EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - If there was one consistent knock on Daniel Jones coming out of college, it was his penchant for turning the ball over -- including too many fumbles.
That has become his biggest problem so far in the NFL.
He added three more turnovers to his season total in a 37-18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. He now has eight interceptions and 10 fumbles (eight lost) in his eight games (and seven starts). Both of his first two turnovers led to Cowboys field goals on Monday night, not to mention huge momentum swings. The third was returned for a garbage time touchdown that padded the final score.
The first two turnovers should never have happened.
The interception came on a deep pass at the end of the first half that never should have been thrown. It came from the Giants' 26 with 39 seconds left and the Giants nursing a 12-10 lead. Jones had no one open, including receiver Darius Slayton, his deep man. He threw it anyway and never saw Cowboys safety Xavier Howard, who not only crossed in front of Slayton to pick it off, but returned it 29 yards into Giants territory. That set the Cowboys up for a late field goal and a halftime lead.
The fumble came midway through the third quarter as he tried to run for a first down and dove for it at the end of his run. As he did, he lost the ball and the Cowboys recovered, setting up another field goal drive.
Turnovers happen, but both of those were avoidable. With a defense playing as well as the Giants' defense was playing on Monday night, a quarterback can't keep giving the ball away like that. And now it's a trend. Over the last three games, Jones has six turnovers, including four lost fumbles. He has 16 turnovers in half a season.
So consider that the biggest issue Jones is going to have to fix as he heads into his second season.
In the meantime, here are some more takeaways from the Giants' seventh loss of the season …
- Jones was hammered on his first three pass attempts, including twice by DeMarcus Lawrence, who just blew past RT Mike Remmers. The offensive line settled down a bit from there. But give Pat Shurmur some credit. There were some subtle adjustments, including running plays away from Lawrence and getting Remmers some help, either from one of the tight ends or a running back. Remmers still had his hands full with Lawrence for most of the game, though.
- The offensive line struggles aren't helping Saquon Barkley, either. He rushed 14 times for just 28 yards. Barkley isn't really helping things by being unable to break tackles the way he did last season and earlier this season -- a possible sign that maybe his sprained ankle isn't quite 100 percent. But sometimes he has no shot. Like when the Giants had a 1st and goal from the one-yard line in the second quarter. Should be automatic with a back like Barkley, right? Instead, he's hit three yards behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.
- Barkley did break free for a 65-yard gain on a screen pass for his most explosive play since his injury. He may still look tentative as he approaches the line of scrimmage on runs, but that's a good reminder of what he can do in the open field.
- Here's a consequence of poor offensive line play (and in many cases, some dubious play-calling): The Giants were inside the Dallas 11 five times. They reached the 3, 1, 7, 8 and 11. Four times they settled for a field goal. When a team is that close five times, they should win a game in a blowout. Instead, nothing but wasted opportunities.
- Shurmur challenged what should have been a pass interference call on the Cowboys in the fourth quarter with the Giants trying for a game-tying touchdown. He was 100 percent right that PI should have been called. Everyone could see it plainly on replay that the defender arrived long before the ball. And of course the non-call was upheld. This has become a bad joke. The NFL replay officials are protecting their on-field officials over a rule they think is stupid and they're not going to overturn anything. The NFL has to put a stop to that. In the meantime, Shurmur has to stop challenging. It's just a waste of timeouts.
- It's hard to imagine a better start than the Giants' defense had, when veteran safety Antoine Bethea picked off Dak Prescott's pass on the first play of the game. Prescott was looking downfield and somehow never saw Bethea standing there, alone, two yards deep, and he threw it right to him. Of course, three plays later the Giants had to settle for a field goal, but still it was a heck of a start for the defense.
- Unfortunately … the Giants' defense has a knack for playing well, and then doing something spectacularly poorly. Witness the 42-yard touchdown they gave up near the end of the first half. They nearly have Prescott sacked, but he escapes the pocket and flips a terrible short pass to tight end (and Giant killer) Blake Jarwin. He's wide open because Giants LB Alec Ogletree broke his coverage to go after Prescott. He catches the ball, takes off down the field and runs right through a barely-there Janoris Jenkins for the touchdown. It had everything: A near-miss, a blown assignment, a poor effort. The trifecta!
- The worst play, though, came on the game-winning touchdown. On third and 12, Prescott has all the time in the world in the pocket and finds Amari Cooper wide open running across the middle of the field. No defender is near him. And with the Giants seemingly in a soft zone, he still outraces all the DBs to the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. How do they blow a coverage that badly in such a key spot? They were down five points with about eight minutes to go. Then suddenly: Game over.
- Remember when one-handed catches were unusual? Well, at least they're still spectacular. Golden Tate made a great one in the second quarter that got the Giants down to the Cowboys one-yard line, and he even managed to somehow get both his feet in bounds. It was eerily reminiscent of the Odell Beckham Jr. one-hander against the Cowboys a few years back. Same end of the field, too, just on the opposite sideline.
- Leonard Williams' debut with the Giants was a lot like his last few years with the Jets. He didn't have a big impact. He did come pretty close to a sack. He did see a lot of double teams and forced the Cowboys to run to the opposite side. He was what he usually is -- a good player. Worth a 3 and a 5? Worth a lucrative, long-term contract extension? He also didn't really help the Giants' run defense all that much, by the way. Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 139 yards on 23 carries.
- One key change for the Giants' defense that figures to be permanent: Rookie Corey Ballentine took over as the slot corner for Grant Haley. Teams had been picking on Haley lately. Ballentine has done nothing but impress, and this was his first game back from a concussion.
- Lorenzo Carter had a really strong game. He was one of the few Giants defenders who consistently pushed the pocket around Prescott. He also made some nice stops in coverage. Once he gets some consistency and some help around him, he could be a very effective pass rusher.
- WR Cody Latimer had a 50-yard kickoff return to open the second half, and then added another 41-yarder later in the half. Both times, he took off like he was shot out of a cannon and just ran straight ahead, through the Cowboys' defenders. He's a big improvement over rookie Darius Slayton in that role. Ballentine did a pretty good job as a returner, so he could factor back in at some point.
- If you're looking for someone to blame, the Giants were up 9-3 when a black cat ran onto the field late in the second quarter. After that, it was a cat-astrophe for the Giants.