*The Giants' offense struggled throughout the game Sunday in a 19-3 loss to the Cowboys: *
ARLINGTON, Texas – A year ago, the Giants invaded AT&T Stadium for their season opener and held the eventual NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys to only 19 points, including four Dan Bailey field goals. The visitors countered with three Eli Manning touchdown passes, and stormed out of Big D with a 20-19 victory.
On Sunday night, the Giants began the 2017 season in the palace in Dallas (well, technically Arlington). Bailey again kicked four field goals, and the Cowboys again scored 19 points. But this time, the Giants' offense didn't hold up its end. They scored only on rookie Aldrick Rosas' 25-yard field goal, and left Texas with a 19-3 loss and a 0-1 record.
"Tough way to open the season," said coach Ben McAdoo, who celebrated his first career victory here in 2016. "Give Dallas all of the credit. They came out here and won the ballgame. We have a long week to get better as a football team (before hosting Detroit next Monday night). We have a lot of work to do. Our complementary football was nonexistent tonight." Asked what he meant by complementary football, McAdoo said, "all three phases playing together."
The formula worked here last year. But while the defense held up its end this time, both the offense and special teams contributed little.
The Giants finished with 223 total yards, including just 35 on the ground, 13 first downs, and four successes in 12 third-down conversion opportunities. They owned the ball for only 25:46.
"The offense was very disappointing," said McAdoo, a coach who always tries to stress the positive. "We are going to go back and look at the film and see how we can get better."
The Giants were missing their most dynamic weapon, three-time Pro Bowler and big-play specialist Odell Beckham, Jr., who was inactive because of the ankle injury he suffered in Cleveland on Aug. 21. But McAdoo refused to use his best player's absence as a reason for the offensive inefficiency.
"We have plenty of players who can make plays on the offense outside of Odell," McAdoo said. "That is no excuse."
"Obviously he is a tremendous player, but we got players," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We got to play better than that. We got to do a better job finding completions on third down, converting those third downs and we'll do a better job of that."
McAdoo will not be pleased when he carefully scrutinizes the numbers. The Giants traveled into Dallas territory just twice in 10 possessions – when Rosas kicked his field goal in the third quarter, and when time expired at the end of the game when they were on the 35-yard line. Their first five possessions ended in punts. The Giants averaged 2.9 yards a carry, and their longest run was 12 yards. The longest gain by starter Paul Perkins was three yards. Manning was sacked three times, hit four times and hurried more than he'd care to remember.
"I know no part of the offense was functional tonight," McAdoo said.
Brandon Marshall, a marquee free agent acquisition who is expected to give Manning a big target, particularly in the red zone, caught one pass, a 10-yarder on the game's final play.
"It's a team question," Marshall said when asked if he was frustrated. "We had high hopes. It was Sunday night football, and we wanted to put on a good show for ourselves, and our fans. It didn't happen, and it's disappointing. But it's a long season. That's a division foe, and they played a hell of a game. We'll see them again come winter time (on Dec. 11 in MetLife Stadium), and we'll have to come prepared. We'll be ready"
Dallas seized control of the game by kicking three field goals and scoring a touchdown within five possessions spanning the first two quarters. Bailey kicked field goals of 20, 28 and 42 yards (the last with just five seconds remaining in the half), and Dak Prescott threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten.
The Giants did not have a possession that lasted more than five plays.
"We weren't on the field much and three and outs and not converting on third downs, it is tough to get into a rhythm," Manning said. "It is tough as a play caller to call things and as an offense just to get the run and the pass and the play action, and to get things going when you're three and out, three and out, it's tough. And it's tough on our defense. They are on the field a long time. So, we got to help them out. We got to do a better job."
"Three points is not going to give you wins in the NFL," guard Justin Pugh said. "Our defense came out in the second half and held them scoreless. We've got to go down and get a touchdown on that first drive. It was good we got it moving. You can't go three-and-out against their offense; when they are out there they can control the clock and tire you out. We've got to do our part. We didn't that in the first half."
The second half was a 3-3 standstill, but the Giants needed more than that. McAdoo will begin working immediately on how to find it.
"There was no lack of effort out there tonight," McAdoo said. "But the defense has to get off the field. Time of possession was out of whack. That was a combination of all three phases. Field position, special teams has to factor in there, defense has to get off the field and the offense has to possess the ball and move the ball."
The Giants know what the winning formula is. Now they just have to execute it.
View the best photos from Sunday Night's game against the Dallas Cowboys