COWBOYS VS. GIANTS PREVIEW: Will Ezekiel Elliott, offense kick into gear?

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) motions to keep feeding him after a first down in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys looking to create momentum versus NFC East rival.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is the opposite of a hype man.

While everyone else around Dallas was knee-jerk reacting to the Cowboys ugly offensive performance in a season-opening loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Garett was steadily focused on the things that really caused the team problems in a 16-8 defeat.

Dallas gave up 6 sacks, committed 4 penalties for 35 yards and suffered costly miscues in the passing game. As a result, the Panthers shut out Dallas for the first three quarters and Carolina took a 16-0 lead in the process.

The biggest thing we had in the game the other day was we were out of rhythm too much with the minus plays early, Garrett said on Wednesday. If were just more efficient offensively and minimize those minus plays, stay ahead of the chains I think well be able to see more of our offense.

The sloppy offensive game followed a preseason in which Dallas sidelined quarterback Dak Prescott and many of the offensive first-teamers for the final two preseason games. The Cowboys made the decision that, with a couple of key offensive line starters battling injuries, they werent going to risk their front-line skill players.

Did that cause a lack of continuity for Dallas in its regular-season opener? Garrett hasnt conceded that.

Is the Cowboys Sunday night clash with their NFC East rival Giants now a must win? Garrett declined to put that kind of emphasis on it.

The Cowboys coach instead said the team is focusing on itself and getting better.

The Dallas defense, for its part, at least kept the Cowboys in the game versus Carolina. The Panthers posted 293 total yards, but didnt run away with the game. Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence got off to a hot start with 3 tackles for losses, including a sack among his 7 total tackles.

A week after trying to slow down Carolina dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton, the Cowboys face a totally different style in the Eli Manning-led Giants.

Obviously, (Manning is) an elite quarterback and been a great player in this league for a long time, Garrett said. He has a lot of weapons. The receivers outside are big-time players, really good route runners and great with the ball after they catch it. The tight end is an outstanding receiver, weve talked about the running backs, so theres a lot of weapons around him and they continue to get better and better and better. They challenge you a lot of different ways.

Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut.

The Cowboys would like to get that kind of production out of star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who began the season with a 69-yard effort and the teams only TD.

SERIES HISTORY: 111th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead, 63-46-2. Dallas, which is playing its home opener versus the Giants for the fourth straight season, swept its NFC East foe in 2017, breaking a three-game losing streak to the New York club in the process.

INJURY UPDATE: DE Demarcus Lawrence did not practice on Wednesday with a groin injury. However, the Cowboys anticipate Lawrence working out on Thursday and playing on Sunday night versus the Giants.