But this time, Wilson lost two fumbles, one of which resulted in a 27-yard touchdown return for the Cowboys. Benched for the final 27:31 of the game, Wilson watched the Giants fall 36-31 from the sideline, completely removed from the game.
"That's a tough position to be in,” said Wilson, who carried the ball seven times for just 19 yards. “God never gives you more than you can handle. Everything happens for a reason. I'm just gonna keep working hard. I'm at the bottom now. So nowhere to go but up from here. That's really all I got."
Coughlin was beside himself with his team’s six turnovers. But Wilson's fumbles seemed to baffle him.
“They just stripped them,” an upset Coughlin said afterward. “All we talked about all week long was they were coming to strip the ball. We can be better. He can get better at that. He can run with two hands on the ball just like anybody else.
“Not going to play unless they can hang onto the ball. It’s demoralizing to the whole team. He is a talented young man. We will get him right even if he has to run around the field with two balls. We need him!”
When asked if Wilson is still his starting running back, Coughlin said he would not answer that now.
“Give us a little time to work on this thing,” Coughlin said. “He’s still very much in our thoughts. He’s got to play. He’s a very talented young man. But you just can’t do that. Every time they touch you, you’re going to turn the ball over? The plays looked like they were over to me [before the strips].”
The Giants must get Wilson to correct this issue and regain his confidence. Veteran backup Andre Brown is out for at least the first eight weeks while on the temporary injured reserve with a fractured leg. And the Giants only have Da’Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox behind Wilson.
Scott spelled Wilson and rushed for 23 yards on five carries while also catching five passes for 51 yards. However, Scott, who had very little practice time with Eli Manning in training camp as the third-string running back, watched a Manning pass glance off his hands and into Brandon Carr’s for a 49-yard pick-six. That ended the Giants’ chances of a comeback with 1:50 remaining.
The Giants rolled the dice by entering the season with two young, inexperienced running backs, and it cost them in the opener. Even if they sign a veteran back, the Giants still need the dynamic Wilson. That’s why several veteran players tried talking to Wilson on the sideline and in the locker room.
“I told him that this is how you define yourself,” cornerback Terrell Thomas said. “This is how you started your season last year, don’t let this be you. How you define yourself next week or in practice, how you talk to the media is how you are going to define your character.
“Be a man [and say] I got to do a better job of protecting the ball and step up next week,” Thomas continued. “He is in the doghouse now with Coughlin, so he has to do a better job of that. Maybe he needs to get like Tiki [Barber] and just hold it high. He is a very good back for us that we need on the field, so hopefully he can back on the field sooner than later.”
Nothing seemed to go right for Wilson right from the start. On the first offensive play of the game, the Giants tried to set up a delayed screen to Wilson, but Manning's pass was intercepted by DeMarcus Ware at the Giants’ 15-yard-line.
On the Giants’ next possession, Manning completed two passes to get down to the Dallas 8-yard line. But when the Giants handed off to Wilson, he coughed up his first carry. Wilson was stripped by Barry Church, and George Selvie recovered the ball at the Dallas 7.
In last year’s season-opening loss to Dallas at MetLife Stadium, Wilson fumbled his second pro carry ever, and was used sparingly for the next 11 games by Coughlin.
The coach, who has zero tolerance for turnovers and fumbles, turned right back to Wilson on the next drive Sunday night, and Wilson rushed for 13 yards on his next carry. But Wilson fumbled again on the team’s second offensive play of the third quarter at the Giants’ 27. Church scooped up the turnover and returned it for a touchdown to push the Cowboys ahead 20-10.
Wilson was then benched, and as the game went on, he either stood by himself for long periods of time or sat on the bench. Several Giants made it clear that they will rally around him to make sure he doesn't lose his confidence.
“That is just not an option,” Manning said. "Usually the best thing to do for a guy after a couple fumbles is to give him the ball again and let him get his confidence back just by running hard and playing well.”