EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants this week will participate in a rivalry game vastly different from the one they just played, but the objective remains the same: improving their performance.
Last night, a one-point game entering the fourth quarter morphed into a 37-18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants' fifth consecutive defeat left them at 2-7, including 1-2 against NFC East foes. Dallas swept the season series for the third year in a row.
The Giants have one more game prior to their bye. On Sunday, they will be the visitors in MetLife Stadium when they take on the 1-7 Jets. Although this is a regular-season rivalry that is contested quadrennially, emotions will be high on the field, where two struggling teams will be fighting for a victory, and in the stands, where both sides will be well-represented.
"I haven't played in this (rivalry) obviously, but I'm well aware that there are a lot of Giants fans and Jets fans that it's going to be a very competitive weekend from that standpoint," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said on a conference call today. "I'm aware of all that, but we have to do the things to beat the Jets. We have to play better than we did last night. That game was within one score for a great deal of the time, and we were ahead at the beginning of it (taking a 12-3 lead in the second quarter). It got away from us. So, we need to do the things that we have to do to win the game and not let it get away from us. That really doesn't matter who you're playing. But I'm certainly aware of the fact that for this region, and for New York and New Jersey and the fans and everybody involved, this is going to be a big deal."
The Giants can target several areas for improvement during their short work week. Saquon Barkley ran for only 28 yards and averaged 2.0 yards a carry. Daniel Jones threw an interception and lost two fumbles, giveaways that led to 13 Dallas points. Jones was sacked five times and absorbed numerous other hits. The offense scored just one touchdown on five trips inside the Cowboys' 20-yard line, forcing Aldrick Rosas to kick four field goals of less than 30 yards. The Giants had 16 opportunities to convert on third down and succeeded just five times.
"We've got to bounce back," said wide receiver Golden Tate, whose spectacular one-handed catch set up the Giants' only touchdown, a one-yard pass from Jones to Cody Latimer. "We've got to understand the situational football. We have to be much, much, much better being efficient on third down, penalties. You know when we get in the red zone, we have to get points, especially against an offense like (Dallas'). They have some big-time players."
The Giants' defense surrendered 139 rushing yards to Ezekiel Elliott, who averaged 6.0 yards a carry. Dak Prescott threw an interception on the game's first play, but thereafter completed 22 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Giants committed eight penalties for 71 yards. Dallas converted just four of 11 third-down opportunities, but three of them were in the decisive fourth quarter, including a backbreaking 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Copper on third-and-12 that pushed its lead to 12 points with 7:56 remaining.
"You definitely can't let them in the end zone in that situation with the time that was left," safety Jabrill Peppers said. "You have to get off the field and we had ample opportunities to get off the field.
"As I say every week, you just have to clean up on the little things, you have to execute as a whole team, play complementary football at the end of the day."
Shurmur hinted there will be no lineup changes. If the Giants are going to reverse course, it will be with the lineup they've been fielding.
"I think we play the best players," Shurmur said. "It just so happens that on our roster, some of our best players are young players, and that's the reality of it. We put the guys on the field that give us the best chance to win and they've got to play well. If for some reason they're making mistakes, then we've got to clean that up. And the same can be said for us as coaches, we've got to clean up the things that keep us from winning games."
Sunday would be a good time to start.
*There will be at least one change on the roster. The Giants today activated cornerback Sam Beal off injured reserve and he will make his NFL debut Sunday against the Jets. Beal, a third-round selection in the 2018 supplemental draft, missed all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery and was sidelined this year with a hamstring injury.
To create room for Beal, the Giants waived second-year safety Sean Chandler.
The former Temple star played in all 25 games after making the roster last season as a rookie free agent. But he has played just 26 snaps on defense this season, none in the last two games. He has one special teams tackle.
The Giants also terminated punter Sean Smith from the practice squad.
*After missing two games while in the NFL concussion protocol, rookie Corey Ballentine returned to take over as the slot corner for second-year pro Grant Haley. Ballentine had four tackles (three solo) and knocked away a pass.
"Corey was back healthy, we felt like we wanted to change it up and give him an opportunity," Shurmur said. "He had worked both outside and inside, he had been dealing with some injuries certainly. Obviously, you all weren't aware of the week of preparation, but I thought he went out there and battled. He did some good things last night and we just wanted to give him an opportunity. We like where he's come, and we felt like he did some good things last night."
*Shurmur said tight end Evan Engram "has a little bit of a sore foot. I don't have any details on that, we'll just have to see as the week goes on and how he'll do."
*Shurmur is uncertain about the immediate future of wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who returned to the concussion protocol on Sunday after telling the team's medical staff he didn't feel well Saturday night. Shepard has missed the last four games, and Saturday he said he expected to play against Dallas.
"This is a serious injury, and in my mind, it requires a serious response," Shurmur said. "We want to make sure he's well before he goes back out there.
"I think we have to use good judgement and we need to be very deliberate about guys coming back from injuries such as this. There are signs and there are things, as they go through coming back from concussions, they certainly go through the protocol, but there's also the activity and how they respond to it and all of that. At some point, we just have to use our gut. … I think as a coach, because there is a certain amount of activity that has to take place, this time of year it's obviously practice, you watch him. That's why you watch them practice, you see how they respond to it after and how they handle it the next day. As he went through that process, he wasn't feeling well, so we made a decision. I just think we have to be smart and be very observant in these situations and try to make good decisions. Player safety is certainly on the front burner for us."