ARLINGTON — Giants head coach Brian Daboll was in turmoil after the Dallas Cowboys cooked the Giants turkey on Thanksgiving Day in the “Odell Bowl,” 28-20, at a rowdy AT&T stadium.
“Yeah, I think we missed a few opportunities,” an angry, laconic Daboll said. “We have to do a better job. It starts with me.
Reality was on Daboll’s face and in every word he and his players spoke in a silent locker room: That second loss to their hated NFC East rivals hit the hardest of their four losses so far.
“Yeah. I think it’s a tough loss,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “It’s a division game and a game where we didn’t play our best. It’s always disappointing “You have to give credit to Dallas. They’re a good team. But we didn’t do what it took to win the game. That was the difference, and it’s frustrating for all of us.
The Cowboys (8-3) have humiliated the Giants (7-4), who have lost three of their last four games. And Dallas moved one step closer to winning Odell Beckham Jr’s free agent draw.
But the Giants’ biggest concern is that Saquon Barkley, the driving force behind their season, has stalled.
Barkley dropped a 4th-and-1 pass from Jones with 4:07 left in the third quarter at the Giants 44-yard line, snowballing Dallas’ strong second-half start into an avalanche.
And Barkley was bottled for 39 rushing yards on 12 carries. That gives him a total of 61 yards rushing on 26 carries in the Giants’ last two games for an average of 2.34 yards per carry.
Barkley was responsible and frustrated with himself. He took responsibility for the fourth descent.
“I have to make this game,” he said. “That’s it. I just have to make the game. [Daboll] trusted us to go there on 4 and 1 and make the play, and I didn’t make the play there for us. I have to be better.
Barkley also said improving the running game starts with him.
“I have to do a better job,” he said. “When the running game doesn’t work, it starts with the running back. So I have to be better there too. I consider myself a dynamic player. And that’s the type of player I want to be and have to be for this team.
Jones maintained he was at fault for putting that pass low and behind Barkley.
“Just a bad pitch,” the quarterback said. “I have to take it out in front of him. Bad throw. I can’t miss this.
But Daboll also had just 10 attacking players on the pitch for this crucial game. Coaching is also to blame.
“It can’t happen,” Daboll said.
Daboll’s decision to use top corner Adoree Jackson as a punt returner last week against Detroit also backfired.
Rodarius Williams and Julian Love both intercepted Dak Prescott in the first half on Thursday. But the shorthanded secondary had no answer for Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb and three Dallas tight end touchdowns, including two for Dalton Schultz.
“Unacceptable,” Leonard Williams said of the defense’s performance on the run, on third down and in the red zone.
It also doesn’t help morale that the Cowboys completely own the Giants right now.
The ‘Boys have won 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Giants and 16 of the last 21 dating back to October 2012. Prescott is 10-2 against the Giants in 12 career meetings, including 10 straight wins.
“I was very aware that I suffered those two losses in my freshman year,” Prescott said. “I’ve kept that in the forefront of my mind ever since.”
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence even talked about the Giants sideline before the 4th-and-1 pivots in the third quarter like a schoolyard bully who knew he had the upper hand.
Lawrence had his hands outstretched saying “go ahead”. And the Giants failed to bring him.
Now they have no choice but to bring it the next three weeks against Washington, the Eagles and the Commanders again, in a series of NFC East matchups that will define their season.
Jones remained optimistic the Giants are still in control of their own destiny and said health will be key during this nine-day break.
“We put ourselves in a very good position,” he said. “I have to heal and enjoy this long week. But we are still confident. We are 7-4 and we still have a lot to accomplish.
And yet, if Barkley doesn’t go, the Giants know they will struggle to overcome anything.
“Any time you lose, it sucks,” Barkley said. “You get this nasty feeling in the pit of your stomach, especially when you know there’s a lot of things you can go back and if you change it you can change the outcome of the game. But hats off to them.
“They were the better team today.”