ARLINGTON — Giants head coach Brian Daboll was seething 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 some opportunities,” an angry and terse Daboll said. “We’ve got to do a better job. It starts with me.”
The reality was on Daboll’s face and in every word he and his players spoke inside a dead-quiet locker room: This second loss to their hated NFC East rivals hit the hardest of their four defeats so far.
“Yeah. I think it is a tough loss,” quarterback Daniel Jones said. “It’s a divisional game and a game where we didn’t play our best. That’s always disappointing. You’ve got to give credit to Dallas. They’re a good team. But we didn’t do what we needed to do to win the game. That was the difference, and it’s frustrating for all of us.”
The Cowboys (8-3) humbled the Giants (7-4), who have lost three of their last four. And Dallas inched one step closer to winning the Odell Beckham Jr. free agent sweepstakes.
But the Giants’ primary source of concern is that Saquon Barkley, the engine of their upstart season, has stalled out.
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 up for 39 rushing yards on 12 carries. That gives him a total of 61 rushing yards on 26 carries in the Giants’ past two games for a 2.34 yards per carry average.
Barkley was accountable and frustrated with himself. He took responsibility for the fourth down drop.
“I gotta make that play,” he said. “That’s it. I just gotta make the play. [Daboll] trusted us to go for it on 4th and 1 and make the play, and I didn’t make the play there for us. I gotta be better.”
Barkley also said improving the running game’s improvement starts with him.
“I gotta do a better job,” he said. “When the run game’s not working, it starts with the running back. So I gotta be better there, too. I view myself as a dynamic player. And that’s the type of player I want to be and I’ve got to be for this team.”
Jones contended he was at fault for putting that pass low and behind Barkley.
“Just a bad throw,” the quarterback said. “I gotta get it out in front of him. Bad throw. Can’t miss that.”
But Daboll also had only 10 offensive players on the field for that pivotal play. Coaching also is to blame.
“Can’t happen,” Daboll said.
Daboll’s decision to use top corner Adoree Jackson as a punt returner last week against Detroit certainly has backfired, as well.
Rodarius Williams and Julian Love both intercepted Dak Prescott in Thursday’s first half. But the shorthanded secondary had no answer for Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb and three touchdowns by Dallas tight ends, including two for Dalton Schultz.
“Unacceptable,” Leonard Williams said of the defense’s performance against the run, on third downs and in the red zone.
It doesn’t help morale that the Cowboys completely own the Giants right now, either.
The ‘Boys have won 11 of their last 12 meetings with the Giants and 16 of the last 21 dating back to Oct. 2012. Prescott has a 10-2 record against the Giants in 12 career meetings, including 10 straight wins.
“I was very aware I had those two losses my rookie year,” Prescott said. “I’ve kept that in the forefront of my mind since.”
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence even trash-talked the Giants’ sideline prior to the pivotal 4th and 1 in the third quarter like a schoolyard bully who knew he had the upper hand.
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Lawrence had his hands out saying “bring it on.” And the Giants failed to bring it.
Now they have no choice but to bring it the next three weeks against Washington, the Eagles and the Commanders again, in a string of NFC East clashes that will define their season.
Jones stayed optimistic that the Giants still control their own fate and said getting healthy will be key during this nine-day break.
“We put ourselves in a real good position,” he said. “Gotta heal up and take advantage of this long week. But we’re still confident. We’re 7-4 and we have a lot we still need to accomplish.”
And yet, if Barkley’s not going, the Giants know they will find it difficult to overcome anything.
“Every time you lose, it sucks,” Barkley said. “You get that 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.”