EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Sometimes, the hardest games to accept are the easiest to explain.
So it was Sunday night, when the Giants opened their season with a much-anticipated matchup with their longtime rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. The fans in rain-drenched MetLife Stadium were pumped for what they hoped would be payback for Dallas' recent dominance in the series. But in a thrashing absolutely no one saw coming, the Cowboys took charge early and rolled to a 40-0 victory.
Afterward, the Giants needed few words to summarize the beating they had just endured.
"They just did everything better than we did tonight," coach Brian Daboll said.
"We just didn't execute, but you've got to give credit where credit is due," running back Saquon Barkley said. "Dallas is a great team. A lot of talent over there and they made more plays than us, obviously, today."
"We dug a hole for ourselves early on and our execution was poor throughout the game," quarterback Daniel Jones said.
"Just didn't get it done," tackle Evan Neal said. "We didn't execute, and the result was on the field."
Some players offered slightly different or more detailed takes, but the core message remained the same. The Giants played poorly and the Cowboys took advantage. Dallas has won five consecutive games against the Giants and 12 of the last 13 meetings. The Giants suffered their worst regular season loss in 50 years (42-0 at Oakland on Nov. 4, 1973) and worst ever on opening day.
"It's a humbling league," Daboll said. "I've said this many a time, it's the same thing as if you have a big win, not getting too high. This is an emotional game, guys put everything they have into it. They prepared well, we practiced well, and we didn't put it together today in every area from offense, defense, coaching, special teams, whatever. You name it and you get 40 to nothing, there's a lot of blame to go around and I'll take the head of it."
Some offensive linemen admitted they should be right behind him. Jones was sacked seven times, the second-highest total of his career. He was hit 12 times and forced to run or hurry his throw on several occasions.
"We definitely shoulder the responsibility," Neal said. "Definitely didn't go out there and grab this game, didn't execute and that was the result."
"We thought we had a good run game going in," guard Ben Bredeson said. "We thought we had a good plan going in and then, I mean, we saw how the game went. It was tough and we didn't execute that plan."
Daboll was asked about potential changes to the line.
"We just got skunked here, 40-0," Daboll said. "When you play a game like that and coach a game like that, there's nothing that's good enough. Our job is to go back and look at it with a critical eye, just like we would do in any game, but 40-0 is not a good score, obviously. So, a lot to work on and that's what we'll do."
On the game's first possession, the Giants drove to the Dallas eight-yard line, where they faced a third-and-and-two. But Andrew Thomas' false start penalty set them back five yards before rookie John Michael Schmitz skidded a shotgun snap that forced Jones to retreat and recover the ball at the 27.
Instead of a potential momentum-establishing touchdown, the Giants called on ultra-reliable Graham Gano to try a 45-yard field goal. But Juanyeh Thomas blocked the kick and the ball bounded toward the sideline, where Noah Igbinoghene picked it up and raced 58 yards for the game's first touchdown with just 6:57 elapsed. Rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey was wide left on the PAT, but that wasn't even a speed bump to the Dallas express.
"We had the blocked field goal and that's never good," Bredeson said.
"It's just frustrating all around," Gano said. "We're not gonna make excuses for anything."
Aubrey's 21-yard field goal made it 9-0. On a third-and-19 later in the quarter, Jones threw a pass to Barkley, who was undercut by Trevon Diggs and the ball popped into the air. It was caught by DaRon Bland, who returned it 22 yards to the endzone for a 16-0 Dallas lead.
The second quarter brought more of the same. Aubrey kicked a 38-yard field goal and Jones – who threw just five interceptions the entire 2022 season – was picked off by Stephon Gilmore at the Giants' 38-yard line. Five plays later, Tony Pollard score the first of his two touchdowns on a two-yard run around right end. The 26-0 lead remained until halftime. Some of the fans did not.
In the second half, Pollard (one yard) and wide receiver KaVontae Turpin (seven yards) closed out the scoring with touchdown runs.
The Giants end Kickoff Weekend as the only NFC East team without a victory and their sights on their Week 2 game in Arizona.
"I'd say we got a lot of work to do in every area," Daboll said, "every area on the field, from coaching to offense to defense to the kicking game and that's what we'll do."
View photos from the week 1 matchup between the Giants and Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.