Daniel Jones
Brian Fluharty | USA TODAY Sports

A huge Thanksgiving victory over the Cowboys was obviously the goal for the Giants, but also a pipedream. Big Blue entered the holiday matchup incredibly injured and coming off its worst performance of the season, a loss to the Lions. Starting cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson and Fabian Moreau were inactive. So were offensive linemen Shane Lemieux, Jon Feliciano, Evan Neal, and Josh Ezeudu.

This wasn’t supposed to be a favorable Turkey Day for the Giants. And it sure wasn’t, even after a strong first half. The Giants lost 28-20 to drop to 7-4. Head coach Brian Daboll’s team has now lost two straight, and three of its last four.

Less than two weeks ago, the Giants were a 7-2 ballclub only a game back of the Eagles in the NFC East. But things change fast in this league.

After two defeats, the Giants are now 7-4 and 3.5 games back of the Eagles. They’re also only a game up on the last-place Commanders, who have won five of their last six games.

The Giants are losing ground amid a tight division race. And it doesn’t look like things will get any easier down the stretch. Washington comes to town in Week 13, with the Eagles visiting the following Sunday. The Giants then play the Commanders, Vikings, and Eagles all on the road in the final month of the season.

What looked like a surefire playoff team just 10 days ago is now just a game up on the last-place spot in its own division. With multiple tough games yet to take place.

Not ideal, to say the least.

Some thoughts on the Thanksgiving loss:

Third-down struggles. The Giants’ defense was horrendous on third down and the offense wasn’t much better. Big Blue allowed the Cowboys to convert seven of 11 third-down conversions, including a third-and-goal in the third quarter that resulted in a 15-yard touchdown reception for tight end Dalton Schultz.

On offense, the Giants failed to keep drives alive and converted just three of 11 third downs. This played a role in the team failing to keep up with a productive Cowboys offense that scored three touchdowns in the second half.

Reserve secondary’s up-and-down day. The Giants picked Dak Prescott off twice, with safety Julian Love and cornerback Rodarius Williams forcing the turnovers. This matched the defense’s total number of interceptions through the first 10 games.

So in the takeaway department, without Jackson, Moreau, and safety Xavier McKinney (on the non-football injury list), the makeshift reserve secondary did just fine.

But take away those turnovers, and the defensive backfield looked lost for much of the day.

Prescott finished with 261 yards and two touchdowns on 21 of 30 passing. Receivers CeeDee Lamb (six catches, 106 yards), Michael Gallup (five catches, 63 yards), and tight end Dalton Schultz (two touchdown receptions) had huge days.

It’s not like the pass rush helped the secondary out either though, as the Giants didn’t sack Prescott once.

Maybe the mini-bye week will allow this young, inexperienced secondary the proper time to right the wrongs. Because without its primary weapons, the unit failed a crucial test against the Cowboys.

More lack of discipline. The Giants’ offense entered Thursday tied for the eighth-most penalties, while the defense entered with the sixth-most penalties. Yes — the Giants were quietly one of the most penalized teams in the entire league.

Unfortunately, a lack of discipline haunted the Giants again.

New York committed seven penalties for 66 yards, including multiple in the secondary. Slot corner Darnay Holmes committed illegal contact, defensive pass interference, and defensive holding penalties, which proved crucial on multiple Cowboys touchdown drives.

The team, especially the defense, continues to shoot itself in the foot. This won’t fare well down the stretch, especially in the team’s four remaining division games.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.