The Giants are faced with a reality check.
An 0-2 start for the second consecutive season and the fifth in six years wasn’t supposed to be in the cards.
After their 20-13 Sunday night defeat in Dallas — that really wasn’t that close – the Giants are at the crossroads.
Is it the talent is not performing at its level because of lack of chemistry and cohesiveness, or was the talent – mainly the offensive line and overall depth – misjudged and over-evaluated?
Their envisioned high-octane offense managed 255 yards with Eli Manning passing 44 times for from their 67 offensive plays. He completed 33 of 44 for 220 yards, an average of 4.4 yards per attempt.
He needed to dump the ball to Saquon Barkley out of the backfield 14 times (80 yards) for his only real opportunity.
But Barkley couldn’t find any holes at the line, and his longest run was 10 yards from his overall 11-carry, 28-yard bottled effort. Aside from Barkley, there were seven other carries among Manning , Wayne Gallman, and Jonathan Stewart, the latter two who haven’t provided an adequate breather for Barkley.
Dallas surrounded Odell Beckham Jr. all night, allowing him a manageable four catches for 51 yards, and he didn’t have a double-digit grab.
Barkley’s and Beckham’s lack of productivity can be blamed on the continued ineptness of the Giants’ offensive line, an area that the team’s doesn’t seem to have an answer, and now they have to deal with the loss of center Jon Halapio.
Manning looked like an aged journeyman boxer, getting off the canvas six times and enduring seemingly countless other hits that never allowed him to get everything up to speed.
He also might be starting to show the aging process the Giants didn’t believe would happen for two years.
The offensive effort was brutal, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
The defense held its own after the secondary was burned for a 64-yard bomb on the third play of the game. They held Ezekiel Elliott to 78 yards and Dak Prescott to 45, but Prescott’s 16-for-25, 160-yard effort was just enough.
They didn’t look good when Dallas marched down the field to seal the win with a 14-play, 82-yard drive that chewed 8:30 off the clock in the third quarter.
But the defense has some manageable situations that can be fixed and tweaked. Eli Apple is starting to show why he was a first-round pick, but the Giants need to find an answer to their non-existent pass rush aside from Olivier Vernon.
Overall, it wasn’t pretty, and it won’t get any easier, either.
The Giants will travel to Houston to face a hungry Texans’ squad that — like them – desperately needs a win to save whatever miniscule chances they have for thoughts about making a run at the postseason.
They will face a defensive unit that could provide another battering for Manning with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and D.J. Reader, who won’t need the help of blitzes from the secondary to derail Manning and the offense.
Deshaun Watson is the type of playmaker who could pick the Giants apart if he is not hurried and harassed.
However, the Texans are experiencing some issues with their offensive line, and defensive coordinator James Bettcher will need to get creative.
Head coach Pat Shurmur also will need to get out his whiteboard to find better options to protect Manning and clear pathways for Barkley and Beckham. Maybe Mike Shula –remember him? — will have some answers.
It’s the proverbial look-in the-mirror moment.
The result could be a rapid revitalization or a rapid descent.