ARLINGTON, Tex. — Well, that was a Big Blue nightmare.
It’s a good thing that the Giants are not a Broadway play. The doors to the theater would be bolted and boarded up and the show would be shut down after one lousy performance. The offense, which lacked a playmaker without Odell Beckham Jr., would never be allowed to work again.
Eli Manning didn’t have a good night throwing the ball in the disappointing 19-3 loss to the Cowboys. But he was sacked on the first of his many third downs of the game – right tackle Bobby Hard performed the magic trick of turning Demarcus Lawrence into an All-Pro in one night — and things then just got worse. GM Jerry Reese did Manning a disservice by forcing him to play behind exactly the same offensive line that tortured him last year.
Manning first took the podium after the game and then took the blame. It’s what a leader is supposed to do even if it wasn’t all his fault. He learned that from big brother Peyton, who was at AT&T Stadium to watch Eli. But little brother never had time to throw the ball. He missed having Beckham out there. Brandon Marshall looked lost in the offense.
“I think the whole offense needs to make improvements,” Manning said. “Start with me. I got to do a better job, be better prepared and lead this team better. I’ll start with me and go from there. I just need to play better. Plays needs to be made.”
All night, Manning was dinking and dunking, which is not his game. Ben McAdoo, either by design or simply necessity, didn’t have Manning throw long until he misfired on a 40-yard pass to Marshall late in the third quarter. The offense didn’t get its initial first down until early in the second quarter.
It was Manning’s 200th consecutive regular season start, but the football gods are going to catch up with him if the offensive line doesn’t find a way to create a pocket for him and let him get off his throws cleanly. No matter how experienced a quarterback is, the first instinct is still self-preservation. It wasn’t that Manning was hearing footsteps. He was seeing real 280-pounders charging right at him.
Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense was a mess Sunday, and the blame lies with the offensive line.
(LARRY W. SMITH/EPA)
“I hung in the pocket, moved around. I wasn’t looking at the rush,” he said. “My eyes were downfield. I did an okay job moving around and trying to extend a couple of plays.”
It was an old-fashioned Texas-sized butt-whipping the Giants got from the Cowboys, who they figure to battle into December for the NFC East title and into January to get to the Super Bowl.
About the only good thing to say about the loss is that in 1986 and 2007 the Giants lost on opening night in Dallas and each time went on to win the Super Bowl. But at least in those games the offense showed a pulse. On Sunday night, it was DOA – dormant on arrival.
Of course, it hurt that Beckham was placed on the inactive list after he worked out for the coaches and medical staff before the game and his sprained left ankle was not deemed game worthy. He is the only explosive element to the Giants offense. Would he have made the difference against Dallas?
Probably not. Why? Reese loved his disastrous offensive line from 2016 so much he decided to keep it intact. All five starters are still starting. The O-line, of course, was the weakest unit on the 2016 Giants and the main reason why they have now gone seven straight games, including the playoff loss in Green Bay, without scoring 20 points in any game. They have scored a total of 95 points in those games, which averages out to 13.6 per game.
So many things fall on McAdoo and his diner-sized menu play sheet. He was daring and creative in his two years as Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator in 20114-15, even though the Giants were 6-10 each year. But now that he is the one responsible for the whole operation, he has lost a lot of his nerve and is now longer a state-of-the-art play-caller.
Eli Manning walks off the field after the Giants’ season-opening loss to the Cowboys.
(Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports)
His offense is so predictable. Short passes. Predictable runs. McAdoo’s most effective play calls last year were the quick slants to Beckham that he took the distance. Manning didn’t have Beckham and didn’t have anyone to make anything happen.
Shane Vereen caught nine passes out of the backfield for 51 yards. That’s 5.7 yards per reception. Sterling Shepard had seven catches for 44 yards. That’s 6.3 yards per. Marshall had one catch for 10 yards and that didn’t come until the second to last play of the game.
The Giants can’t beat a good team without OBJ.
“Obviously, he’s a tremendous player,” Manning said. “We got players. We have got to play better than that. We got to do a better job finding completions on third down.”
McAdoo can’t get the offense going without Beckham.
“Our offense was very disappointing,” McAdoo said.
Eli Manning is sacked by Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
(Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)
Because of no OBJ?
“We have plenty of players who can make plays outside of Odell,” he said. “That’s no excuse.”
He wouldn’t speculate whether Beckham will play in the home opener next Monday night against the Lions.
Somehow it didn’t seem fair that Beckham couldn’t play and Ezekiel Elliott, through the Texas courts, found a way to put his domestic violence six-game suspension on hold and rushed for 104 yards and had another 36 yards receiving.
“Well, it’s one of 16 games,” McAdoo said. “We have to be careful getting too emotional about one football game. A lot of effort and energy goes into the first game. You’ve got to tip your hat to Dallas and move on to the next one.”
The show must go on.