With that and the fact that the initial losing team almost always performs better in rematches in mind, the Cowboys will have draw up a new game plan for how to attack the G-men Sunday at home. Here are some suggestions.
Maintain Faith in Your Receivers on Offense
Well, it's not as though they have much of a choice. With DeMarco Murray likely out, Felix Jones hobbled and the running game lacking consistency and explosiveness, and with the defense likely to give up a fair share of points (more on that in a moment), the Cowboys have to continue to get Dez Bryant and Miles Austin deep in an attempt to make big, game-changing plays.
That hasn't happened often this season, partly because they've been facing some tough defenses and partly because the offense has been plagued by mistakes. It's been drop after drop and penalty after penalty, and with the running game not running on all cylinders, they've been forced to rely on guys like Bryant, Austin and Kevin Ogletree to get loose. That hasn't happened.
The Cowboys had trouble particularly with Seattle, Tampa Bay and Chicago. But against depleted defenses in Baltimore and Carolina, they at least averaged 24 points per game. Now they take on a pass rush that has lacked bite and a secondary that is very exploitable. That last point is something that has not changed since Week 1, although now the vulnerability has seemingly shifted to Corey Webster's spot.
The point is that this isn't the time to give up on deep looks and settle for something conservative. Austin could have a huge day against rookie Jayron Hosley in the slot, and Bryant might earn some one-on-one matchups with the struggling Webster on the outside.
In addition to employing a lot of spread-out looks, Dallas should consider mixing in a little more play-action. Not only has Tony Romo been superb off of play-fakes this year, but that could throw Perry Fewell's defense for a loop when you consider how rarely they've been attempting to execute such plays thus far.
If the 'Boys spread them out and take advantage of the fact that a) New York's pass rush has been middle-of-the-pack in every respect this year and b) Romo's been solid while under pressure anyway, they'll give themselves their best chance to pull off the upset for the second time in less than two months.
Use Anthony Spencer to Help Fill the Void Left by Sean Lee
The key to beating Eli Manning is to get pressure without blitzing. In other words, you have to get to him by being talented, not by being schemey. The Cowboys have seen enough of Manning to know that, which is a big reason why they refused to throw the kitchen sink at him in Week 1.
This time, with Lee out for the season and the Giants running the ball better than they have in years, the Cowboys simply can't afford to send extra rushers at Manning. They have a valuable weapon in Spencer, who is extremely versatile and is now healthy at just the right time.
My recommendation is that they put their trust in superstar pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware to create enough pressure on the edge while hoping that Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff and the rest of the linemen can get enough of a complementary push to at least force Manning to unload quickly.
Dallas has the corners to hold Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks so long as Manning doesn't have all day to work. And by holding the blitz back, the 'Boys won't become vulnerable on quick timing routes, underneath routes, passes into the slot, screens and old-fashioned handoffs.
Spencer is no Sean Lee in run defense or pass coverage, but Pro Football Focus actually rated him as the second-best run defender on the team last season, and he can hold it down when needed in coverage situations. He, Bruce Carter and Dan Connor could fare much better than expected.
And the word "expect" is important here, because the Giants don't throw to their backs often anyway, but they might be expecting Rob Ryan to send Spencer after Manning the majority of the time (as per usual). Anything that throws an offense like this off is something that can work to a defense's favor.
This strategy might cause Dallas to take a hit through the air, but this is why they invested so heavily in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in the offseason. The pressure's on this defense, but they still have the talent to keep this from getting ugly. A tweak to Spencer's job description could help significantly.