EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Rough Monday night for the Giants. A third-quarter lead devolved into a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Daniel Jones was sacked five times and absorbed 12 hits. Sterling Shepard suffered a potentially serious knee injury on the final offensive play. The defense had no sacks and no takeaways and surrendered 176 rushing yards. Two of the Giants' eight accepted penalties nullified completions totaling 34 yards.
When the night ended, the Giants had suffered their first loss of the young season, 23-16, to the Dallas Cowboys in MetLife Stadium. Both teams are 2-1.
Two unfortunate streaks continued for the Giants. They have lost 11 consecutive night games and 10 of their last 11 games against Dallas. They will face the Cowboys again Thanksgiving Day in Texas. The Giants are not scheduled for another prime-time appearance this season.
"Tough game," coach Brian Daboll said. "Give Dallas credit. We didn't get it quite done tonight. They made more plays than we made."
Saquon Barkley scored the Giants' only touchdown on a 36-yard that gave the Giants a 13-6 lead with 5:31 remaining in the third quarter. The Giants have scored only four touchdowns in three games. Graham Gano kicked field goals of 42, 51 and 51 yards and had a 47-yard attempt blocked.
Dallas's Brett Maher also kicked three field goals, but the Cowboys scored two touchdowns, on Ezekiel Elliott's one-yard run late in the third and Cooper Rush's one-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb in the fourth – which was set up by Lamb's 26-yard catch on the previous play.
The game exposed several issues for Daboll and his assistants to address before the Giants host the Chicago Bears Sunday. Perhaps the most pressing is the offensive line's pass blocking. The Giants rushed for 167 yards and averaged an impressive 6.7 yards a carry. But Jones was under siege most of the night. For much of the game, the Giants' most productive plays were Jones' scrambles after he was chased from the pocket. He rushed for 79 yards on nine carries, but he couldn't escape every time and the sacks and hits piled up.
"This loss is on us up front, not on 8 (Jones)," center Jon Feliciano said.
"That's a good defensive line, and they got the better of us," Daboll said.
Daboll said, "We were chipping; we were slamming, we were doing different things" to try to slow down the Dallas front. But Jones still felt the heat virtually the entire game.
"They're a good front," Jones said. "They're a good defense, you got to give credit to them. They played hard but I think there's things we can all do better with that and that starts with me and finding space to step up, finding space to move around the pocket and make some plays. I'll study that and we all will. Credit to them, they're a good front, they're a good defense."
View photos from the Giants' Week 3 game against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
In spite of the nine rushing attempts, five sacks and 12 hits, Jones said he is fine physically.
"I feel good," Jones said. "I'll be a little sore tomorrow but feeling good."
Daboll does not want his quarterback in harm's way that often.
"You never want to have your quarterback hit," he said. "But I'd say he takes care of himself. Again, the more you can keep them off the quarterback, the better for the quarterback. And he's athletic enough to make some loose plays, and there might be some hits in there when he's scrambling. But yeah, there's no question we got to do a better job of protecting him."
Jones' chief tormentor was nine-year veteran DeMarcus Lawrence, who sacked him three times and chased him a bunch more. Lawrence beat rookie right tackle Evan Neal on each of the sacks.
"Sometimes it just happens like that," Neal said. "I don't have an answer or explanation why. Sometimes in a football game, it just pans out that way. It wasn't the result that I wanted. We just have to focus on coming out and being better for Chicago. That's really all I can do.
"I just got to play better. There's no other way to call it. I can get technical with you guys all day long, but I just gotta play better. There's no other way to slice it or sugarcoat it. I gotta play a better brand of football."
Asked what he would say to Neal, Daboll said, "Just keep your head up. You know, get ready to work next week. We all have days or plays that we wish we could have back. Go back, and work on it. And get better. Get ready for next week."
Shepard will not be able to do that. The Cowboys clinched their victory when Trevon Diggs intercepted Jones on the Giants' final offensive play with 1:11 remaining. Several yards away, Shepard went down, and a cart was quickly called to transport him off the field. It's the second season in a row he was injured in the final moments of a home game against Dallas. Last Dec. 19, he tore he his Achilles tendon. Shepard worked hard for eight months to return to the field for the opener and scored the Giants' first touchdown of the season on a 65-yard reception in Tennessee.
Daboll wasn't prepared to publicly announce Shepard's latest injury, but he and the Giants players were despondent when asked about Shepard after the game.
"It's a tough sport," Daboll said. "Guys work their butts off to get back from injuries, and if this is something that he's out for the whole season – which we'll probably know tomorrow morning or maybe we even know now – you hurt for those guys because they put everything into it. You watch them in the rehab room. You watch them in the offseasons. It's just a shame."
"It's just real tough," Jones said. "Real tough to see that, for sure. A guy who works so hard, he's battling back from an injury last year. I feel for him as a teammate, as a close friend and, yeah, that's tough to see."
Barkley is perhaps Shepard's closest friend on the team.
"Any player that gets taken off on a cart is not a good sight," Barkley said. "Obviously, the relationship I have with Shep, it definitely hurts a little bit more. But at the end of the day, I'm his brother and I'm going to be there for him. I've dealt with something like that, you never know until you go in there and get an MRI. Always have high prayers whoever it is, and he knows I got his back and we (the Giants) have his back. We appreciate everything he does and energy he brings to the team."
The Giants, who have yet to score a first quarter touchdown this season, trailed at halftime, 6-3. They rallied to take a 13-6 lead in the third quarter on Gano's second field goal and Barkley's touchdown. But Dallas outscored them in the fourth quarter, 10-3, to cap an unpleasant evening for the Giants.
"We didn't play our best," Daboll said. "But the guys worked their tails off. They competed until the end. We came up a little short. Give the other team credit. So, we have to get back to work and get ready for Chicago."
View photos of the Giants commemorating the 2022 Ring of Honor class during halftime of the Week 3 matchup against the Cowboys.