Giants eager to shed past prime-time struggles against Cowboys

Does he? 

“Yeah, I do,’’ Daniel Jones said. “I think we all do.’’ 

Really? He does? They all do? 

How can Jones or any of his Giants teammates the past three years say with a straight face that they enjoy playing under the lights of prime time? Sure, the football world is watching, but what those inquiring eyes have seen is the worst in Jones and the Giants. There have been close games, not-so-close games, excruciating finishes and the sting of getting dominated. What there has not been is a win. Not one. Not for quite a while. 

The Giants, with new head coach Brian Daboll, are in the process of changing the fortunes of the franchise. Winning the season opener then the next game is not something that has gone on around these parts since 2016. Excitement and expectation is building. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Daniel Jones, right, and Brian Daboll at Giants practice.
Daniel Jones, right, and Brian Daboll at Giants practice.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

The bright light, however, is what for too long has caused the Giants to wilt. They are 0-10 in their past 10 games played at night on national television. Since beating the 49ers on the road on Nov. 12, 2018, the Giants are 0-6 on Monday night, 0-3 on Thursday night and 0-1 on Sunday night. 

Here they go again. The Giants will face the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football,’’ and the call is for a “white-out’’ event at MetLife Stadium — fans are asked to wear white shirts to match the Giants’ all-white Color Rush jerseys. Anything possible to prevent the usual darkness from infiltrating the evening scene. 

“We’ve got to just come out and play our game,’’ Jones said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Prime-time or not, we haven’t won enough games over the last few years.’’ 

Jones is 0-8 in his career in games played in prime time, which might be a reason why there is so much trepidation outside the Giants universe about his ability to be a franchise quarterback. Heck, there is plenty of doubt about that from inside the fan base. 

Thus far this season, Jones has played mostly mistake-free ball and come up with winning plays down the stretch of both games, and the byproduct has crafted a marvelous head-coaching start for Daboll. What comes next can further disassociate him from the past regimes. The Giants have not started 3-0 since 2009 and they have lost nine of their past 10 games against the Cowboys. 

“Playing on Monday night is always special, but the things that help you win a game on Sunday at 1 o’clock are the things that help you win a game on Monday,’’ Daboll said. “And I think that’s where our focus needs to be.’’ 

No one can be quite sure about either of these teams. The Giants are winning with defense and a heavy dose of running back Saquon Barkley. The Cowboys are 1-1 despite scoring just 23 total points, and Cooper Rush is 1-0 this season as the starting quarterback, filling in for injured Dak Prescott. Rush, 28, spent the summer of 2020 and one month on the practice squad with the Giants. There have been many glowing comments from the Giants about Rush, undrafted out of Central Michigan, heading into his third NFL start. 

“He’s a smooth operator back there, and he doesn’t get rattled,’’ defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. “Our job is to try to rattle him.’’ 

The Giants expect to have their young edge rushers, Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux, available after they missed the first two games with injuries. That Thibodeaux’s much-anticipated NFL debut will come in a stand-alone game is fitting, as he is a big personality about to take a big stage. 

“Big games like this — whether it’s a national championship, Super Bowl, ‘Monday Night Football,’ not saying it compares to the Super Bowl — in a sense where everybody is watching, I wouldn’t say it adds pressure to me, but in a sense where if you do better, it will amplify,’’ Thibodeaux said. 

Jones acknowledged that for a Monday night game, “there’s some energy, there’s some excitement to it.’’ For his entire stay with the Giants, there has also been heartache attached to it. Here is another chance to show how different these Giants are.

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