EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Like most NFL games, the Giants' season-opening loss was endlessly analyzed on sports television and social and print media. But it was easy to find the defining conclusion: despite 106 rushing yards from Saquon Barkley and 111 receiving yards from Odell Beckham, Jr., the Giants didn't score enough points.
The final score was 20-15, Jacksonville. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams were 14-118 (.106) when scoring 15 or fewer points last season, and 0-6 on Kickoff Weekend. On the plus side, the defense surrendered only 13 points, and the Giants might have been the first low-scoring winners of the season had a tipped Eli Manning pass not been returned 32 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown by Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack.
The Giants will return to action seeking their first victory of the season Sunday night against the Cowboys in Dallas, knowing that putting more points on the scoreboard is vital.
"I think that the challenge is to score as many points as you can throughout the game," coach Pat Shurmur said. "There's some things there that just – you do things just a little bit better in some areas, then that score's way different and the outcome might be way different. Those are the things that you work on in practice that make sure that the next time those things come up you hit on them."
The opportunity for improvement is across the board. The offensive line accounted for half of the team's six penalties, didn't create enough space for Barkley except on the long run, and allowed two sacks and six hits on El Manning. The veteran quarterback was just off on a couple of potential touchdown passes to Odell Beckham, Jr. passes. Four of his passes were dropped.
"In general, offensively, I think we got off to a slow start," offensive coordinator Mike Shula said. "But once we kind of got our feet settled underneath us a little bit, the guys did a good job protecting in the second quarter, protection-wise first and second quarter, in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter there was some really good pockets. At times, we took advantage of it. Other times, we had some near misses. So I think all of us, not just the offensive line, need to get out to a little better start and be consistent.
"Then in the run game, I think that we were just a little off early as well, but as we know, it takes all of us. With a guy like Saquon back there in the running game, you just got to keep going, keep going, staying on guys and eventually you think he's going to break one, kind of like this Sunday."
Beckham caught 11 passes in his first game in 11 months, but the Giants fell to 7-13 in games in which he has at least 100 receiving yards. And the three-time Pro Bowler had no trouble identifying the reason why.
"You can put together a 100-yard game, even though I feel like a lot of stuff that happens is third downs, or plays to get us going, but if you're not putting points on the board, then it's hard to win games," he said. "We need to put more points on the board. If I need to step up and do more, then I'll step up and do more, and that's what I plan on doing."
So does everyone else.
"I went back and watched every play, every rep I had, and just tried to figure out where I could be better, try to break up more tackles," Barkley said. "With this week, (Dallas') Sean Lee is a great linebacker, and they've got a great linebacker corps over there. Continue to work on setting up blocks for the offensive line and obviously know when and where to take chances and continue to just enjoy the game, love the game, and continue to grow as a player every day."
The offense remains a work in progress, with a new head coach and coordinator, new position coaches, and several players who weren't here last season.
"When you have new things, new guys, there's going to be corrections," Manning said. "They're going to be adjustments you make in the offense, or things we weren't ready for, or we had to talk about. That's always going to happen. I think the first game is where those things are going to come up. Things that we'll be better prepared for next time, and talk about, fix things so we'll be able to take advantage of it going forward."
The time to jell is now, in a division road game against a team also looking for its first victory.
"The sky is the limit," Barkley said of the offense. "I knew that before we even got on the field. If you go back and you look at the game, there's just little things, little mistakes we made as a team that kind of kept putting us playing behind the sticks. Little stuff like that, if we continue to work on that and get better in those areas and execute the opportunities that we had, definitely the game could be a very different outcome. Take the good and learn from the bad, and continue to get better this week."