Giants fall flat against Cowboys after entering the season with high expectations

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After being one of the NFL's biggest surprises last season and making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 under new coach Brian Daboll, the New York Giants came into the season looking to take that next step.

They did in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, and it was a major step backward.

Despite drafting impact players at cornerback, center and wide receiver, trading for explosive tight end Darren Waller and signing several free agents to shore up the defense, Daboll and the Giants fell flat Sunday night while being embarrassed by the Cowboys 40-0.

“I think there is a little bit of anger, a little bit of embarrassment,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “I think we obviously didn’t come out here and perform the way we wanted to. But at the same time, I think we prepared well this camp, we prepared well for this week. And I think what we put on display today is not us. The leaders in this room know that, and this team knows that.

"And I think we’re going to make sure we don’t let something like that happen again.”

This was a game the Giants' offense looked great for most of the opening drive — and then it all went south at the Cowboys 8. Faced with third-and-short, there was a motion penalty, a bad snap and then the totally unexpected. A missed block on a 45-yard field goal attempt led to a blocked kick that Noah Igbinoghene picked up and returned 58 yards for a touchdown.

“It was a game shift as you started to see after that happened,” Igbinoghene said. “I felt like we were going to do it anyway, but that was an amazing start.”

Things only got worse for the Giants after that. After a field goal by the Cowboys, DaRon Bland scored on a 22-yard interception return later in the first quarter on a play set up when Trevon Diggs hit Saquon Barkley as he was attempting to catch a pass from Daniel Jones. The ball popped in the air and Bland grabbed it.

The Cowboys' defense took over after that and forced two more turnovers and sacked Daniel Jones seven times in Dallas' biggest shutout win ever.

“We got skunked in the National Football League against Dallas, and at home, but I don’t think that takes away anything from what we did in training camp,” said Barkley, who ran for 51 yards on 12 carries. “I feel like we had a good week of practice. We came out and we just didn’t execute and play to the level we could play to.”

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said the sacks were the key for his team after New York fell behind and had to throw.

“They were going to pound the ball and challenge our run defense over and over again and soften up the pass rush,” McCarthy said. “The pass rush was relentless tonight. We gave up contain a couple of times early but after that, it was in total control of the game.”

Waller, who was acquired in a trade with Las Vegas and is supposed to be a game breaker for the offense, finished with a team-high three catches for 36 yards.

“I tell the guys I’ve been on the losing end of games like this before, and it’s (about) how you come in, is your head is high, and are you picking guys up?” he said. “Are you making sure you’re not pointing the finger at other people, (but) knowing your part and taking personal accountability? That’s how you move forward.”

No one felt the pain more than Jones, who was also hit 12 times on a night he was 15 of 28 for 104 yards.

“We are certainly frustrated and extremely disappointed with how we performed tonight, and I know I certainly am with myself, so a lot to work on and clean up,” he said in his first start after signing a four-year, $160 million contract. “We are going to be critical of ourselves and look to correct it and get back on the right page.”