Cowboys vs. Giants: Takeaways from New York's 24-21 Loss to Dallas
The New York Giants did their best to psyche their opponents out with pregame trash talk, while the visiting Dallas Cowboys could only stew in the misery of their last showing—a 49-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 10.
However, when the game was finally underway, the Giants could not back up their talk with their fight on the field. Instead, sloppy play persisted as all-around inefficiency once again plagued the 2013 Giants. They promised this game would nowhere resemble the season-opening loss to the 'Boys, but in reality, the similarities were all too uncanny.
Where do the Giants stand after their first loss in a month-and-a-half—a loss that sinks their overall record to 4-7.
Seven might as well mean heaven, because with seven losses, the Giants' playoff hopes are all but dead. The ascension has clearly ended after four consecutive wins, as New York's devastating loss to the Cowboys sets the once-rising team up for free fall.
Sure, they made the playoffs with a 9-7 record in their 2011 Super Bowl season, but rattling off five straight victories seems even less likely than the four improbable ones they claimed in the weeks leading up to the Dallas loss. The Cowboys brought the Giants back down to Earth, tapping their divisional foes on the shoulder and reminding them that they just aren't very good.
The four-game winning streak had the Giants thinking, "Ugly is the new good," according to former Super Bowl-winning linebacker linebacker Carl Banks, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. But against the Cowboys, ugly was just the same old ugly, as familiar problems prevented New York from winning for the seventh time this season.
Even during their successful stretch, the Giants still hadn't played their best game of ball; they certainly didn't do so versus the Cowboys.
With a 4-7 record, the Giants' hopes of claiming a divisional title outright have been all but shattered. And now, at 1-3 in the division, New York's shot at winning in it via tiebreaker is quickly dissipating.
There are five games still to be played for each of the NFC East's four squads. However, with a two-game buffer separating the Giants from both the Cowboys and Eagles, New York can only hope for both teams to collapse down the stretch.
That scenario is unlikely since the Cowboys and Eagles still have to face each other in the final week of the season. Since they both can't lose that game and a tie—like the one we saw between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers on Sunday—is highly unlikely, there's a good chance one team wins the game and, in turn, the NFC East crown.
If that's the case, it'll be the third consecutive Week 17 "play-in" game in which the winner earns a trip to the postseason. The Cowboys have been losers of the past two, falling to the Giants in 2011 and the Washington Redskins in 2012.
The Giants were able to rally some hope thanks to a string of opportunistic victories, but the Cowboys have since crushed it.
(Un)lucky No. 7.
The Giants ran a balanced offensive attack in the sense that their pass-run split was very close to 50-50. In terms of effectiveness, however, it wasn't even close.
The Giants gained 202 yards on the ground and only 154 yards through the air.
Running backs Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs combined for an impressive outing, carrying the ball 30 times for an average gain of 6.7 yards. Brown's 127 yards were enough for a new career high, while Jacobs pitched in 75 more of his own. Jacobs' 37-yard scamper was the team's longest rush of the season and the only one longer than 20 yards.
Brown has been an effective addition for the Giants after re-joining the offense three games ago. He has averaged more than 100 yards per game, successfully teaming up his angry running style with Jacobs' hard-nosed approach to the game. The two have created a powerful one-two punch, and they were able to beat the Cowboys silly with it for the majority of the game.
Yet the passing game continued to slow down New York's offensive output. Eli Manning, who completed just a shade over 50 percent of his tosses, had trouble penetrating the Dallas defense. Manning averaged only 5.8 yards per passing attempt, as Brown led the team in receptions with only four—which he cashed in for a measly 11 yards.
No receiver eclipsed 65 yards receiving, as Manning's top target, Hakeem Nicks, sat out of the game with an abdominal strain. Nicks' absence had its usual effect on Victor Cruz's production; the salsa-dancing superstar caught just two passes out of four targets.
There were a couple of bright spots, as Manning threw for his first multitouchdown performance since Week 5 versus the Eagles (only his third of the season). Tight end Brandon Myers was able to hop up after Dallas failed to touch him down, scoring an opportunistic 27-yard touchdown—his first since Week 1. Even Louis Murphy Jr. was able to redeem himself, snagging a touchdown of his own after a misconnection between he and Manning led to an interception a week ago.
Good for them, but there are no more moral victories for a squad with seven losses.
Talk Is Cheap
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul didn't wait long to predict blood spilling in the Giants' Week 12 grudge match with the Cowboys.
But if New York drew any blood, it couldn't be found on the palms of Pierre-Paul, who had mustered just a single tackle by the game's end. No sacks for the fearsome JPP; not even a single quarterback hit.
Antrel Rolle backed up Pierre-Paul's blood threat, and his partner in the defensive backfield, Terrell Thomas, saw no way the Giants could possibly lose. If you had only read the headlines leading up to this week's clash, you might have thought the Cowboys were scheduled to face the '85 Bears given the way this defense was confidently yapping.
Tom Coughlin infamously told the media that "talk is cheap" in the days leading up to the Giants' showdown with the New York Jets and their usually boisterous head coach, Rex Ryan, in December of 2011. Apparently, his team has since forgotten that message, or had at least forgotten the second half: "Play the game."
There was a near-scuffle before the game began, but it was all downhill from there.
The ever-talkative Dez Bryant uncharacteristically bit his tongue this week, despite direct attacks from overconfident New York defensive backs. They thought they could handle Bryant by roughing him up a little bit, but it was Bryant who dished out the blows to the Big Blue secondary.
Bryant finished the day as Romo's most productive pass-catcher, reeling in nine passes for 102 yards. Although Romo completed passes to eight different targets, Dez definitely got the most love with 16 of Romo's 38 attempts headed in his direction. It was tight end Jason Witten, however, who found himself on the receiving end on both of Romo's touchdown strikes.
Rolle did pick off Romo once, but the Giants defense definitely did not live up to its self-inflated standards.
The Giants ate their words.
The Giants fielded a sloppy squad in Week 12 that never appeared fully focused.
They were penalized 11 times on Sunday, racking up 81 penalty yards. There were several easily avoidable personal foul calls that hurt the Giants in critical times, such as the high hit called on defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka that nullified a fumble, which would have been recovered by New York.
While New York maybe played with the emotion to succeed, it seemed as if the Giants were trapped in a blind rage. They did not display the same smart football that won them four consecutive games, dating back to early last month. They woke a sleeping beast in Bryant, and they paid dearly for their ignorance.
An early mistake sunk the Giants yet again. This time, it was a fumble by the normally sure-handed Cruz, who was stripped of the ball while fighting for a few meaningless extra yards. Dallas safety Jeff Heath easily scooped up the loose ball and returned it all the way for a touchdown.
Adding to the Giants' troubles was their inefficiency in the red zone. They scored touchdowns on just one of their three trips inside the Cowboys' 20-yard line. If New York was able to pound it in rather than settle for field goals, Romo never would have had the opportunity to comfortably set up a game-winning field goal from 35 yards out.
The Giants offense stalled whenever the ball was flung through the air, which resulted in just three of New York's 12 third-down attempts being converted. The Giants also failed on a fourth-down attempt in the first half.
The Giants outgained the Cowboys (356 total yards to 327); they held a slight advantage in terms of time of possession (30:39 to 29:21); Manning was not responsible for a turnover; New York dominated the ground game; and yet the mistakes and overall inefficiency with which the Giants played ultimately cost them the game.
It's about time New York hits the laundromat, because their dirty laundry is really starting to stink.