The New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys in Jerry Jones' new infinity dollar stadium by a score of 33-31. Last week I ranked the top ten games of this rivalry since the turning of the millennium. If I were to remake the list, this game would likely only be bested by the Giants’ playoff win.
Let’s look at what made this game so great.
If Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips were a cartoon character, he’d be Gil from the Simpsons.
The offensive game ball goes to Eli Manning and his two wide receivers of choice: Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. ESPN lists Eli Manning as having "targeted" a receiver 34 times. 13 went to Smith and 13 to Manningham, leaving only eight for the rest of the team. As opponents start to focus more on these two, others in the Giants offense will have to step up.
Seriously though, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but Super Mario looks like he could become the number one receiver this team has been missing since a bit of real estate became available in Plaxico Burress' thigh. He had ten receptions, 150 yards and a TD, and he looked as good as anyone could have expected. With the ball in his hands, he’s as slippery as a jellyfish.
Steve Smith really opened my eyes too. Where as I thought Manningham could one day turn into a big receiving threat, I always thought Smith was destined to remain a slot receiver/ third down specialist. But his performance this season is changing my mind.
His numbers (10 receptions, 134 yards and a TD), are almost identical to Manningham’s, yet Mario seems to be getting more buzz. He just has the ability to get open, which can't be taught easily. He made Orlando Scandrick look like a second-teamer all day.
Once Hakeem Nicks and Domenik Hixon return, Eli Manning will have a full shed of tools to choose from on offense, not one of which includes Sinorice Moss.
Speaking of the third best wide receiver named Moss currently in the NFL, it’s been a rough time going for Sinorice. I don’t want to use the word “useless,” but he’s not a factor on offense, he’s never been anything more than ineffective as a kick returner, and now he can’t even fall correctly. Moss failed to fall on a Felix Jones fumble on a kickoff, instead trying unsuccessfully to run with it. Luckily Bryan Kehl was there to pick up the pieces, but Moss’ days could be numbered.
Kehl had another big special teams play, downing a Jeff Feagles punt inside the five after Terrell Thomas whiffed on it. Kehl just picked up the pieces all day on special teams.
Eli Manning had one of his best games as a Giant, statistically speaking and in every other possible measurement: tangibles, intangibles, outtangibles, and semi-tangibles. 25-for-38, 330 yards, two TDs, zero INTs, 110.6 QB rating. If you still think he’s overrated…well I can’t think of a clever and snappy way to finish that statement, so I will just have to disagree. Respectfully, of course.
I’m not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of weights. As in, a video screen that was as much as a 747 jet hanging above a football field, suspended by a bunch of metal strings. If I was on that field, I’d be looking up every other minute to make sure that video screen wasn’t about to fall on me.
Defensive game balls go to Kenny Phillips and Bruce Johnson. Phillips, is playing with an injured knee, and Johnson was an undrafted free agent. Both made key plays on defense. Johnson positioned himself well to intercept an errant Tony Romo pass and return it for a touchdown. Phillips also positioned himself nicely in centerfield for his second interception of Romo. As for his first interception...
On his first interception, Phillips was beaten by Jason Witten, but Romo threw the ball behind his receiver. The ball hit off of Witten’s outstretched hand, and the ref ruled it incomplete. Unfortunately, the ball never hit the ground. The pigskin bounced off Witten’s foot and stuck into the unsuspecting arm of Kenny Phillips. Phillips ran it back to the end zone, pleading for the zebras to let the play continue.
Replays confirmed that it was an interception, but the touchdown was disallowed because the play was whistled dead. Fortunately, the Giants scored on a 22-yard Manningham reception on the ensuing drive. But this could have been a key missed call by the ref, who was standing only a few feet from the play. Yes, it was a fluke play, but the ref was in perfect position to see the ball.
The debut of Michael Boley should give the Giants someone who can help cover tight ends and running backs in the middle of the field. It’ll take some more time for him to be fully acquainted with the defense, but No. 52 was all over the place on Sunday night. He and Kenny Phillips led the Giants in tackles, each with seven.
The Giants got destroyed on the ground, allowing 251 rush yards. Offensively, they compiled only 97 yards. Not too un-shabby. Coughlin will have a lot to work on this week before the Giants travel to Tampa. I’m not that worried, because the talent is definitely there on both lines, but they need to figure out a way to start controlling the line of scrimmage the way they did last season.
Next time they play the Cowboys, they can’t expect to win if they get dominated like that in the trenches again.