Cowboys vs. Giants: Final Report Card, Player Grades for New York
For the first time in nine years, the defending Super Bowl champions will start the season with a loss.
The Dallas Cowboys, behind a three-TD performance from quarterback Tony Romo, topped the New York Giants by a 24-17 mark on the NFL's opening night. The Cowboys held Eli Manning and the G-Men to just 269 total yards.
It was a rough night for Big Blue, who's defense broke down in the second-half. Dallas running back DeMarco Murray finished with 131 yards on 20 carries, while slot receiver Kevin Ogletree churned out eight catches and two scores.
Check out a full Giants report card and a position-by-position breakdown of all the action.
Eli Manning: A
Giants fans certainly won't peg this loss on Eli Manning.
Amid a bevy of dropped passes and shoddy offensive line play, Manning finished 21 of 32 for 213 yards and a touchdown. He did not turn the ball over, and looked near-perfect on New York's final few drives.
Manning tested the short and mid-range game for most of the night, and seemed to establish a rapport with new tight end Martellus Bennett.
Perhaps Eli's best throw came in the third quarter, when he found wideout Domenik Hixon for 39 yards on a fly route. All in all, Eli mustered a very respectable performance, despite the rest of the offense failing to pull their weight.
Ahmad Bradshaw: A
After a slow start, Bradshaw really found his stride, notching a 10-yard touchdown in the third and a 33-yard scamper in the fourth. Bradshaw looked shifty and bounced past a slew of would-be tacklers in New York's backfield all night.
Despite a suspect O-line, Bradshaw found the edge and finished with 78 yards on 17 touches, good for a 4.6-yard average. As he emerged, the Giants opened up the deep ball and play action.
David Wilson: D-
A first-rounder from April's Draft, Wilson had a rough debut Wednesday night.
Wilson finished with just 4 yards on 2 carries, and committed a costly first-half fumble. Moreover, he failed to make an impact fielding kick returns.
Perhaps you can chalk it up to first-time jitters, but this was a disappointing effort from the Virginia Tech speedster.
Henry Hynoski: A-
Hynoski looked good as a run blocker, laying down a few picture-perfect blocks that sprung Bradshaw late in the game. He also caught the only pass thrown his way, taking a swing play for 1 yard.
Victor Cruz: C+
Cruz lead the Giants with 11 targets, hauling in six passes for 58 yards.
After averaging over 18 yards a grab in 2011, Cruz was held to just 9.7 yards per reception on Wednesday.
His touted speed and route running abilities were both there against Big D. Instead, it was simply a matter of mechanics for Cruz, who dropped three passes and was flagged for two penalties.
Domenik Hixon: A
Hixon seemingly emerged from nowhere to make one of the game's biggest plays, a scintillant 39-yard catch in the third quarter. In his first reps since 2010, Hixon finished with 3 catches for 55 yards.
He was targeted 5 times, and picked up the slack on the vertical game after both Cruz and receiver Hakeem Nicks were held in check. Hixon also took a punt return for 5 yards. It was a promising return for the seven-year vet.
Hakeem Nicks: C
On Wednesday, Nicks lacked the aggressive possession style Big Blue fans fell in love with. He finished with a tepid stat line of just 4 catches for 38 yards on 6 targets.
Nicks didn't do much to make an impact, but he also didn't show any health concerns after undergoing foot surgery this spring. A durable Nicks is key to New York's 2012 chances.
Martellus Bennett: A+
Despite a second quarter drop, Bennett looked stellar in his Giants debut. He finished the day with 4 receptions for 40 yards and a key late-game touchdown.
Bennett sported a receiver's nose for the ball and a lineman's physicality. He saw as many targets as Hakeem Nicks, and remained a tough match-up for the Cowboys all night.
Bear Pascoe: B
Pascoe didn't do much in week 1, tallying 1 reception for 6 yards while staying active as a run blocker. His role as a receiving TE will continue to dwindle as Bennett progresses.
Sean Locklear: B+
Locklear held his own as a fill-in for Will Beatty. The Giants found their rushing game in the second-half, and it was Locklear who helped open the hole for Ahmad Bradshaw on his 10-yard touchdown run.
Kevin Boothe: C
The Giants simply couldn't run up the middle, and Boothe was consistently blown up. In pass protection, however, he looked better, and the Giants' left side of the line didn't allow any sacks.
David Baas: D+
The Giants were beat in the middle all night, and Baas nearly botched a third-down snap to Manning.
Chris Snee: C+
Snee was the better of the two guards for New York, although that's not saying much. He took on linebacker DeMarcus Ware for a portion of the night, and was beat on several inside handoffs.
David Diehl: D-
One of Big Blue's biggest question marks heading into 2012, RT David Diehl certainly didn't dispel the fears of Giants faithful. Diehl was burned on two DeMarcus Ware sacks, and his right side allowed all three of Dallas' sacks. Diehl also lined up against end Jason Hatcher, who notched a pivotal take-down on Manning in the second half.
Jason Pierre-Paul: B+
"J.P.P." opened the season with 4 tackles, including a tackle for a loss. He broke into the pocket a handful of times, but failed to sack the elusive Tony Romo. Pierre-Paul also spent some time lined up against center.
Justin Tuck: B
Like Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck seemed to fall off a bit in the second half. He finished the night with 4 stops and no quarterback hits.
Rocky Bernard: A+
Bernard came up big for the sans-Chris Canty Giants, finishing the night with 3 tackles and a first-quarter sack. He played a huge role in shutting down DeMarco Murray and the Dallas ground game early on.
Linval Joseph: A
Linval Joseph notched a sack and two total tackles. Ironically, it was the Giants' defensive tackles that came away with sacks, not their Pro-Bowl caliber ends.
Osi Umenyiora: B-
Umenyiora saw limited time, rotating with Pierre-Paul and Tuck, and came away with just one tackle. He went pretty much unnoticed against a suspect Cowboys offensive line.
Keith Rivers: A-
Keith Rivers' return to the gridiron was an initial success, notching a unit-high seven tackles. Rivers looked aggressive in run defense and finished with 1 tackle for a loss.
Chase Blackburn: C
Blackburn came away with six tackles, but bit hard on Romo's goal-line rollout to Kevin Ogletree in the second quarter. He was replaced for a bit by linebacker Mark Herzlich. As the leader of the Giants' second level of defense, a brunt of the responsibility for failing to wrap up DeMarco Murray falls on Blackburn.
Jacquian Williams: C+
Williams was caught over-pursuing on a number of Murray's big runs. He finished the game with five tackles, least among starting LBs.
Mathias Kiwanuka: C-
Kiwanuka entered the action with a lingering groin issue, and left without a whimper. He finished with just one tackle, failed to reach Romo on a blitz, and wasn't able to stay on the field for the whole game.
Michael Boley: B+
Boley was unable to stay active for all 60 minutes, which severely hindered the Giants' run defense. His second quarter interception--the best play of the half for New York--nearly turned into a "pick six," were it not for a horse-collar tackle from Dallas OT Tyron Smith at the 1-yard line. Boley made just one tackle, however, and the Giants could have used him to stuff the outside.
Antrel Rolle: B-
Rolle lead the Giants in tackles, ending the night with 9 solo stops. He became a factor in run defense when the Giants called for help beyond their front seven, and sniffed out mid-level runs as the game went on.
However, Rolle struggled mightily when lined up against Dallas wideout Kevin Ogletree. It's a bad sign when your leading tackler comes from the third level of defense, and Rolle's workload reflects the Giants' struggles on D.
Michael Coe: B-
Making his first career NFL start, Michael Coe has become the panic button for a Giants secondary ridden with injuries.
Unfortunately for Big Blue, Coe succumbed to a hamstring injury early in the fourth. He wasn't flawless, but he held wideout Miles Austin in check before exiting the game, and significantly out-played fellow corner Corey Webster.
Kenny Phillips: A-
Phillips shut down tight end Jason Witten for most of the night. A perennial Pro Bowler, Witten was held to just 10 receiving yards on Wednesday. Phillips ended up with four tackles.
Justin Tryon: D-
Things took a turn for the worse when Justin Tryon filled in for Coe in the fourth quarter. He was immediately tested on inside routes to Ogletree, and was later gassed by Miles Austin on the game's decisive touchdown.
Corey Webster: D-
Heading into week 1, Corey Webster was the only semblance of stability in the defending champs' secondary.
Yet when game time came around, Webster simply didn't show up. The eighth-year veteran looked like a rookie against Dez Bryant, and was the one responsible for Ogletree's second TD. Webster was beat on the hook-and-go all night, and will need to up his performance next week if the Giants' pass defense is to improve.
Lawrence Tynes: A
Tynes had a good leg on opening kickoffs, nearly clearing the endzone a couple of times. He drilled his only field goal attempt of the game, a 22-yarder in the second quarter. Not much more you could ask for from the veteran placekicker.
Steve Weatherford: A+
Weatherford continues to boast a big leg, averaging over 50 yards a boot on Wednesday. Weatherford topped out at 56 yards, and notched a punt inside Dallas' 20.
David Wilson: B
Wilson spotted a pedestrian 23.7 yard average on kickoffs, and failed to swing the field position battle in Big Blue's favor. He didn't have many holes to squeak through, though, and should improve as his rookie season goes on.
Andre Brown: D
Andre Brown struggled in the two kickoffs he fielded, failing to pass the 20 yard line on a third-quarter run back.
Overall Game Grade: B-
Tom Coughlin and his staff get the benefit of the doubt for now, but Jason Garrett's team was ostensibly better prepared for this game.
Dallas picked out New York's weak spots in the secondary, and Big Blue simply couldn't keep up. The Giants were beat by Ogletree's under routes all night long.
Play-calling ran pretty standard in this one, although offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride found success with the draw play. Gilbride did call for two consecutive goal-line runs following Michael Boley's interception, and such unimaginative game-planning is concerning.