ARLINGTON, Texas — The Giants’ shortcoming in this game always figured to be their offense, with rookie free agent Tommy DeVito making his first NFL start at quarterback.
Along with that, the Giants’ best pass catcher, tight end Darren Waller, is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury and their injury-riddled offensive line was on its umpteenth starting combination of the season.
So, it was going have to be the Giants’ defense that needed to set a tone against the Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
Yet, instead of setting a tone, the Giant’ defense yielded an ungodly 640 yards of offense to the Dallas offense in a 49-17 loss.
When The Post brought up the number of yards the Cowboys’ offense stamped on the Giants’ defense like cattle being branded to linebacker Bobby Okereke, he grimaced.
“I definitely didn’t know it was that number,’’ Okereke said. “It’s embarrassing. And as a captain and a leader on defense, I take responsibility first. I’m not playing well enough to help this team win. I’m not making enough impact plays to help this team win. So, I’ve got to go back to the drawing board this week and do all I can to help this team.’’
This was a different game for the Giants’ defense than the 40-0 blowout loss in the season opener at home, when the Giants were down 14-0 early thanks to a blocked field goal returned for a TD and a pick-six.
Sunday’s performance was a low point for the Giants’ defense.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott looked like an NFL quarterback passing against a collegiate Division III defense, completing 26 of 35 passes for 404 yards with four TD passes and one rushing TD.
The Cowboys rushed for 168 yards and three TDs.
Dallas receiver Brandin Cooks entered the game with 17 receptions for 167 yards, fifth among Cowboys receivers. He caught nine passes on 10 targets for 173 yards and a TD against the Giants.
“They were targeting him,’’ Giants cornerback Cor’Dale Flott said of Cooks. “He’s a good receiver. We just could have played him better.’’
When the 640 yards of Dallas offensive yards was brought up to Flott, he was taken aback.
“I didn’t know they had that many yards,’’ he said. “When I hear it, I just know we’ve got to get into the film room and work on it, see what allowed that, see what we’ve got to do better and go from there.”
The defense actually began the game well, stopping the Dallas offense on a fourth-and-goal on its first possession. Not much went well after that, though.
“Execution got away from us, and when Dallas is playing good football, they’re a very tough team to stop,’’ Okereke said. “I thought we came out stopping the run early. There are punches and counterpunches in the game. We go to make some calls and checks to defend the pass, because [Dallas receiver] CeeDee Lamb and those receivers are a great threat, and the run game leaks a little bit. When we try to adjust in the run game and the pass game leaks a little bit.
“When you’re going up against a dynamic offense like that, you don’t have much room for error.’’
Okereke called this period of crisis “a time where leadership can show up,’’ adding, “We have to do everything we can to stay encouraged, not discouraged. Obviously, no one likes this result. It’s tough, but no one’s going to save us, and the only things we can control is attitude and effort and doing everything we can to turn the ship.”
Meanwhile, a few feet away from where Okereke was speaking to reporters in full accountability, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, a team captain, declined to be interviewed, as did safety Xavier McKinney, who declined interview requests all last week after he publicly threw defensive coordinator Wink Martindale under the bus following last Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.
It was bad form and a bad look.