Everything changed for the Giants on Sunday at the same time nothing changed for the Giants.
By the end of their 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in AT&T Stadium, the offensive lineup had the look of a preseason game in which they were evaluating players.
Quarterback Daniel Jones was sidelined with a concussion suffered in the second quarter. So too was star running back Saquon Barkley with an ankle injury sustained earlier. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay did not play in the second half after hurting his knee. Right guard Will Hernandez was the only opening day offensive lineman in the same position. The list of players who didn't play Sunday included wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, left tackle Andrew Thomas and safety Jabrill Peppers.
But the show goes on in the NFL, no matter how many players are hurt. So, while Joe Judge might spend much of the next week constructing a lineup without some of his best players, his objective remains the same, which is to win the next game. That's what the 1-4 Giants will do when they host the 4-1 Los Angeles Rams next week.
"We're positive every week," Judge said after he was asked if it was difficult to do so after seeing so many key players go down. "We're going to get on the tape right now. We're going to look at this game, correct the mistakes, look at our next opponent, put together the best plan for our team to have success, make sure we coach the best game we possibly can and go out there and execute. We're positive every week."
That might be a bigger challenge than usual in the coming days. Judge offered neither a definitive diagnosis nor a prognosis for any of the injured players. But it seems likely that players who played a big role in Dallas – quarterback Mike Glennon, running back Devontae Booker, rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney – will be called on again next week.
"I think all we have to do is keep fighting and come back to work," Glennon said. "This is the NFL. You don't put your head down. You come back the next week. Starting tomorrow, we will put our best foot forward and it is just business as usual. You have to come back every day, keep fighting, keep working and stick together."
Toney was perhaps the brightest light against the Cowboys, with 10 catches for a Giants rookie record 189 yards. He showcased his strong hands and elusiveness with a variety of nifty moves. But he also added a late blemish to his big game when he was ejected with 6:06 remaining for punching safety Damontae Kazee.
"There's a pretty distinct line in terms of competing and doing the things we're not going to condone as a team that put us behind," Judge said. "That's not going to be accepted. It's not going to be condoned. That's as far as I'm going to go with that. Obviously, it resulted in him leaving the game and I'm just going to leave it at that right now."
Booker scored both Giants touchdowns on a one-yard run and a three-yard reception. Graham Gano missed his first field goal attempt from 54 yards but booted a pair of 51 yarders.
Defensively, the Giants surrendered 515 yards, including 201 on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown and also scored on a short pass. Dak Prescott threw for 302 yards and three scores. Cornerback Anthony Brown scored on a late 45-yard interception return.
The Giants never led in the game but did tie the score at 10-10 when Booker dove over the pile from a yard out on fourth down with 2:51 remaining, moments after Jones was helped off the field. But for the fifth consecutive week, the Giants surrendered a touchdown late in the first half. This time, Amari Cooper eluded rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams – who later left with a knee injury – for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds remaining that gave the Cowboys a lead they never relinquished at 17-10.
After Gano cut the deficit to four points, Dallas scored 17 in a row on Elliott's touchdowns and Greg Zuerlein's 38-yard field goal.
Booker scored the Giants' final points when he fought his way into the end zone after catching a Glennon pass with 3:17 remaining. But Dallas scored 10 points in the final 1:53.
"All the guys going down, this is what we prepare for," Booker said. "I am pretty sure all the guys prepared like this as if they are the starter. Backup guys, third stringers, whoever. That is just our mentality. One guy goes down, next man up. You have to go out there and perform when an opportunity comes to us."
The overriding story of the day was the injuries. The Giants announced Friday that Shepard, Slayton and Peppers would be inactive for the game, all with hamstring injuries. When it became apparent that Thomas would miss the first game of his two-year career, Nate Solder moved from right to left tackle and Matt Peart played on the right side. Matt Skura started at left guard, but Wes Martin played a large chunk of the game.
"We wanted to go out there and let Matt and Nate go out there and play," Judge said. "They practiced all week. I thought they did a good job for the most part in the game."
Barkley was the first player to go down in the game, when he twisted his left ankle after landing on cornerback Jourdan Lewis's foot with 6:31 remaining in the first quarter following an incomplete pass.
"I really don't know much more than what they've told you guys," Judge told reporters after the game. "We'll see where it goes."
Jones was hurt late in the second quarter. On a third-and-goal from the one, Jones ran to the left and was hit by rookie linebackers Jabril Cox and Chauncey Golston. The helmets of Jones and Cox smacked together, and the quarterback's head hit the turf. He was woozy after getting to his feet and a cart was summoned to take him off the field. The Giants soon announced that he had a concussion and would not return.
"I saw him in the locker room afterwards right there, just checked on him," Judge said. "In terms of next week, I'll answer for you right now, we'll see where he goes. Obviously, we're all hopeful that he'll be back and that he'll be healthy. I thought Mike did some real productive things today."
Whether Jones faces the Rams or not, Judge's expectations for his team will remain the same, because that's what happens in the NFL.
"Our guys are going to keep playing," Judge said. "That's not even going to be a question. We're going to play for 60 minutes. You don't want anybody to get hurt. You don't want your teammates to get hurt. You don't want the other team to get hurt, either. I say it all the time, but that's just the truth. You want to have everyone come out of the game healthy. That's part of the philosophy we believe in. In terms of the next-man-up mentality, well, there's a lot of good examples today in the game. We have guys stepping up, taking on different roles, being productive, making plays.
"We'll check the status of the guys who left the game and see where they're at but I couldn't give you any answers in terms of next week at this point right now. We'll see where they're at and keep going forward, but I'd say in terms of how our team responded, it's exactly what I expect. I expect whoever's in the game to play. I expect the entire team to come down here ready to go. I tell the guys all the time whoever's in the game, I expect to play, and I expect to be productive."
It's on the players to take advantage of those opportunities.
Check out the best photos from the New York Giants' Week 5 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.