By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: The Giants are almost to the midway point of the season. Their initial primary goal remains intact: make the playoffs. The surest way to do that is to win the NFC East. Thus, the most important regular-season games left are the three games left against the Cowboys, Redskins, and Eagles.
The game on Sunday is crucial for both teams. If Dallas loses, they fall to 3-4 while the Giants improve to 6-2. If the Giants lose, the Cowboys will be right behind them at 4-3 and having swept the season series. Plus, New York will have fallen to 1-3 in the division.
So expect the Cowboys to pull out all of the stops and expect their best effort. Don’t underestimate Dallas. The Cowboys are 10th in the NFL in yards per game (7th in passing) and 4th in total defense (3rd against the pass).
Giants on Offense: The Giants’ offense did not play well in the opener against the Cowboys. The Giants were held to 17 points, 15 first downs, and 269 yards of offense. The Giants’ offense in the first half was dreadful with only 3 points (set up by a turnover), 5 first downs, and 85 yards of offense (23 yards rushing).
But there are several key differences for the Giants in the upcoming game. For one, the offensive line has a completely different look. In the first game, Sean Locklear was playing left tackle and David Diehl was playing right tackle. Diehl had a really rough game against DeMarcus Ware. Moreover, WR Victor Cruz had a bad night, dropping three passes and WR Hakeem Nicks was very gimpy and rusty having hardly practiced all preseason. Though Nicks is still nowhere near 100 percent, he has been feeling better lately and is starting to round into form.
Another big difference is that the Cowboys will be without standout ILB Sean Lee, who has given the Giants a lot of problems in the past. Lee was placed on IR earlier this week.
On the downside, for the Giants, is the health and potential availability of OC David Baas (ankle). If Baas can’t go, Kevin Boothe will move to center and David Diehl will start at left guard.
For the Giants to win this game, they have to score more than 17 points. And in order to do that, stating the obvious, they have to run and pass the ball better than they did in the first contest. The first key is for the Giants to be able to pass protect, especially against outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. And the wide receivers have to do a much better job of getting open against aggressive coverage by cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne.
It will be interesting to see if the Giants can run the ball against Dallas. Ahmad Bradshaw’s numbers in the first game (78 yards on 17 carries) were inflated by one 33-yard run. The Giants need more consistent productivity out of him and Andre Brown in this game (Brown did not have a carry in the first game). The loss of Lee should hurt Dallas, but the Giants’ offensive line may be a bit out of sync if Baas can’t go.
My gut tells me that this game will come down to the play of the quarterbacks. In the first game, Tony Romo made more plays and the Cowboys won. The Giants need a very strong performance from Eli Manning. The Giants need him to out-play Romo. The good news for the Giants is that Eli tends to play very well in Texas.
Giants on Defense: In the first game, Dallas put up 433 yards of offense, including 143 yards rushing. Tony Romo was able 22-of-29 passes (only seven incompletions) for 307 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. HB DeMarco Murray ran for 131 yards on 20 carries. None of that is good.
But again, there are some key differences this time around. For one, Murray (foot) is not likely to play. The Cowboys’ center Phil Costa (ankle) is ailing and may be a game-time decision. But probably most important for the Giants is the situation at cornerback. Prince Amukamara missed the first game with a foot injury. Michael Coe replaced him but left the game with a hamstring injury. With Jayron Hosley coming off a toe injury, Justin Tryon was pressed into service and got burned frequently in the second half of the game.
In the first game, the Giants played too soft in coverage and were repeatedly burned on the slant. And Corey Webster may have had his worst game of the season, getting burned badly by Kevin Ogletree, including for a 40-yard touchdown. Webster needs to play better and he knows it. “We weren’t aggressive,” said Webster. “We weren’t putting our hands on them as a team. I didn’t do it myself, but as a team, we were just kind of passive, kind of letting them dictate what they wanted to do to us and that’s not how we’ve been successful around here.”
Webster also gave a pretty good scouting report on the Cowboys’ passing game: “I just think the quarterback does a great job of getting them the ball and letting them make plays with it in open space. I think Ogletree is a good guy; he’s a double move guy. He’s a little more detailed and crisp in and out of his routes. I think Dez is a little more of a big play receiver type guy. He goes up and gets the ball at the highest point. They like throwing the deep balls and Miles Austin is the same way. He’s a good deep ball guy, but he can work the slot and find the open zones. So in knowing all of those things, we have to be cognizant of where they’re at and hopefully stay tight in coverage and we can’t forget about the great tight end over there as well. We’ll do the same thing knowing where he’s at all the time and hopefully we can stop him from making big plays.”
To me, the tight end – Jason Witten – is the key. He’s Romo’s security blanket. He’s the guy who they go to in the clutch. Take him away and Romo is more uncomfortable. Speaking of making Romo uncomfortable, the Giants have to do a better job of getting heat on him, but most importantly, not allowing him to scramble around and improvise like he does so well. That hurt the Giants quite a bit in the first game.
I think the guy on the spot in this game will be S Stevie Brown. The Giants haven’t faced a top passing attack yet with Kenny Phillips out. And while Brown has had some big moments (three interceptions), he also has been missing in action on some deep coverage responsibilities. Don’t think the Cowboys have missed that fact. My big worry defensively in this game is Brown getting burned deep. Dez Bryant has had his issues this year, but he can still hurt you deep. And Miles Austin has done the same against the Giants too.
With Murray out and Felix Jones (knee) a little banged up, the natural impulse would be to not be as worried about the Dallas running game. But the Giants must make the Cowboys one dimensional. They did that in the first half of the first game, but fell apart in the second half of the game. Don’t let Jones get going and don’t make a hero out of his back ups Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. Also watch out for Jones as a receiver out of the backfield.
Giants on Special Teams: I just have a gut feeling that David Wilson is going to make up for his fumble in the first game in a big way in this game. This may be the game where he finally breaks a return for a TD. The Giants need to do a better job of blocking for Rueben Randle. He has the ability to make a difference in the return game too.
At the same time, the Giants need to be careful with Dez Bryant on punt returns.