On Wednesday night's long-awaited NFL season opener, Dallas played a good game, but the Giants actually defeated themselves. What was their biggest weakness that contributed to their demise?
1. Poor Play-Calling.
Sure, Ahmad Bradshaw ran for nearly 80 yards and scored a touchdown, but the running game looked horrible, and it seemed that everyone watching the game knew it—except Tom Coughlin. Why he stubbornly refused to abandon the run throughout the game when it clearly wasn’t working showed a lack of in-game flexibility and adjustment that could’ve easily changed the outcome.
What makes the Giants' insistence on running even more appalling is that they were one of the league’s worst rushing teams last year, so it was as if they were trying to prove to everyone that they could run. This strategy ultimately backfired when they had a first-and-goal situation after intercepting a Tony Romo pass. They appeared destined to drive the ball in for a touchdown, but the offense gifted the Cowboys two straight conservative run-package offensive sets—arrogantly challenging Dallas’s defensive line to a game of brute strength—they lost.
Nicks and Cruz didn’t enter the formation until the third down—two of the Giants' most potent offensive weapons sat on the sidelines and watched as Dallas continued to drive the Giants further away from the goal line. This set of offensive downs exemplified a failed strategy of sticking with the run. If the Giants would’ve opened up the passing earlier in the game—against two rookie corners—they would have been far more successful.
2. The Corners
What was the Giants' biggest weakness last night?
Nobody expected Kevin Ogletree to end up with 114 yards and two touchdowns, but Tony Romo kept throwing to him and Ogletree kept making catch after catch. The quick slant was open all game, and the Giants’ corners failed to adapt quickly enough to stop it. Corey Webster looked like a veteran: slow, clumsy and aged. He got burned by both Dez Bryant and Ogletree, and was the culprit when Ogletree performed a rudimentary “double move” on him for one of his two touchdowns.
Michael Coe was New York’s best corner, but then he got injured, and his replacement, Justin Tryon, eventually got beat by Miles Austin—essentially clinching the win for Dallas. Overall, the Giants secondary had a brutal night.
3. Victor Cruz
Where was the superstar from last year, the one who could catch anything that was thrown within 10 yards of him? Last night was a disaster for Cruz, who dropped three easy passes that should’ve been caught, and looked more like a rookie than an elite receiver. Even though Cruz was Eli Manning’s top target, the chemistry wasn’t there and Cruz didn’t factor into the game. Part of the problem was that the Giants seemed to prioritize running the ball over the passing game, but in order for the Giants to win in the future, Cruz needs to be a bigger factor in the game.
Surely the Giants will get better, but hopefully they learned some valuable lessons from last night’s embarrassing game.