currently a FA) and Pierre Garçon (retired 3 years ago). Point is, this was a lifetime ago and the NYG faithful showed up to the stadium in team’s first ever “white out” amped and ready to rock as their team, in throwback all-whites, took on the 1-1 Dallas Cowboys in their road-blues that still, after all these years, just never look right.
Dallas came into the game with one of the most banged up offenses in football. They were without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, starting left tackle Tyron Smith, starting left guard Connor McGovern, starting receivers James Washington and Michael Gallup, and starting tight end Dalton Schultz. NYG came into this one relatively healthy, as outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari were on the field for the first time this season but without Leonard Williams. Advantage NYG.
Thanks to a holding penalty by third string left guard Matt Farniok, the DAL opening drive stalled near midfield. Once again, NYG was aided by a DAL penalty, this one defensive holding by linebacker Anthony Barr on third down which gave the NYG offense new life. A drive loaded with play-action and creative play design landed them in field goal range. Graham Gano came onto the field for a 47-yarder, but it was blocked by Dorance Armstrong who found a hole on the right side in the middle of the line, a theme of the night.
DAL put up the first three points of the game via a 26-yard field goal despite two more of their own penalties. NYG responded with three points as the game was now in the second quarter. Tony Pollard, the game’s leading rusher, broke off a 46-yard run on the next drive, landing them inside the NYG 20. The NYG defense held them to three points, however. That was where the score stayed for the rest of the first half. NYG did gain momentum on their two-minute drive at the end of the second quarter but another questionable offensive pass interference (this one called on Sterling Shepard) cancelled a play that would have landed NYG in field goal range. For the third straight week, NYG went into the half with under seven points.
The offensive line clearly did not come out of the locker room with a solution to getting absolutely man-handled by the DAL front. Had it not been for a questionable illegal contact penalty on corner Jourdan Lewis, NYG would have been three-and-out. Instead, the offensive line and offense overall got a second chance. The pass rush pressure remained constant, but Daniel Jones accrued 30 yards on two separate scrambles. Nevertheless, he was sacked twice and center Jon Feliciano was flagged for being illegally downfield on a 14-yard screen pass to Saquon Barkley. They settled on a 51-yard field goal attempt that Gano nailed through the uprights.
For the first time of the night, the Martindale defense forced a three-and-out against the DAL offense that was missing their starting quarterback, left tackle, left guard, two receivers, and tight end. More Jones scrambling and more creative play design landed NYG in DAL territory. Desperately in need of an explosive play, Barkley broke off an incredible 36-yard run that gave NYG their first and only touchdown of the night. It also gave NYG their first and only lead of the night.
It was time for Martindale and the NYG defense to contribute their side of winning football. They had played solidly to this point with minor hiccups here and there. Here we were in the back half of the third quarter and DAL had just 6 points and hadn’t scored a touchdown. DAL faced almost no resistance as they put together a nine-play drive, all of which gained yards. Ezekiel Elliott scored a one-yard touchdown (his 10th in 11 games vs NYG) to tie the game up at 13 as the fourth quarter began. NYG’s next drive stalled at midfield and DAL scored their second touchdown in as many drives via a one-handed catch by CeeDee Lamb. In a matter of nine minutes of game clock, the game went from 13-6 NYG to 20-13 DAL.
DAL padded their lead to ten via a 44-yard field goal with just over six minutes remaining. NYG was forced into pass-only situations as they needed chunk gains to have a shot at tying it up before the end of regulation. Jones faced more pressure than ever before in his career, and that is saying a lot. Somehow, they managed to get into field-goal range (with the help of a facemask penalty called on corner Kelvin Joseph) and Gano came through again on a 51-yarder.
Down seven, NYG was now in the phase of the game where they had to get a stop and call a timeout. Thankfully a bonehead play by the DAL offense, a failed third-down conversion that ended with tight end Jake Ferguson going out of bounds, stopped the clock at 1:52 as NYG was without a timeout. NYG had one more shot, albeit starting from their own 9-yard line. On the fourth play, after an Evan Neal false start, Jones was intercepted by 2021 All-Pro corner Trevon Diggs (who dropped an earlier INT) after David Sills fell out of his break. To add insult to injury, Sterling Shepard went down with a non-contact lower body injury and was carted off the field.
NYG loses, 23-16.
-Daniel Jones: 20/37 – 196 yards / 0 TD – 1 INT / 57.9 RAT
Jones also added 79 yards on just 9 carries (8.8 per). He was under duress the entire night against a formidable DAL pass rush and behind a leaky offensive line, especially the right side. It can be very hard to accurately evaluate a performance like this one. Listen to any quarterback talk about Jones and they will tell you it is almost impossible to play a normal version of the position in that kind of environment. If anything, I actually put this game in the “positive pile” when thinking about where his status will reside in January. Jones made a few tough throws, he had receivers drop multiple balls, and the DAL secondary was on point. Jones’ scrambling was 90% of the Giants offensive success. His accuracy was there, the juice on the ball was there, and his decision-making was there. Unfortunately, he is throwing to JV receivers behind a freshman-team offensive line.
-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 81 yards – 1 TD / 4 rec – 45 yards
18 touches for the team’s best player by a country mile, in a tight game where NYG had a second-half lead and where the passing game simply was not working. More on that awful note down below. Barkley’s touchdown run was about as nice a play as you are going to see in this league. The vision, the quick adjustment, the jump cut, and the breakaway speed can be such a downright lethal combination. If NYG wants their best shot at winning games, his touches need to be north of 20 at a bare minimum week in, week out and probably closer to 30. There is no debating it. He is ready and he is the one guy who changes the feeling of the entire offense when he gets the ball.
-Matt Breida has one carry for 3 yards on a 3rd-and-1 conversion. He did not see a ton of action but did allow 2 pressures in the fourth quarter in a pass protection role. The coaching staff needs to keep that weakness in his game in mind moving forward when Barkley comes off the field.
-I am going to start it off with Sterling Shepard. The 7th-year veteran led the team with 5 catches and 49 yards in what I expect to be his final game in a Giants uniform. He tore his ACL simply jogging up the field on the final offensive play of the game. Not sure if I have ever seen anything like that before. No cutting. No contact. No sudden burst. Just a light jog and he went down. I don’t want to kick the 29-year old while he’s down, but it was a poor night for a guy who is viewed as a leader on the ship that is being turned around. He had two drops and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct that led to a 15-yard swing in field position in the second half of a tie game. Fortunately for him, Barkley worked his magic and scored the team’s lone touchdown a few plays later. It was a bonehead mistake by a player that knows better. I like what Shepard had brought to the field and locker room over the years and I loved him out of Oklahoma in 2016. But he never quite got over the hump we were hoping he would. Sad to see him go out that way.
-Richie James and David Sills, starting receivers on an NFL football team, combined for 6 receptions for 56 yards. James also gained 4 yards on a carry. I don’t have much to report here. They were man-handled in coverage. The DAL secondary is better than most people know and these two just had no business trying to separate from them.
-Earlier in the week, Kenny Golladay (the highest paid player on the team) said, “I should be playing regardless.” I thought to myself and tweeted out, “Regardless of what?” Regardless of not being able to get open? Regardless of running routes like he has cinderblocks tied to his ankles? Regardless of last being a factor in this league three years ago? He had two shots at coming up with a big play in this game. He got his hands on the ball both times and both times the ball hit the ground. The second time, a fourth-quarter blatant drop was about as bad as you are going to see at the worst possible time. Regardless of anything, Golladay should continue to be forced to prove he deserves playing time. Nothing is free, go earn it.
-Daniel Bellinger caught 4 passes for 40 yards. He was a key focal point early in the game, going 3 rec / 34 yards in the first half. I was encouraged by his ball skills and quickness turning up the field. He has a sudden element to his game with the ball in his hands. Paired with his size and we are looking at someone who can turn into a focal point of the passing game soon. His blocking is still a work in progress. He gets in position, but the staying power isn’t there yet. Another thing he absolutely needs to improve is his chip blocking. He whiffed or made minimal impact several times and it hurt the pass protection in a big way.
-Chris Myarick allowed a sack and 2 pressures. He was brought into the game to help with pass protection, but did the opposite. Very poor showing for a guy who makes zero impact as a playmaker.
-Evan Neal had a rookie performance similar to what we saw out of Andrew Thomas on October 22, 2020 (Thomas’ rookie year). Neal ended this one with 3 sacks, 3 pressures, 1 false start, and a half-TFL. He was overmatched, plain and simple. The game looks a bit too fast for Neal right now. He was getting beat to his outside over and over, as that right foot just wasn’t getting off the ground and up the edge. He had a productive night in the running game and there were some solid recovery plays, but there is no disputing the fact he got crushed. These are called growing pains. And the thing I will be looking for will be his response in the coming weeks.
-Speaking of Thomas, he was near-perfect again. I noted just one pressure and that is hard to believe considering how much Jones was running away from blue jerseys all night. His run blocking was dominant as well. Just tremendous movement off the ball. The combination of twitch and power he plays with reminds me a lot of a young Tyron Smith.
-The interior was torched all night. Again, Jones just had no pocket to step up into, and because of that, he needed to evade laterally. When that happens, all hell breaks loose in pass protection. The lack of stability up front compounds the issue. Mark Glowinksi allowed 4 pressures. Ben Bredeson allowed 1 pressure and had a holding penalty cancelled by an intentional-grounding throw by Jones. He was also on the losing end of many battles in the running game. And Jon Feliciano allowed a TFL, a pressure, and was flagged for illegally blocking downfield on a 14-yard gain by Barkley. He also had a sack cancelled by a DAL penalty in the defensive backfield. Awful performance by this trio, just awful. Bredeson also was at fault for the blocked field goal in the first quarter.
-The much anticipated return and debut of #5 overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux was a bit scaled back as they restricted his playing time due to the knee. It was an underwhelming performance. He had 1 pass break up and a pressure (unblocked). He also lost the edge on two DAL runs to the outside. Thibodeaux looked hesitant. He didn’t have a power game on contact and the get off rivaled what we see out of Oshane Ximines.
-Azeez Ojulari made his 2022 debut a well. He was just as quiet, finishing with just 1 tackle and was shut out as a pass rusher in his 30 snaps. Ximines had 2 pressures (1 from the outside and 1 from the inside) while Jihad Ward had 6 tackles along with a pass break up.
-Leonard Williams missing a game due to injury for the first time in his career was deeply felt along the front. NYG allowed 178 yards on 28 carries to the Dallas dual-threat backfield and there was just one pressure by the group that included a lineman actually beating a blocker. That was by Dexter Lawrence, who also added 5 tackles and was a force inside. The likes of Nick Williams, Justin Ellis, and Henry Mondeaux lacked gap integrity for most of the night. They failed to come up big in key short yardage situations and the linebackers behind them just could not make up for it.
-D.J. Davidson played 12 snaps, one of which he jumped offsides on a 3rd-and-1.
-We saw a little more linebacker action against the run-heavy attack. Micah McFadden and Austin Calitro saw 30 and 13 snaps, respectively. The former, McFadden, had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, one of which he was untouched. He missed one tackle. McFadden has some all-or-nothing to his game. He is a bit of a risk taker and while I think that fits in well with this defense, I’m not sure his pure athleticism and recovery speed can handle that style play.
-Tae Crowder had 5 tackles and led the team with 4 missed tackles, a horrible number for a number one inside linebacker in a game where the defense was trounced in the running game. He showed poor effort on the Elliot touchdown where he didn’t even ponder trying to wrap up one of the best tackle-breakers in the league. He just ran into him and hoped it would work. Poor game by him.
-After an impressive first 2 weeks, we saw the ugly in Adoree’ Jackson. He was beat several times, including once for a touchdown that, in all honesty, he couldn’t do anything about as it was a brilliant throw and catch. But besides that, he was beat downfield by Lamb, allowed 7 catches total, and missed a tackle.
-Cor’Dale Flott did get the starting nod but I don’t think the staff trusts him yet, not for 60 minutes anyway. Fabian Moreau out-snapped him 39 to 19. Flott had a bad missed tackle and I saw more contact-based issues in coverage. He doesn’t look ready for the strength and power of the NFL game. His contact is light and easy to get by.
-Darnay Holmes had a quiet game. He wasn’t challenged much and had just one tackle. He was beat twice in the running game where he had outside responsibility. He also got away with two separate, blatant defensive-holding penalties as he continues to play too dependently on his hands.
-Xavier McKinney was the one star of the game defensively. He had impressive back-to-back plays where he recorded a TFL (the only one of the game for NYG) and then broke up a deep ball to CeeDee Lamb where he ran with him step for step and tracked the pass exceptionally well.
-Julian Love led the team with 14 tackles and added a pressure. The jack-of-all-trades didn’t miss one tackle and was often the last line of defense against an offense that could have easily had a few more explosive plays. Dane Belton saw just 11 snaps and looked overwhelmed in coverage a couple times. The game is moving a bit too fast for him right now.
-K Graham Gano 3/4 (Made 42, 51, 51, had one blocked)
-P Jamie Gillian: 3 punts / 45.0 avg – 35.7 net
-S Xavier McKinney, OT Andrew Thomas, RB Saquon Barkley
-OT Evan Neal, WR Sterling Shepard, LB Tae Crowder
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
1. Say what you want about a division rival and the shortcomings of Mike McCarthy and the Super Bowl drought. This team deserves a ton of respect for how well they’ve played without their starting quarterback, multiple pieces along the OL after losing 2 starters to free agency, and three main targets in the passing game. This is a sign of a winning team. They find ways to win, even though they’re missing a chunk of strong personnel, rather than just making a ton of excuses and complaints.
2. How far can DAL go? Let’s assume they eventually get their OL back together later in the year when Smith is ready. Let’s assume they get the likes of Michael Gallup, James Washington, and Dalton Schultz back in the next month. And let’s assume they get full-strength Dak Prescott back before Halloween. We have every reason to believe they will contend not only for the division, but the conference. Their defense has the upside of being special and if that offense can elevate their game just one or two levels, they have the goods.
3. How did DAL get here? Did you see the graphic that ESPN put up? They lead the NFL in players on the current roster that they drafted. I noticed this when maintaining their depth chart for Ourlads. While the number can be fluid based on practice squad / IR spots – I have 37 out of 53 players taken in the draft by this team. You can add in a few undrafted free agents as well. For reference, 24 of the currents Giants 53 were drafted (8 of those were from this past year alone). Jerry Jones is on the wrong end of jokes sometimes (he got fleeced in the Amari Cooper trade) but there is no disputing the fact this team knows how to draft. I’ve felt this way since I started really tracking the draft deeply in 2004.
1. I took this game as a reminder. A reminder that the team itself is not very good and they’re not ready for a long winning streak. They are competitive and I do think they’re heading in the right direction. I don’t say that with a moral victory kind of tone. I firmly believe it is the truth. The change can be felt and they’re on the move upward. But bad teams find ways to lose games. In the fourth quarter, NYG was down 20-13. On 2nd-and-8, Shepard drops a ball that would have been a deep completion. Then they get flagged for a delay-of-game penalty. Then Golladay drops a perfectly placed ball on 3rd-and-13 that had a shot at gaining the first down. That is the kind of drive at the most important point of game that losing teams put together. It’s not completely out of their system yet.
2. We can continue to harp on the shortcomings of the offense. That is fair. But I am more concerned with the defense. After keeping DAL down for most of the game with some help from the refs, Martindale’s defense allowed 17 points on just over 9 minutes of game clock on three straight drives when the team needed them most. 10 guys were on the field for the Elliott touchdown (inexcusable by both players and coaches). They didn’t record one sack. They barely even touched Rush against a beat-up OL. They were tossed around in the running game. They forced zero turnovers. And DAL gained more yards in this game than the previous two respectively. You may not see it by looking at points allowed, but this was a horrific defensive performance as a result of being outplayed and out-coached.
3. What can we hope to see from this team moving forward? They have a third-straight home game coming up and it is against the Bears, a team I projected to finish with one of the worst three records in football. Both of their wins were unimpressive and their loss in Green Bay Week 2 was about as ugly as you will see in today’s NFL. This is a bad football team and especially bad on offense. The offensive line, the quarterback, the pass catchers. I am looking forward to how this regime bounces back from a loss, something we haven’t seen yet. I hope this offensive coaching staff realizes that tight games need to center around Barkley. He is way too good, and the rest of the skill positions are way too bad for him not be fed the ball over and over. I also believe this OL can perform better with that approach as well.