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Cover 3: Takeaways from Sunday's 20-13 loss

Our writers give their takeaways from the Giants’ 20-13 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Groundhog Day. That’s my takeaway. We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well. This might be a new year, with a different cast but the plot looks all too similar. The good news is that we are only a few minutes into a long movie, and there is still time for the big early act plot twist where things dramatically change and it turns out that the remake is a completely different film. The clock is ticking, however, for the plot twist to happen in order to give the team a good chance to make a legitimate playoff run into December.

The old cliché that it takes an offensive line time to gel is a cliché for a reason. It is often true. Carl Banks made the point in a postgame chat I had with him last night that this is the first time that this offensive line is experiencing a lot of these twists, stunts and other schemes together in live action situations. The hope is that with help from offensive line coaches Hal Hunter and Ben Wilkerson they can figure things out and dramatically improve to give the offense a chance to score more touchdowns. 

Pat Shurmur said over the summer that this team will go as far as the offensive line will take them. After the first two weeks, the statement appears to be prophetic. It gets no easier next week against the Texans with JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus and perhaps a returning Jadaveon Clowney on the Texans defensive front. There are plays to be made down the field if Manning has time to throw the football and week three will be another opportunity to get him and the offense the time needed in the pocket to succeed.

DAN SALOMONE: Sometimes games just speak for themselves, but that doesn’t fill space in articles. Instead of rehashing what we all saw, let’s talk about where the Giants go from here. Once again, they find themselves in an early bind after starting 0-2 for the second year in a row, and for the fifth time in the last six. In 2013, 0-2 swelled to 0-6. In 2014 and 2015, Big Blue responded with three consecutive wins but ended with a losing record. In 2017, well, you don’t need to be reminded about that. So what will these 2018 Giants do with another trip to Texas and a meeting with J.J. Watt next on the board? There is no way around this hole, only through it.

I’ll admit it. I thought the Giants were set to explode offensively in Dallas on Sunday night. I still believe they are a powder keg with all of their weapons, but opposing teams keep stomping out the fuse every time they get it lit. Or worse, the Giants pour water on it themselves with things like sacks, penalties, turnovers, runs for losses, and allowing big plays. On top of that, you lose your starting center. Seasons are long in the NFL, but that can work both ways. Teams either have the time to get back on track as the landscape changes on a weekly basis, or they just grind through it without the results. The Giants need to figure out how to be the former.

LANCE MEDOW: If there’s one telling stat from Sunday night’s loss to the Cowboys, it’s the following. The team ran 67 plays and collected 255 yards. That comes out to less than four yards per play. Based on that math, it’s virtually impossible to win games in the NFL. The Giants executed just one pass play for more than 20 yards (Cody Latimer's 37-yard catch) and had one run for at least 10 yards. The lack of explosive plays was a result of struggles in pass protection. Eli Manning was sacked six times and more often than not had very little time to let a play develop down the field. When you combine those issues with the lack of a run game (17 runs, 35 yards – 2.1 yards per run), it’s no surprise that the Giants struggled to put points on the board for the second straight week. 

To make things even more challenging, when New York entered the red zone, like in Week 1 against the Jaguars, the team was plagued by mental mistakes. A costly offensive holding penalty against Rhett Ellison, on a first and goal from the Dallas three-yard line, backed them up ten yards and the Giants were never able to regroup. In the first two games of the season, New York has collected nine accepted penalties with seven charged to the offense. It’s overwhelmingly clear, at this point, the margin for error on offense is non-existent.

As far as the defense goes, for the second straight week, that unit held the opposition to 20 points or less and gave the team a chance to stay in the game. With that being said, Sunday night was also the second time in as many weeks where the Giants had their hands full with a mobile quarterback, who found several openings in the gaps. In Week one, it was Blake Bortles who gained 41 yards on a run and Dak Prescott essentially followed a similar script with seven runs for 45 yards highlighted by a 15-yard scramble. It doesn’t get any easier in Week 3 as the Giants will now have to find ways to contain Deshaun Watson. You constantly hear the phrase: “it’s a copycat league.” Well, it’s relevant here given I’m sure the Texans will be reviewing, carefully, what the Jaguars and Cowboys both did with their mobile quarterbacks.

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