Giants vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from New York's 36-31 Loss to Dallas
Sloppy. Bizarre. Heart-breaking.
Not even Eli Manning's aerial assault, which was firing on all cylinders, could level the playing field.
Were there aspects of the game, however, that incited inspiration?
On Sunday night it was apparent that the New York Giants were not in midseason form.
It would not have been reasonable to expect them to be either; Tom Coughlin has been complaining about the shortage of practice time this summer, and the landscape of the starting lineup has shifted considerably in the past 14 days.
So, it didn’t all fit together in one night in early September. That’s why they play 16 games.
Clearly, the running back picture is not going to come together all at once. David Wilson took a step—maybe a leap—in the wrong direction against the Cowboys, but they cannot afford to limit his role as much in year two.
Besides, I thought Da’Rel Scott earned the No. 2 spot, of which many believed he was not deserving, with 10 total touches and 74 all-purpose yards in Wilson’s relief.Of course, the game-clinching interception which glanced off his fingertips is hard to overlook…
Cowboys defensive end George Selvie had a decent game with a sack and two QB hits, but for the majority of the night, rookie Justin Pugh held up at right tackle on his own. The rest of the makeshift line, which included Kevin Boothe at center and James Brewer at left guard, in addition to mainstays Will Beatty and Chris Snee at left tackle and right guard, respectively, only gave up two other sacks—and neither was registered by Cowboys’ standout DeMarcus Ware.
Oh, but that interception on the first play from scrimmage means Ware wasn’t accounted for all night.
What it simply came down to was mistakes, and the Giants made too many of them.
They were obliterated in the turnover battle, giving away possession six times to the Cowboys’ one. They also committed half a dozen penalties, costing the team over half a field of yardage. Not to mention the nitty-gritty missed blocks and tackles Tom Coughlin will surely pick out in the film room.
If Jason Pierre-Paul’s gassed face on the sideline wasn’t enough evidence of the effects lack of practice can have on a team, Coughlin’s blunder-prone Week 1 squad was.
The Trio Is True
All summer we dreamed—we hoped—it could be so. New York was primed to field a receiving trio of Giant proportions in 2013, and second-year receiver Rueben Randle would be the surprise star, completing a three-pronged attack led by Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. We heard all about it, but could it be true?
In an impressively even split, Randle, Nicks and Cruz each caught five passes and eclipsed 100 yards receiving against the Cowboys. Cruz was the busy scoring threat, as he has proven to be in the past, with three of his five catches going for touchdowns.
Nicks showcased a healthy stride on his early 57-yard reception, and Randle looked like a viable threat to consistently move the chains.
And doesn’t Brandon Myers look right at home when the team is losing? I guess he should be used to it, since he was Oakland’s go-to guy when trailing last season—which was often. Myers’ 2012 totals seemed unattainable not too long ago, but he led the team in receptions on Sunday with seven.
He could be pivotal in the two-minute drill.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the running game, the Giants may need to lean on Manning’s arm, which launched 450 yards worth of completed passes in its season debut. The quarterback has quite an arsenal in this tenth run with the team.
Tony Romo has it down to a science.
I’m talking about orchestrating a passing attack equivalent to being poked to death, of course. We all saw it last year when Romo connected with Jason Witten an unsightly 18 times, and he replicated it on Sunday night. This time, Romo torched the Giants’ underneath defense with a combination of Witten and Miles Austin.
Romo completed passes with 73 percent efficiency against the Giants, but the trying strikes were really few and far between. The Cowboys signal-caller only averaged 5.4 yards per attempt, nearly half Manning’s going rate on the night. Terrance Williams’ 23-yard reception was the longest allowed by the Giants’ secondary, one of just two 20-yarders yielded on the night.
A thin defensive backfield stood remarkably steadfast against the big play, allowing Dez Bryant, Dallas’ most prominent offensive threat, just 22 yards on four catches. Ryan Mundy, with a 91-yard interception return and vicious tackling, showed he could be all Stevie Brown was and more.
He’ll have to cut down on the concussing of his own teammates, though.
With Prince Amukamara sidelined, both Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas contributed admirably. Thomas found himself around the ball often, recording seven tackles and a pass defense. No offense to Antrel Rolle, the team’s new captain, but Thomas doesn’t appreciate being called “Little ‘Trel.”
Thomas doesn’t need the nickname anyway; he’s well on his way to making a name for himself.
But Romo hardly tested this unit. It was the linebackers (go figure) that he exploited most thoroughly. After Dan Connor came out with a neck burner, the Giants’ hopes to defend short to mid-range passes were basically toasted.
These teams are very familiar with each other; Romo knew the key to victory lied within domination of the Giants’ weakest positional group.
The Tuck Rule
We kept hearing about his “old self.” And could defensive end Justin Tuck return to it?
Before Sunday night, Tuck’s old self was starting to look like a flash in the pan that nearly totaled 40 sacks from 2007-2010. Against the Cowboys, however, Tuck took his first decisive steps toward a comeback.
Tuck led the team in tackles with eight, and he was making an impact in the pass rush, although New York failed to bring down Romo until the fourth quarter. Tuck split a well-deserved sack with Linval Joseph—both added two QB hits.
Tuck’s defensive front was improved against the run, limiting Dallas to 3.8 yards per carry. DeMarco Murray is an elite talent when healthy, but, much like the secondary, New York’s D-line was not extensively tested by this threat. The Cowboys threw the ball twice as much as they ran it, despite the fact that they led from start to finish.
Still, at least until Pierre-Paul is back to full strength, this defense is in desperate need of a star to rally behind.
Granted, Thomas, in his return from a third ACL injury, makes for some stiff competition, but Tuck needs to be the lead candidate for this role. He is the captain and a veteran presence, one that was once capable of achieving All-Pro status.
Tuck was the leading force in a defense that weathered six turnovers against the Cowboys; his season-long performance could ultimately become the Giants’ deciding factor this year.