The Giants’ grades after their season-ending 36-35 home loss to the Cowboys on Sunday:
In many ways this was a fitting 2018 Eli Manning performance. Some good (301 passing yards), some bad (one interception, one lost fumble) and a big fat loss after a highly disappointing final series went nowhere. Saquon Barkley (17-109) had runs of 26 and 68 yards and not much else, other than a Superman-type leap into the end zone, which was sensational. TE Evan Engram, (5-81, 1 TD) closed out strong. Cody Latimer (4-72, 1 TD) had two brilliant one-handed grabs. TE Scott Simonson was obliterated by DE DeMarcus Lawrence to put Manning in harm’s way and cause a fumble and turnover in the first quarter. Start (seven points in the first half) was brutal, but this should have been enough to win.
Look, we know this unit has staggered to the finish line and never can be expected to get a big stop. In that regard, it was status quo. When did TE Blake Jarwin (7-119) become Jason Witten? Jarwin came into the game with zero career NFL TDs and exited with three. It is hard to describe what safety Curtis Riley did on Jarwin’s 39-yard TD catch and run because Riley actually did not do a darn thing, except earn a benching. LB Olivier Vernon produced 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits. It should be noted Vernon was working against a backup tackle. On cue, this unit gave up the game-winning touchdown, turned Dak Prescott (27 of 44, 387 yards, 4 TDs) into Roger Staubach and allowed 36 points to a team not using Ezekiel Elliott.
Corey Coleman opened the game with a 38-yard kickoff return. Coleman early in the third quarter had a 19-yard punt return. In what should have set up a dramatic finish, Latimer scooted to a 34-yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter to set up the offense near mid-field. Aldrick Rosas finished up a great season with field goals of 48 and 38 yards.
The play-calling on the final possession by Pat Shurmur did not get the ball in the hands of Barkley, even though with 1:05 remaining and two timeouts there was plenty of time to run it or throw screens to the team’s best weapon. Shurmur got the team to play hard all the way, but these close losses are painful and predictable. James Bettcher’s defense was able to get heat (four sacks) on Prescott, but he is so elusive he killed the Giants outside the pocket.