Coach Ben McAdoo discusses the Giants performance on offense against the Cowboys:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants returned to New Jersey in the wee hours of this morning under no illusions about their play last night in Dallas. Their performance and execution across the board simply wasn't good enough to win their opener, particularly on the road against a team as good as the Dallas Cowboys.
Everyone seemed to have their own words for summarizing what happened and the challenges that lie ahead, perhaps no one more succinctly, if not grammatically refined, than left guard Justin Pugh.
"The way we looked tonight," Pugh said, "ain't going to win us any football games in the NFL."
The Giants came up short in a number of areas in their 19-3 defeat to Dallas. The most obvious is not scoring a touchdown. Underlying the paucity of points was a rushing attack that generated just 35 yards and 2.9 yards a carry, a passing game that had just two of its 29 completions gain more than 20 yards, and a defense that allowed eight successful conversions in 15 third-down opportunities. The Giants made four of 12, and held the ball for just 25:46.
"What we need to work on as a team – quite simply, play more offense, play less defense," coach Ben McAdoo said today. "Time of possession is important, as is field position. Offensively, we need timely third-down conversions. We need to make the makeable ones. On defense – if you want to play third down and long, we have to win the down on first and second down on a consistent basis."
The inability to run the ball – an issue that was prevalent during much of the Giants' 11-5 season in 2016 – elicited more questions about the offensive line, and whether McAdoo would consider scheme or personnel changes.
"We'll consider all those moving forward," he said when asked specifically about schemes. "Take a look at it week-to-week like we always do and do what we feel is best for the team.
"We need to do a better job on third down handling the stunts, that's for sure, and pass protection. … We just need to get better technically. We had some technical breakdowns and, again, it's not one guy. There's enough to spread around and the tight ends are in there as well. The running backs fit in. Again, it's not just the offensive line."
But the offensive linemen believe success begins with them, and they bore much of the responsibility for the ineffectiveness of the offense.
"We just didn't do what we can do," center Weston Richburg said. "We didn't do what we are capable of."
"There was so much optimism coming into it, so I thought we would execute at a much higher level in the first half and we didn't," Pugh said. "I liked how we came out and started the third quarter. I liked some of the drives we had, but we got to play better complementary football. We got to get better field position for our defense. Get them in better spots and then just do it differently."
The passing game didn't escape scrutiny. Neither McAdoo nor the players would accept a free pass because the Giants played without Odell Beckham, Jr., who was inactive with a sprained ankle suffered in Cleveland three weeks ago. Without Beckham, Eli Manning threw almost exclusively short passes and averaged just 5.8 yards on his 38 attempts.
"They got a lead," McAdoo said. "It turned into a bunch of line stunts up front. Trying to make a pocket that wasn't deep and wasn't wide and they were playing soft zone in the back end. … We knew it was a zone game early. We saw that it was a zone game early. They just relied on playing zone and playing with a lot of depth and playing on top. That's why a lot of the throws were underneath. Eli was just trying to take what they were giving him."
With Beckham sidelined, it was widely assumed that newcomer Brandon Marshall and his 941 career receptions would become one of Manning's favorite targets. But Manning threw just four passes his way, and Marshall's only catch was a 10-yarder on the game's final play.
"I think it was a product of a lot of things," McAdoo said. "There may have been times where you're trying to get him the ball, but couldn't get it to him for one reason or another. It could've been where he was lined up in the progression, based on the coverage we were seeing. It's not just one factor, you can't just point to one thing. It was a variety of things. We certainly want Brandon to get a touch earlier than he got a touch."
"We just didn't have many plays, especially in the first half," Manning said. "Had some sacks, had some three and outs, so just didn't have a whole lot of plays. He's a weapon. We have to find ways to get him the ball."
The Giants have a week to work on shortcomings that cost them last night. They return to action next Monday in their home opener against the Detroit Lions.
"We have to make a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2," McAdoo said. "We're blessed to have a long week this week. Have to play complementary team football and take care of each other in all three phases. Something we didn't do last night."
"You have to flush this game down the toilet," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said in the locker room in Dallas. "It's over with. Either we're going to take some steps back, or we're going to take steps forward and fix things that we need to fix. That's what we got to do; we got to get in the film room and fix this stuff. It's a fix-it league, so it's what we got to do."
*McAdoo said right tackle Bobby Hart hurt his ankle in the game, but doesn't yet know if the injury will affect his availability.