EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Can the Giants make their points Sunday afternoon?
The answer to that question may well determine if they remain alive in the NFL East title race, even for just seven hours or so. The Giants will likely need a scoring outburst to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, which is step one of two on their path to finishing in first place. The second is the Philadelphia Eagles defeating the Washington Football Team that night. But the Giants will be eliminated from postseason consideration if they lose. If that happens, the Cowboys would remain in contention and retain interest in the primetime game.
The points are crucial. The Giants' highest total of the season is the 34 they scored in a three-point loss in Dallas on Oct. 11. They did not score more than 27 points in any other game this season. During their last three games, all losses, the Giants totaled just 26 points.
The Cowboys scored 108 points while winning their games in those three weeks, the most recent a 37-17 trouncing of Philadelphia three days ago. It was the eighth time in 15 games Dallas has scored 30 or more points, including two 40-point performances. The Cowboys have scored 376 points this season, placing them 16th in the NFL.
The Giants are sitting at 257 points, the league's second-lowest total. They have scored 24 touchdowns, or 17 fewer than Dallas.
So, the question bears repeating. Can the Giants keep the scoreboard operator busy enough to beat the Cowboys for the first time in eight meetings?
"We'll do whatever it takes to win the game," coach Joe Judge said today. "Look, we want to play defense to keep those kinds of points off the board, and offensively we're trying to score every possession. We want to make sure we can finish drives better."
"We're confident as an offense," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "We have to take advantage of our opportunities to score points, particularly when we get the ball in the red zone and move the ball down there. We're certainly confident in our ability to do that and score points.
"We have done it at times. We need to be more consistent with it. We need to finish those opportunities. But we have the guys capable of doing it. We've done it in spurts this year. It's going to take our best game on Sunday, and that's certainly what we're preparing for."
They have a chance Sunday. While the Giants are 5-10 primarily because of their weekly point totals, Dallas is 6-9 because its defense has had difficulty stopping almost everyone. The Cowboys have held just two opponents to less than 20 points this season; though both games were played in the last three weeks, against Cincinnati and the Eagles. They have allowed 450 points in 15 games – 112 more than the Giants have given up - the NFL's third-highest total.
Of course, Judge isn't buying any of it this week.
"Defensively, this unit is playing very well," he said. "The thing is turnovers that have really separated them right now in how they've played lately than probably earlier in the year (Dallas has 11 takeaways in its current three-game winning streak). This team is making a lot of plays with the pass rushes off the edge. The backers inside are making a lot of plays. They have a young defensive interior that's really stepped up. There are a lot of new faces and names that we have to get familiar with in a hurry and know how they play. But this team has really made a lot of gains defensively, and we have a lot to handle in our hands. We have to have a good week of practice."
Last week, the Cowboys spotted Philadelphia a 14-3 lead before outscoring the Eagles over the final three quarters, 34-3. The Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two possessions but never reached the end zone in their final 11 offensive possessions. Their final three series ended with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Dallas sacked Philadelphia's rookie quarterback Jalen hurts three times and hit him at least five times.
When the Giants visited Dallas 12 weeks ago, Jones was sacked twice and was not intercepted, though he did lose a fumble for the Giants' only turnover. He also completed 20 of 33 passes for 222 yards.
But Judge insists the defense the Giants will see this week is much-improved.
"They're playing fast," Judge said. "They're playing fast in the pass rush coming around the edge, they're affecting the quarterback. You see the other day with Hurts with the pursuit when they caused a fumble in the fourth quarter, they folded on back. They're hustling to the ball, they're attacking the ball. They're really doing a nice job with how they're playing up front.
"On the back end, the DBs do a great job of reading the quarterback's eyes. This is a deal where if you get locked on a receiver and your eyes stay stagnant down the field, they're going to find it and they're going to break on that ball. They do a good job, the defensive backs, of attacking that ball, putting their face on it, really biting the ball, and they do a good job of attacking technique. Ball security is definitely a priority for our team this week."
But objective No. 1 is scoring those precious points.
*Fullback Eli Penny (illness) and wide receiver Golden Tate (calf) did not practice today. Both players missed the game Sunday in Baltimore.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard (rib), tight end Evan Engram (calf) and safety Jabrill Peppers (ankle) were limited.
Jones (ankle) and cornerback Darnay Holmes (knee) practiced fully.
*Rookie defensive back Madre Harper, who has been on injured reserve with a knee injury, returned to practice and is eligible to be activated for the Dallas game.
*Wide receiver David Sills, who has been on injured reserve all season with a foot injury, has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
View photos of Wednesday's practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center as the Giants gear up for the Cowboys.