By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, September 5, 2012: As reigning NFL Champions, and a franchise that has won two NFL Championships in five years, the New York Giants find themselves in an enviable position. Only three teams – the Giants, Steelers, and Patriots – can boast of multiple NFL titles in recent years. That success has created a championship culture in the Giants’ locker room. The Giants believe they are one of the best – if not THE best – and that belief in the front office, the coaching staff, and the 53-man roster is a tremendous attribute. The Giants don’t believe they are Super Bowl contenders – they know it. Most of the other teams out there can’t say that.
The downside to success is that the team’s fans expect further success. Repeating is incredibly difficult. In the Super Bowl era since 1967, it’s only been done eight times. Free agency, the salary cap, and the expanded number of teams make it more difficult than ever. Nevertheless, although it is unfair, anything less than another NFL title will be considered a disappointing season for the Giants and their fans. That’s an incredibly high bar to set. But that is the price of success.
But the approach this team must take is that there is a tremendously rare opportunity that lies right before them. It’s there for the taking if they are smart and strong enough to take it. The Giants can truly achieve Dynasty status. Three NFL titles in six years – especially during the free agent era – would award the Giants with incontestable dynastic status. The Giants would be in the same category as the Patriots of the 2000s or the Cowboys of the 1990s. In the 87 seasons of this flagship franchise, the Giants have won eight NFL titles. One-quarter of those championships have come within the last five years. Another title would increase that figure to one-third in six years. Let me be clear about what truly is at stake here. We are talking about being considered one of the greatest teams in the entire history of the game. To achieve legendary status. To be mentioned with all-time greats.
To achieve greatness, one must be great. One can’t be timid, conservative, or defensive. The Giants are not “defending” their title. They must aggressively attack, rip the hearts out of their opponents, and TAKE another title.
“Now there’s another thing I want you to remember: I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We’re not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we’re not interested in holding onto anything except the enemy. We’re going to hold onto him by the nose and we’re going to kick him in the ass. We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.”
- George S. Patton
Do that and when these players are sitting around their firesides 30 years from now, they won’t be talking about World War II. But they can tell their grandsons that they were there, with Tom Coughlin, and Eli Manning, and Justin Tuck – all-time greats – winning that third NFL title on a team that achieved legendary status.
Giants on Offense: Every team has concerns and weaknesses and the point of these game previews is to as soberly as possible identify the potential risks in each upcoming game. Over the years, many folks on BBI interpret this as over-negativity. That’s not my goal. To be clear, I consider the Giants to be the best team in football. There are serious contenders such as the Patriots, Packers, and Saints, but the Giants are stronger. And they are certainly a better team than the Dallas Cowboys. But that does not mean the Cowboys can’t beat the Giants. There are risks in this game and let’s look at them.
Eli is at the top of his game and truly may be the best player in football. He just has to remember not to do too much and take advantage of what the opposing defense gives him. The Cowboys have dramatically improved their talent at cornerback in the offseason, but probably not at safety. And for all his bluster, Rob Ryan’s defenses have a history of talking big and coming up small in big games. They are aggressive and they will come after you, but they take too many chances and are suspectible to the big play. When those chances appear, then Eli, his receivers, and his blockers must take advantage of it. And they have a knack of doing just that against Dallas.
The areas of concern are obvious:
- Can the tackles – especially the aging Sean Locklear – block one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the game (DeMarcus Ware)?
- How effective or ineffective will Hakeem Nicks be playing on a foot that is still giving him problems?
- Can Domenik Hixon pick up the slack caused by the departure of Mario Manningham?
- Can the Giants run the ball enough to maintain some sort of reasonable balance in the offense? Fans ask why the Giants’ offense struggled early in games last year. The reason was because too many plays were “wasted” on non-productive running plays that put the Giants in tough 3rd-and-long situations. If that doesn’t change, every game will once again be a tight affair late in the 4th quarter.
I look for the Giants to attack the middle of the field against the Cowboys. Because of this, Victor Cruz and Martellus Bennett may be prime targets. I think the Cowboys are going to come after Eli hard. Kevin Gilbride knows that so look for quick passes, including to Ahmad Bradshaw, David Wilson, and Henry Hynoski out of the backfield. Watch out for Wilson on shot-gun runs – he could really cross up the Dallas defense and break a big run.
Giants on Defense: If Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara were available and healthy, this defense would be really set. The man on the hot seat obviously is Michael Coe. There will be a lot pressure on him to perform. If he plays really poorly, the Giants can easily lose this game as the Cowboys can hurt you in the passing game with their quarterback and receivers.
Obviously, the Giants can make life easier on Coe and his fellow defensive backs by stopping the run and crushing Tony Romo. The Cowboys’ offensive line is not a strong unit. And opposing quarterbacks – including Tony Romo – have begun to fear what the Giants’ defensive line can do to them.
“You know, by God I, I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against, by God, I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards; we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks. We’re going to murder those lousy Hun bastards by the bushel.”
- George S. Patton
The advantage the Giants have is clear. They are stout in the middle with Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard. And in obvious pass-rush situations, they can put three Pro Bowl pass rushers on the field. Add to that mix now is a vastly upgraded linebacking corps with a lot of speed in sub-packages with Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams. The one area of weakness I’ve seen from the Giants in the preseason – aside from right cornerback – is the Giants have given up a lot of cheap 8-10 gainst to the tight end over the middle of the zone defense. If Jason Witten does not play for the Cowboys, that will be a tremendous advantage for the Giants. Still, you have to think that the Cowboys will target Mathias Kiwanuka and Chase Blackburn in pass defense, particularly on 1st-and-10 when both are still on the field. That’s what I would do. The Cowboys will also test the nickel corner, be it Antrel Rolle, Jayron Hosley, or Will Hill.
Giants on Special Teams: I assume David Wilson is the kickoff returner, but the Giants are still being tight-lipped about who the punt returner is. They say it will be done by committee, but I don’t buy that. Ball security is paramount.
With Steve Weatheford and Lawrence Tynes, the Giants have one of the strongest kicking games in the NFL. My only area of concern here is punt protection for Weatherford. The Giants have allowed a couple of punt blocks in the preseason. And suspended Tyler Sash was an important component of the punt protection unit.
Prediction: Tom Coughlin is a big fan of George S. Patton.
“Alright, now, you sons-of-bitches, you know how I feel. Oh… I will be proud to lead you wonderful guys into battle anytime, anywhere. That’s all.”