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Eli Manning had one of his worst games of the season against the Cowboys.
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.