Five Things: Week 12 – Thanksgiving: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

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In a game that most expected the Giants to be blown away, it wasn’t as one-sided as first feared but due to a 2nd half collapse, the Giants still lost 20-28 against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Here are five things we learned:

The Good

Let’s be honest, this was a game of two halves, and the first half was mostly very positive from the Giants’ perspective. Sure, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but on the whole, the Giants frustrated the Cowboys on both sides of the ball.

After the defense forced a turnover on downs on the Cowboys’ first drive, the unit seemed to galvanize itself and mostly kept the Cowboys’ offence at bay. On five drives, the Cowboys did score a touchdown; however, the Giants forced the aforementioned turnover on downs, two three-and-outs that were punted away, and two interceptions of Dak Prescott on the Giants’ side of the field (one by Rodarius Williams and one by Julian Love), which doubled their season tally.

The offence was a mixed bag, but it was able to put up 13 points on six drives, thanks to two Graham Gano field goals, one of which was a franchise record-tying 57 yards and a touchdown drive to counter Dallas’, which was highlighted by a phenomenal 44-yard catch by the rejuvenated Darius Slayton, who led the team in receiving yards once again.

The Bad

You would have thought that coming out of the locker room for the second half up 13-7 would spur the Giants to carry on their impressive first-half showing, but in reality, what happened was a complete capitulation on both sides of the ball, which Dallas took full advantage of.

The Cowboys again had five drives in a half, but unlike their poor first-half result, this time their drives went like this: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, missed field goal, kneel down to end the game. Once again, the Giants seemed unable to contain the opposition’s tight end corps, which accounted for their three touchdowns. For the Giants, however, there will be one player under the spotlight this week, and that’s Darnay Holmes. Holmes lined up continuously against Cowboy receiver CeeDee Lamb, and Lamb, who finished the game with six catches for 109 yards, always seemed to have the advantage in the matchup. He was able to draw two DPI penalties against Holmes, one of which was potentially the most questionable call we’ve seen by the officials this season.

The Ugly

It’s fair to say that the defense struggled in the second half, but the offence was just downright uninspiring. The running game, which had struggled from the start, was unable to get going as the Giants’ makeshift offensive line yet again was ineffective in being able to open up running lanes, and the passing attack wasn’t much better due to a mixture of pressure and off-target throws.

The Giants’ success is almost entirely tied to the fortunes of Jones and Barkley, and when neither plays well, the offence comes apart at the seams, which makes for unpleasant viewing. This was highlighted by a brutally failed fourth down attempt, in which part of the blame could have been placed on either party. Interestingly, there are whispers amongst the fanbase that Barkley is suffering from a minor injury, as he was nearly rushed by third-stringer Gary Brightwell despite having double the touches behind the same offensive line.

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Thibodeaux’s Breakout is Coming

It’ll be tough for the Giants fanbase to find a plus coming out of this game, but there was one, and that’s the continued development of their fifth overall pick, Kayvon Thibodeaux.

So far this season, Thibodeaux has been a victim of box-score watchers who will look at his stats prior to the Cowboys game, see eight games played, nineteen pressures, three QB hits, and one sack, and label him a bust. However, to really appreciate what Thibodeaux brings to the table for the Giants, you need to look beyond that.

His impact on the Cowboys game was obvious, as he generated pressure on 38.1% of his 21 pass rush snaps (nine pressures, five QB hits), ranking third among all players this season. He now has a 14.0% win rate, which leads all rookies, and this is despite his season only starting in week 3 due to injury. He’s also not been able to line up with fellow edge rusher Azeez Ojulari yet this season, but with Ojulari returning from IR this coming week, some of the attention could be drawn away, which could lead to those near sacks showing up on that pedestalized stat sheet.

It’s In Our Hands

December is always regarded as a crucial month for teams because playoff-clinching scenarios typically begin around this time, but with the exception of practise squad member Landon Collins and current IR delegate Sterling Shepard, who were both part of the last team to do so in 2016, meaningful games for the Giants players as Christmas approaches are relatively unknown. However, on Monday morning, head coach Brian Daboll addressed the players with a simple message: “The season starts now.”

Following an extended Thanksgiving break, the Giants will prepare for four inter-divisional games against playoff rivals the Washington Commanders and NFC East leaders the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as games against the Minnesota Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts.

The key will be how they can get their stuttering roster back into the form that saw them pull off multiple upset wins. Whether this means solving the Barkley/offensive line issue, finding new reliable weapons for Daniel Jones (hello Odell Beckham Jr….), or relying on the imminently returning injured players such as Azeez Ojulari, Ben Brederson, and Daniel Bellinger, something needs to change, and time is of the essence.

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