ARLINGTON, Texas -- If the 60 minutes of football didn't do it to you, the comments from the New York Giants' locker room should have you scratching your head. The Giants lost 35-17 to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday and the game wasn't even as close as the final score indicated.
The Cowboys, fresh off a division title and with Super Bowl aspirations this season, proved to be at a completely different level than the Giants. But that's not what Giants players were saying after the loss.
"I don't think we're that far at all [from the Cowboys]," running back Saquon Barkley said. "It's one game. But I don't want it to fall into that, 'It's one game.' We don't want to make it a habit. Losing at all is never a good thing. But we understand that we lost a game, but we are not that far off. That team is a great team. A very good team. Well coached. Got a lot of talent over there.
"But I don't believe they're that much better than us."
Say what, 'Say-Say'?!
There's a fine line between remaining positive and being realistic. It's not just Barkley -- it's the organization as a whole.
"We're not far [from the Cowboys]," cornerback Janoris Jenkins said. "Like I said, just mental mistakes. Small things that can be fixed in practice or on the field. We're just going to continue to work."
On one hand, Sunday's loss is a single game in a four-month-long season. The Giants need to stay optimistic because there are 15 games remaining. There is a lot to be said about the power in believing in oneself.
Then there's the legitimate concern that the organization is being dishonest with itself. The Giants can't be in a rebuild and consider this roster capable of making a run at the playoffs with a 38-year-old quarterback and a super young defense.
Maybe this was a bump in the road and they will fare better against lesser competition beginning Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. ET, CBS). But more than likely, the Giants are who we thought they were after subtracting significant talent following two seasons in which they combined for eight wins.
There is so much to nitpick from this loss. There is so much that is disconcerting, a word that confused the Giants coach.
"I don't know what that word is. I'm not disappointed, we need to get better. Not discouraged, not discon ... whatever you said," Pat Shurmur explained. "We just gotta get better."
The coach. The defense. The quarterback.
The running back is fine. Barkley didn't get enough chances on Sunday, a head=scratcher considering leaning on his brilliance seems to be the Giants' only chance of success this season.
Barkley had one touch for three yards in the second quarter. He didn't get the ball on key third- and fourth-down plays in the third quarter, and finished with 11 carries for 120 yards.
Surely, that's not nearly enough.
"I don't think we had enough plays in the second quarter, period," Shurmur said. "We need more plays."
But he's all right with 11 total carries for his best player?
"Games play out differently," Shurmur said. "We had really good production when he touched the ball. We threw him the ball as well."
Barkley had four catches on six targets for 19 yards. Quarterback Eli Manning was contently throwing checkdowns on second- and third-and-long while down 20 points in the third quarter. His coach apparently didn't mind, either.
"We call plays to execute them and there's typically ones downfield," Shurmur said. "They play a soft zone, then you're forced to check it down. You want to stay out of the second- and third-and-longs. At that point, I'm all right with him getting completions if the downfield throws are not there,"
Even if Barkley went off or the Giants' offense got back on track, it might not have been enough considering the defense couldn't stop Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' offense. Prescott completed 25 of 32 passes for 405 with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a perfect QB rating (158.3) -- even more evidence the Cowboys are light years ahead of the Giants.
"I will say [our offense] felt like a well-oiled machine," Prescott said.
He's right about that. The Cowboys could still be scoring if they liked.
The Giants will have their chance to bounce back, but they need to be realistic. They seem to want to deny this should be a rebuilding season designed around getting rookie quarterback Daniel Jones experience.
It's a trickle-down effect. The decision-makers think they have assembled a playoff contender. They move and operate as such. The players have almost no choice but to believe it, instead of understanding that they are part of a rebuilding process.
It's a vicious cycle. The charade lives on.