The marquee quarterback match up isn’t there. We don’t even know who will be the starting quarterback in the second half for Dallas. With the way the Giants should come out, it will most likely be Brooks Bollinger.
The things that make the Giants defense tick are speed and great tackling. We saw what happens when the defense is in top form against Pittsburgh, and what happens when they don’t against Cleveland. They looked slow and missed several tackles in that Monday night disaster. Against Pittsburgh, guys were literally flying to the ball, punishing receivers that run 20 yards down the field, then completing the play with some terrific interceptions.
If they play with that kind of intensity, Brad Johnson may compile a negative passer rating.
Most pundits say that the key to beating the Giants is the dink-and-dunk passing game when they are sending blitzes. Pittsburgh tried that, and failed.
Late in the game, Ben Roethlisberger called two hot routes for rookie Limas Sweed to run. As soon as the ball was snapped, the strong-armed Roethlisberger threw it to Sweed, who was abandoned by the cornerback Corey Webster on a blitz. It appeared Sweed had the whole field to run. Except rookie safety Kenny Phillips showed the tremendous ability that prompted the Giants to draft him with their first selection. Both times the play was stopped and Roethlisberger was distraught.
If they can frustrate a strong, more athletic player like Roethlisberger, imagine what they can do with Brad Johnson. If you are a Giants fan, you better hope he plays the whole game. His passes that are 10 yards or more are essentially a jump ball. He’s reverted to his back foot when there has been pressure in his face. There is no way he plays more than a half in this game.
Since Marion Barber III is such a strong player and has the intangibles to control the game with his legs, fans are inclined to believe that the Cowboys can use the run to open up the pass. Not quite. Barber has had a terrific career with Dallas so far, but has he ever ran well when the pass hasn’t worked out?
That offense is pass first, starting with the offensive line. When defenses aren’t on their heels and are playing the pass well, they come after Barber more. The line fails to generate a push at that point and Barber is immediately stuffed in the backfield. Considering the ineptitude of the quarterback for the Cowboys on Sunday, the Giants will likely play run-first defense. I don’t expect Barber to have much production if that is the case.
As for the offense, the Giants typically approach games with a grind-it-out attitude. Even if Jacobs struggles early, they keep giving him the rock, then utilize the play action.
On Sunday they will have to flip it around. Even with the injuries, Dallas’s defense is built to stop Jacobs. Blitzes from various directions, and strong fast players in the front seven. In three career starts against Dallas, he has 44 carries for 184 yards, roughly four yards a carry, which is over a yard shy of his career average. The intimidation he instills on other defenses is not there when he plays Dallas, and he hasn’t run well against them.
The Giants have two other great backs to pick up the slack in the running game, but for the offense to maximize their success, they will have to spread the defense out. Wade Phillips has made no secret of his game plans to contain Plaxico Burress. He openly said to the media this week that he intends to have two guys on him every play. With inexperience in the secondary, that opens up possibilities for other receivers.
Expect Domenik Hixon to have a big game. If the Giants indeed bring three or four receivers in on every play, he’ll be a guy Eli Manning will look for. The guy makes plays, and if coverage is focused on Burress and Steve Smith, it opens it up for him.
One minor thing to note. Giants-Cowboys affairs typically contain a lot of shoving after the play is whistled dead. I’m sure the league has taken note of this and they will alert the officials in the game. The Cowboys had four personal foul penalties at the Meadowlands last year, which helped keep the Giants in the game.
The more rambunctious players, such as Jacobs and Pierce, will have to control themselves. Not to the extent where they don’t play with intensity, but enough so their actions don’t prompt the officials to throw some yellow.
Like it or not, the Cowboys are 5-3 and are on the verge of getting players back. There is no way this Giants squad takes them lightly. I know some of us said the same thing about Cleveland, but the Giants despise the Cowboys. Justin Tuck openly said this week that all of the players hate them. Pierce was asked if there was some inclination to take them lightly and here was his response:
“Wait, isn’t this the Pro Bowl team? These guys were put in the Super Bowl in August… there’s no way we can take these guys likely.”
I’ll tell you this much. The Giants players watched Hard Knocks in August. They saw the cockiness exuded from most of the players every episode. Needless to say, they didn’t like it. They know this is their chance to establish some dominance over this club.