Three keys to victory for the Giants on Monday Night Football against the Cowboys:
1. Don't fall into an early hole
During their four-game losing streak, the Giants have started with deficits of 10-0, 14-0, 17-0 and 14-0. Those are not insurmountable numbers in the NFL, but they are far from ideal. The Giants have been outscored by 40 points in the first quarter this season, the second-worst mark in the NFL. Falling behind early changes the dynamic of play-calling. While the Giants did battle back in those games, they need to stay on the attack. There is nothing Dallas wants to do more than get an early lead and control the time of possession.
"We're always talking about really getting a fast start, playing hard throughout the game, playing smart throughout the game and then finishing strong," coach Pat Shurmur said. "That's always part of what we do, and I just think it's an emphasis and we've just got to do it better. The games that we did start fast, really all three sides of the ball gave us a chance to win, and two of the games we did win."
2. Limit the explosive plays
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher was asked this week what has disappointed him the most this season. "The explosive plays, for sure," he said. Bettcher is very "aware" his defense has given up the second-most plays of 20+ yards in the NFL, and so are his players. That is what he has admired about this group all year. They have been accountable in the film room, but awareness and execution are two different things. They have a tough task ahead of them with the Cowboys, the No. 1 offense in total yards per game, rushing yards per game, and yards per play.
"The explosive plays [are most disappointing] because you change two explosive plays a game or one explosive play a game and then all those things that you're talking about, whatever those numbers are ranked, they all change," Bettcher said. "And it changes field position, and in close games, which we've played some close games, field position is points. Those have to continue to get erased. We all know that and there's no hiding that, there's no hiding the emphasis we're putting on it, there's no hiding the emphasis. We're trying as a coaching staff to take the ownership of what those things are and why they're happening."
3. Protect the football
The Giants have turned the ball over a league-high 19 times this season, matching their total from all of 2018. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones has thrown seven interceptions and lost five fumbles in six starts. On the other side, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the first game against the Giants, throwing four touchdowns to no interceptions. Since then, he has thrown an interception in all but one game, including three in a Week 5 loss to the Packers. Dallas is 7-13 when Prescott throws an interception in the regular season.
"For a young guy, [Jones] really does a good job of moving on to the next play, moving on to the next series," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "If it's a negative play, he gets mad but he doesn't let it affect him. In fact, you kind of see even more determination. For a young guy to keep… We're not good enough. What we've been doing at that position still hasn't been good enough, because the scoreboard is our judge. But I think he's been a good, quiet leader along the way, and he has gotten better. Again, he's kind of like the rest of the team. Just have to put it all together."
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