East Rutherford, N.J.—The New York Giants have a very, very good pass rush. Breaking news, I know. But we learned Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium that the Giants can't get by without lending more support to their world-famous defensive front.
With Michael Coe going down midway through the game, the G-men were down to three healthy corners, one of whom was a rookie. The Dallas Cowboys took full advantage, abusing Corey Webster on an island and picking on Justin Tryon, who wouldn't have made the final roster if not for the absence of guys like Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross and Prince Amukamara.
This is a team that was depleted defensively, with Michael Boley and Keith Rivers also banged up and Chris Canty still out of the lineup up front. They got pressure, but it wasn't enough to compensate for those losses.
In fact, I don't know that it would have been possible for any defensive line to compensate for the problems Big Blue suffered against Dallas.
In addition to what we saw from Webster (he had one of the worst games of his career), rookie David Wilson lost a fumble and cost the G-men momentum early, while the offensive line continued to struggle to open up holes for Ahmad Bradshaw.
And above all else from a lack-of-compensation perspective, Eli Manning was human. He wasn't bad, but he wasn't the Eli we watched rock fourth quarters in December and January. He lacked the ability to make the plays that have historically separated him from almost every other quarterback in the game.
It didn't help, of course, that Manning's favorite target from last year's famous stretch had a painfully poor performance. Victor Cruz dropped three passes and took a crucial penalty, settling for just 58 yards receiving on the night.
Had Manning and Cruz been clicking, the Giants might have survived the damage done to their own secondary. Ultimately, though, they were simply outplayed by a rival that was just better across the board.
That hurts because the Giants were supposed to keep the ball rolling Wednesday night. Instead, they became the first defending Super Bowl champion to lose one of these prime-time openers in nine years.
And instead, they're left wondering what the heck happened to Manning, Cruz and Webster, all of whom were so clutch during last year's unforgettable run.
The good news is that the Giants learned last year that the season is a lot longer than it feels. They'd rather not get in through the backdoor like they did in 2011, but they're well aware that doors won't start to shut anytime soon.
It wasn't a good start, but well-coached teams like the Giants gain more than they lose from moments like these.