Giants vs. Cowboys: New York's Biggest Winners, Losers from Week 8
After leading 23-0 early in the second quarter, the Giants allowed the Cowboys to creep back into the game and eventually take a one-point lead toward the end of the third quarter. The Giants were able to pull out a victory, though, thanks to a pair of fourth-quarter field goals by Lawrence Tynes.
At times, the Giants looked like the defending champs everyone expects them to be. At other times, they looked completely helpless. In some aspects of the game, New York dominated. In others, Dallas tore its divisional rival apart.
Considering the team’s fluctuating performance, it was difficult to identify five Giants who played exceptionally well and five that played particularly poor. Despite the up-and-down nature of the Giants’ 29-24 win over the Cowboys, this article will highlight New York’s five biggest winners and losers from Sunday.
Enough talk about Eli Manning as the Giants’ most clutch player—how about kicker Lawrence Tynes?
Sure, he doesn’t lead the team down the field on as many fourth-quarter, game-winning drives, but without him, the Giants would not have won the game on Sunday.
Tynes made all five of his field-goal attempts against the Cowboys. His attempts were from 41, 37, 26, 43 and 37 yards out. It was the third game this season in which he was called upon five times and the second time he’s delivered with 100-percent accuracy.
Tynes has made 24 of his 26 field-goal attempts in 2012 (92.3 percent), and his 94 points on the season leads the team by quite a bit. He is having, by far, the best season of his career; if he’s able to keep it up, he should be an All-Pro when all is said and done.
Safety Stevie Brown is providing more from a reserve role than the Giants could have ever hoped for. When Kenny Phillips injured his knee, it was thought to be devastating, but Brown has been a difference-maker in his absence.
Brown accounted for three of the Giants’ six takeaways against the Cowboys on Sunday (two interceptions, one fumble recovery) and led the team with eight tackles (all solo). He leads the team with five interceptions, all of which have come in the past six games.
While most fans are still hoping that Phillips can come back soon, Brown is reassuring them that there’s no need to rush. He has a nose for the ball that Phillips may lack, as the Giants starter has only collected eight interceptions in his five seasons with the team.
Chris Canty and Linval Joseph
The Giants got a lot of production out of their interior defensive line against the Cowboys. Defensive tackles Chris Canty and Linval Joseph led the charge with strong showings up front.
Canty, who returned last week after spending the first six on the PUP, was especially impressive. He looked a bit timid in his first game back against Washington, but he was tenacious against the Cowboys. Canty had two tackles (two solo, one for loss), a sack and three QB hits.
Joseph was right behind Canty with three tackles (two solo, one for loss), two sacks and two QB hits. It was a dominant performance by Joseph, who had a lot of weight on his shoulders before Canty made his return.
The tackles were able to get the most consistent pressure on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. If they weren’t able to keep the heat on him, Romo would have had much more time in the pocket to make some plays downfield.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul started the season off slow, but he has really picked up his production in recent weeks. Against the Cowboys, Pierre-Paul showed why he is still the most dangerous player on the Giants’ defensive side of the ball.
Pierre-Paul recorded four tackles (three solo, one for loss), a sack, a QB hit and an interception, which he returned 28 yards for a touchdown. His defensive score was a valuable one, for the Giants offense was able to find the end zone only one time all game.
Pierre-Paul has four sacks in the last three games, and he it does not look like he plans on slowing down any time soon. Moving forward, the Giants will need him to continue to pester the quarterback, as the secondary tends to struggle when it isn’t forcing turnovers.
Eli Manning and Company
It’s hard to call Eli Manning a loser, but he just barely got the job done on Sunday.
The Cowboy’s defense had Manning’s number for most of the game, which forced the Giants to find another way to win other than relying on Manning’s right arm and fourth-quarter heroics.
Manning’s stat line was his worst of the season: 15-of-29, 192 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. But his receivers didn’t really show up either. Rookie Rueben Randle was the team’s leading receiver against the Cowboys with two catches for 68 yards, most of which came on a huge, 56-yard completion on the Giants’ opening drive.
Hakeem Nicks was pedestrian with four catches for 48 yards, and Domenik Hixon (three catches, 26 yards) and Martellus Bennett (four catches, 29 yards) weren’t much help either.
However, Victor Cruz, the team’s biggest playmaker, was the most disappointing pass-catcher on Sunday. Although he was targeted eight times, Cruz only hauled in two balls for a grand total of 23 yards.
Manning couldn’t seem to get in sync with his receivers, as Dallas secondary gave them very little space to operate. If the Giants experience similar issues in the future, they’ll have to make much quicker adjustments, or the offense will stall.
Sunday’s game against the Cowboys wouldn’t have even been a contest had the Giants been able to capitalize on their red-zone opportunities. Due to Dallas’ early-game turnovers, New York repeatedly took over possession with excellent starting field position, but the offense just couldn’t find a way to score.
The Giants’ only successful red-zone trip ended with a one-yard touchdown run by Andre Brown. On the three other trips to the red zone, New York settled for field goals. They need to find a way to move the ball those last 20 yards because field goals just won’t cut it in close games down the stretch.
It’s mystifying that the Giants can possess one of the league’s most prolific offenses, yet it can’t find a way to score when it’s knocking on the door. The red-zone efficiency will have to improve if this team wants to remain a serious contender in December and January.
Jayron Hosley and Corey Webster
As a whole, the Giants’ defensive backfield has struggled this season.
Against the Cowboys, not much was different. Although New York picked off Romo four times, he still threw for more than 400 yards.
Veteran cornerback Corey Webster didn’t give up many plays, but the ones he did were huge. He spent most of the game covering wide receiver Dez Bryant, who only caught five passes but took them for 110 yards.
Luckily for Webster, Bryant’s fingers just barely landed out of bounds on what would have been his biggest play of the game—a potentially game-winning touchdown grab with only seconds left to play.
Rookie Jayron Hosley was just as bad. He couldn’t handle the Cowboys’ slot receivers, and he had a few costly penalties that kept the opposition’s drives alive. His inexperience showed on Sunday; the Giants need him to improve quickly, as New York’s talent at cornerback is limited.
Underneath Pass Coverage
The most frustrating part about the Cowboys comeback was that they didn’t do it with big plays—they just stopped turning the ball over and dinked and dunked their way back into the game.
Tight end Jason Witten was a menace, collecting 18 receptions for 167 yards. Most of his catches were right over the middle for only six or seven yards, but the Giants simply had no answer.
Most of the blame has to be put on linebacker Michael Boley. He is the team’s best linebacker in pass coverage, and he was matched up on Witten for most of his 18 catches. Even though he limited Witten’s yards after catch, Boley needed to find a way to take that look away from Romo and force him to go downfield with the ball.
The Giants defense can’t allow itself to be picked apart underneath. If the unit’s play does not improve, opposing offenses will quickly figure out that a dump pass over the middle is a sure six-yard gain every time.