One of the biggest question marks going into this season was the Giants' receiving corps, and rightfully so. After the loss of Plaxico Burress toward the end of last season, the Giants seemingly fell apart. In the offseason, the Giants did not trade for a marquee receiver, and it was unclear who was going to be the security blanket that Burress had been for Eli Manning.
Manning has been marked as a “game manager” quarterback. He doesn’t light up the stat line with gaudy statistics; he does what he has to in order to win, which usually means relying on Big Blue’s running game.
That was not the Eli Manning who came to Cowboys Stadium last night.
On a night that set records for seating (105,121 screaming Dallas fans) and was all about the “new look” Cowboys (no TO, and on a lesser note, no Jessica Simpson) the Giants beat the Cowboys, 33-31.
Dallas was able to shut down the Giants' touted running game; they held Brandon Jacobs to 58 yards. While New York struggled to run the ball, Marion Barber rushed all over the Giants defense, ending the game with a total of 124 yards and one touchdown.
Stats like that would seem to indicate a favorable outcome for the Cowboys as they christened their new billion-dollar stadium.
However, this night was about a different debut: that of the Giants; passing game. The young receiving corps for New York weren’t the liability critics thought they were. On top of that, Manning has matured as a quarterback and cannot be relegated to mere “game manager” status.
When Dallas stopped the run, it was up to Manning’s arm to win the game, and that was just what he was able to accomplish. Despite missing several chances to put up seven points in the red zone, Manning did not show frustration, nor was he shaken by the screaming fans or the pressure of facing a division rival at their home stadium.
Manning consistently threw accurate deep passes, often into heavy coverage. One of his favorite targets was Mario Manningham. Manningham had 10 receptions for 150 yards and an amazing touchdown catch. But Manning spread out the offensive attack, finding, among others, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss on the night.
After the Cowboys took a one-point lead with 3:40 to go in the fourth, it was an extremely poised Manning that led his young receivers down the field. Though they only needed a field goal, the Giants were set back early on a penalty. Yet Manning never panicked and was able to take New York down the field and set up the game-winning kick.
When the pocket collapsed, Manning was able to keep plays going. One of these scrambles included a 360 spin to avoid a defender.
The Giants were good against the Cowboys, and perhaps it was this talent that brought on the luck they received. All night it seemed as though men in blue New York uniforms were in the exact right spot to pick off Tony Romo’s inaccurate passes. Romo had three interceptions in the debut of Cowboys Stadium.
The most unbelievable of these interceptions was a ball that bounced off the heel of Jason Witten and into the waiting hands of Kenny Phillips. This play was followed up by the incredibly skilled, but also very lucky, touchdown catch Manningham made on his back in the end zone.
Another lucky break came on that final Giants drive. Manning’s pass to Manningham on a 3rd-and-4 at the Dallas 41 was tipped by Cowboys defender Jay Ratliff but still landed in Manningham’s hands.
But luck can only take a team so far; talent and toughness have to do the rest. The New York Giants came to a stadium that was supposed to boast the best home field advantage in the league and hung tough for four quarters, ultimately leaving with the win. Dallas stopped their running game and prevented touchdowns, but Manning and the Giants just kept coming.
Praise must be given to Manning for proving that he can handle high-pressure situations and lead a team. Instead of falling apart in the final minutes of the game, Manning rose to the occasion and produced the drive his team needed.
Around the league, Eli Manning doesn’t get the respect or accolades as a quarterback that are heaped upon players like Jay Cutler or even Tony Romo. However, Manning does engineer game-winning drives in clutch situations, and he gets results.
With Burress gone, Manning is now the big name in the Giants offense and is going to be looked at as their primary leader. If Manning continues to turn out performances like this one against Dallas, he and the G-Men will be in good shape.
Of course, while the players make the wins happen on the field, the coaches also need to be examined in light of this Giants victory. The Giants’ staff knows who they are, and they know what kind of team they are trying to produce. They trusted their own system to produce the receivers they needed instead of trading away draft picks to attain a big name receiver.
Also, when Jacobs wasn’t getting anywhere with the running game, New York had the sense to call more pass plays and trust Manning to win the game.
Dallas' coaching staff, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be in touch with what is going on with their team. Clearly, their running game was running on all cylinders against New York. The Giants had no answer for Barber. However, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett still had Romo airing the ball out downfield, which resulted in multiple interceptions.
It seemed as though the Cowboys were trying to be a flashy, New Orleans/Drew Brees-style offense that puts up a lot of points off the passing game, but that wasn’t working. The three interceptions off of Romo’s wild passes really hurt them in their effort to secure a win in the debut of their new stadium.
Finally, although it’s a common practice, when Wade Phillips called a timeout to try to ice the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes before he kicked the game-winning field goal, it felt like a cheap tactic to try to pull off a win.
On a night where the football world was supposed to be shown the new and improved Cowboys in their new and improved home, what we really learned was that the New York Giants are going to do well under a more mature and poised Eli Manning and a promising group of receivers.