Nov 242014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys 31 – New York Giants 28

Game Overview

The catch was nice, but who really cares? The Giants are 3-8, losers of six straight and one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Last week’s game review started off with the following sentence:

It was a close game and the Giants came very close to pulling off the upset, but this team finds new ways to lose every week.

Did it really surprise anyone that the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense allowed the Cowboys to march 80 yards in seven plays and two minutes for the game-winning drive? Did it surprise anyone that the Giants couldn’t even gain one first down in their last desperate attempt to tie the game?

The fans and media expect the New York Giants to lose every week. But what’s worse, the New York Giants players expect to lose every week now. Two and a half seasons removed from their last NFL Championship, the cultural mindset of this team has changed completely.

But hey, at least ownership is happy.

Robert Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Steve Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Offensive Overview

The Giants out-gained the Cowboys in total yards (417 to 385), first downs (27 to 18), and time of possession (35:07 to 24:53). The Giants were nearly 70 percent on their third-down conversions (11-of-16). Both teams committed one turnover. The Giants had fewer penalties. The Giants ran more offensive plays (74 to 53). With numbers like that, you expect to come out on top.

Not counting their last possession in the second quarter (9 seconds left), the Giants had four first-half possessions and scored touchdowns on three of them, including drives of 13 plays and 80 yards, 6 plays and 66 yards, and 11 plays and 80 yards. At the half, the Giants led 21-10.

In the second half, the offense cooled dramatically. In hindsight, the Giants were too conservative on their first two series of the third quarter. The Giants went three-and-out on their first two possessions, drove to the Dallas 18 before Eli threw a killer interception, and then punted again. By this point in the game, the Cowboys had gone up 24-21.

Finally with nine minutes to go, New York drove the ball 93 yards in 14 plays, taking over six minutes off of the clock to regain the lead 28-24. But the Giants’ defense quickly surrendered the lead again. With one minute to go, the Giants had a legitimate opportunity to at least give Josh Brown a chance to tie the game, but New York couldn’t pick up one first down and turned the football over on downs. Six second half possessions – one score. Not good enough.

Quarterback

Again without a viable running game (2.8 yards per carry) and inconsistent pass protection, Eli Manning played mostly well and finished the game 29-of-40 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception (112.3 quarterback rating).

Those are very strong numbers – and usually game-winning numbers.

But the one interception when the Giants were driving for a touchdown late in the third quarter is what most people will remember, not the four long touchdown drives orchestrated by him.

On 2nd-and-10 from the Dallas 18-yard line, Manning had WR Preston Parker running absolutely free over the middle of the defense. Eli’s pass was high and intercepted. The pick was returned 45 yards and the Cowboys scored four plays later. It was a 10 or 14 point swing in the game.

Missed opportunity #1

Missed opportunity #1

“Just high, just threw it high,” said Manning. “(Parker) was a little flatter than I anticipated and just kind of… no excuse though, you’ve got a guy running open, I’ve got to hit him right in the numbers.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin also seemed to suggest that there was an issue with the route by Parker.

“There was a little bit more of an adjustment that had to be made in the route and that was the expectation,” said Coughlin. “As a result, the ball was thrown high and it ended up being a tipped ball.”

Following up this screw-up, on the very next possession, Eli missed seeing Beckham breaking free for what should have been an 87-yard touchdown.

Missed opportunity #2

Missed opportunity #2

To Eli’s credit, he helped to orchestrate the 14-play, 93-yard drive in the 4th quarter that gave the Giants a 28-24 lead with three minutes to go. He had one last opportunity to tie the game late, but his offensive line didn’t give him the time.

Running Backs

A common theme in all six straight losses? The Giants can’t run the football. Rashad Jennings carried the ball 19 times for 52 yards (2.7 yards per carry) and Andre Williams carried the ball 10 times for 35 yards (3.5 yards per carry). Williams did have an 18-yard run and scored a 3-yard touchdown, but he was also very lucky that his fumble right before the score wasn’t ruled a turnover. The biggest positive impact by the backs was in the passing game where Jennings caught 8-of-10 passes thrown his way for 68 yards, including a 27-yard swing pass on the last TD drive. That said, Jennings was held just short of the 1st down marker on the Giants last 4th-and-2 offensive play.

In recent weeks, Henry Hynoski has become a bit of a short-yardage specialist for the Giants. He picked up 4 yards on 3rd-and-1 early in the game.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham remains the sole bright spot in otherwise dreadful season. His 43-yard touchdown reception is clearly one of the best in NFL history. Unfortunately for the Giants, Beckham’s impact was largely limited to the first half, where he caught all eight passes thrown in his direction for 125 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half? Beckham caught just 2-of-3 passes for 21 yards. He did leave the game early in the fourth quarter with a painful back injury, but returned.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the first half, he had a key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 on the first scoring drive and a diving 13-yard catch on 2nd-and-11 on the second scoring drive, which was capped by his brilliant one-handed 43-yard reception.

But it’s interesting to see how fast he has become the ONE guy the other team worries about, and how the Giants are beginning to take advantage of that to open up other areas of the offense. For example, on the first TD drive, on 3rd-and-3, Beckham was lined up in the backfield. Eli – with time – looked in his direction, drawing the defense, then threw a slant pass to a wide open Rueben Randle for a 21-yard gain.

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense's attention...

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense’s attention…

...that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

…that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

A few plays later, Manning faked an end around to Beckham, opening up an exceptionally well setup screen pass to Rashad Jennings that gained 15 yards. The drive finished with a 3-yard touchdown to Beckham.

Eli fakes end around to Beckham, again drawing defense's attention...

Eli fakes end around to Beckham, again drawing defense’s attention…

...instead Eli dumps ball off to Rashad Jennings on well-orchestrated screen pass

…instead Eli dumps ball off to Rashad Jennings on well-orchestrated screen pass

Beckham continued to make an impact on the run-heavy third TD drive by helping the Giants to convert on 3rd-and-8 (14-yard catch) and 3rd-and-6 (12-yard catch). Note the interesting four-receiver set employed by Ben McAdoo.

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

Beckham  had a 12-yard reception on 3rd-and-2 in the third quarter two plays before Manning’s interception.

Rueben Randle was only targeted three times, catching all three passes for 36 yards. Preston Parker caught one pass for 16 yards. Of the 38 passes thrown, only seven were thrown at the #2 and #3 wideouts. Parker was flagged with a false start early in the fourth quarter, contributing to a failed possession.

Tight Ends

For the first time all season, all three tight ends were actively involved in the passing game. Daniel Fells actually led the group with 3 catches (out of four targets) for 35 yards. He was up and down in the blocking department. And he had two critical 13-yard receptions in two 3rd-and-12 situations. Larry Donnell caught 2-of-4 passes for 24 yards. He had a key 16-yard reception in heavy traffic on 3rd-and-7 on the Giants’ last TD drive. His blocking was also up and down, but he gives a good effort. Adrien Robinson caught a 1-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal to put the Giants up 28-24 with three minutes to play. Robinson did a nice job of selling the fake on his initial block.

Offensive Line

There were two line-up changes with Geoff Schwartz starting at right tackle for the injured Justin Pugh and Adam Snyder starting in place for the benched Weston Richburg. Richburg returned to the lineup late in the game when Snyder left with a knee injury. James Brewer also saw some snaps at left tackle when Will Beatty suffered an eye injury (but later returned).

Run blocking remained a problem as the Giants only averaged 2.8 yards per carry against a middle-of-the-pack defense. The Giants had problems blocking MLB Rolando McClain (11 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) all night. There was one drive – the third TD drive of the first half – where the Giants did get the ground game going. On this drive, the Giants ran the ball eight times for 45 yards, including runs of 12 and 18 yards. But it was fleeting moment in the game.

One of the few big holes for the Giants' backs...this was a well-blocked play

One of the few big holes for the Giants’ backs…this was a well-blocked play

Pass protection was decent early but deteriorated as the game wore on. The two sacks came late in the second quarter. On the first, Schwartz had some problems with the defensive end. Then Beatty and Snyder couldn’t handle a stunt, resulting in a 9-yard sack. When the Giants got the ball back after the sole Dallas turnover at the Cowboy 42-yard line, Beatty gave up immediate pressure, Manning was hit and threw the ball away and intentional grounding was called. This prevented the Giants from getting into field goal range right before intermission.

Pass protection was strong early, as on this TD pass to Beckham

Pass protection was strong early, as on this TD pass to Beckham

It didn’t get better after the break. Beatty and Snyder had problems with a stunt early in the third quarter and Eli was forced to dump the ball off prematurely on failed 3rd down conversion attempt. The line came up small on the last desperate drive as Schwartz was bull-rushed twice into Eli’s face and then Jerry let his man blow by him to hit Manning.

Defensive Overview

Just another really shitty performance by the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense. Again, this is the third time in four seasons that the Giants are on pace for giving up over 6,000 yards of offense (the only times in team history this has happened).

The defense allowed RB DeMarco Murray to run for 121 yards on 24 carries (5 yards per carry). Once again, Romo owned the Giants. Last month in the first Giants-Cowboys game, Romo completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. His QB rating was a gaudy 135.7. This game? Romo was 18-of-26 for 275 yards and four touchdowns with a QB rating of 143.4.

The defense can’t blame fatigue on their performance. Dallas only ran 53 offensive plays. But Dallas averaged 7.3 yards per play. 150 yards came on FIVE pass plays.

There were some positive signs. The Cowboys were 4-of-10 on third-down conversions. And in five first-half offensive possessions, while the Cowboys did score 10 points on two long drives, they also went three-and-out twice and fumbled the ball away once.

But in the second half, Dallas scored three touchdowns in five possessions. Worst of all, once again, as has been the history of this unit for the past three years, the defense could not hold a late-game lead as the Cowboys tore through the defense to win the game, driving 80 yards in just seven plays and two minutes.

The defense came up smallest at points in the game where you think they should have been motivated to perform at their best: (1) allowing the Cowboys to drive 77 yards in 9 plays right after Beckham’s one-handed catch, and (2) with the game on the line at the end.

Deciding not to copy the game-winning defensive scheme of the Washington Redskins to blitz Tony Romo heavily – especially with his bad back – Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell usually decided to rush only four, with little impact.

It was a typical – but still odd decision – by a coordinator who has to know his job is on the line. What did he have to lose? On the game-winning drive, by rushing four, plus not using pass rushers Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore, Fewell probably has sealed his fate. Romo went 6-for-6 for 66 yards on the final 80-yard drive.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The Giants allowed the Cowboys to average 5 yards per carry on the ground against a defense intent on stopping the run. It didn’t matter. Look at the Cowboys’ third drive of the game. Five of the nine plays were runs with gains of 5, 13, 4, 4, and 3…nothing spectacular…just slow death. And the productive running game set up excellent misdirection plays including a 27-yard screen pass off a fake end around and then a 4-yard shovel pass to TE Jason Witten for the TD.

While Tony Romo was sacked twice and officially hit four times, the numbers are misleading. Romo often had all night to throw, especially on the game-winning drive when he had between 8-10 seconds on two plays, including the game-winning touchdown throw.

It was not a good performance by anyone in the front seven. Jason Pierre-Paul (53 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 fumble recovery) probably played the best. He had a few nice plays against the run and pass, including drawing a holding penalty that wiped out a 39-yard pass play, but it wasn’t enough. More was needed and is expected, especially on the game-winning drive by Dallas.

Mathias Kiwanuka (45 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) and Robert Ayers (20 snaps, 1 tackle) were too quiet. Kiwanuka continues to receive the bulk of the playing time despite (1) a knee injury that has caused him to miss practice time each of the last few weeks, and (2) ineffective play. Damontre Moore (1 tackle, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit) only played 6 snaps. His sack was more of a coverage sack, but at least he got to the QB.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins (48 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 QB hit) played virtually the entire game. One gets the sense he isn’t getting much help. Mike Patterson (27 snaps, 3 tackles) and Markus Kuhn (13 snaps, 0 tackles) are simply not getting the job done. Jay Bromley played six snaps but did not show up on the stat sheet. Perhaps the Giants made the wrong decision to let Linval Joseph go, even with his big contract.

Despite briefly leaving the game with a knee injury, Jameel McClain (53 snaps, 5 tackles) played most of the defensive snaps, followed by Devon Kennard (34 snaps, 5 tackles), Mark Herzlich (25 snaps, 6 tackles), and Spencer Paysinger (6 snaps, 2 tackles). No one really made any plays of note, especially against the run.

The linebackers and safeties actually did a decent job on the top two tight ends as Jason Witten was held to 4 catches for 30 yards (and one touchdown) and Gavin Escobar did not catch a pass. But James Hanna did make a 27-yard reception against Paysinger on a 3rd-and-1 play-action fake where everyone bit on the run fake.

Defensive Backs

Tony Romo completed 18-of-26 passes (69 percent) for 275 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (143.4 QB rating). Romo threw 26 times and there were no interceptions and only one pass defense.

Most of the damage in the receiving game was done by WR Dez Bryant (7 catches for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns) and WR Cole Beasley (2 catches for 66 yards and 1 touchdown).

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (40 snaps, 5 tackles) and Zack Bowman (43 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 pass defense) formed the primary cornerback duo with Jayron Hosley (29 snaps, 2 tackles) and Chykie Brown (20 snaps, 1 tackle) also receiving significant playing time. DRC played pretty well.

At safety, Antrel Rolle (53 snaps, 7 tackles) continues his very quiet season. Stevie Brown (42 snaps, 3 tackles) saw more action than Quintin Demps (29 snaps, 3 tackles). Rolle has a sure interception in the end zone pass right through his hands. One play later, Dallas kicked a 38-yard field goal.

The inability to stop the Dallas ground game (which is also the responsibility of the defensive backs who had trouble getting off blocks) caused problems in the passing game.

For example, note how both Hosley and Brown bit too hard on the end around fake to the wide receiver. This left the running back all alone on a screen play that picked up 26 yards down to the NYG 7-yard line.

Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown badly bite on the end around fake

Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown badly bite on the end around fake

One of the big screw-ups of the game was obviously Beasley’s 45-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Hosley was beaten badly by Beasley and then Bowman missed a tackle. Aside from this play, Bowman actually played pretty well against the pass, including a late knock down of a key 3rd-and-3 pass intended for WR Terrance Williams.

Then on Dallas’ next possession, I have no idea what the Giants were doing when they left Bryant all alone for an easy 31-yard touchdown.

Oompa Loompas

Giants zone defense on Bryant’s 31-yard TD

On Dallas’ game-winning drive, the first really big play was the 21-yard pass to Beasley, where nobody seemed to cover him.

On two of the last three pass plays, including the game winner, you can’t blame the secondary. Romo had all night to throw. You can’t expect to cover for 8-10 seconds.

Special Teams

Josh Brown did not attempt a field goal. Four of his five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. One return went for 22 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted four times, averaging 55 yards per punt (only netting 38 however). Dallas returned all four punts for a total of 68 yards, averaging an unacceptable 17 yards per punt return.

The Giants only returned one punt with Odell Beckham losing 1 yard on his only return. Preston Parker returned four kickoffs for 99 yards, with a long of 37 that helped to set up one score. But he also screwed up by fielding one return close to the sideline, his momentum carrying him out at the 13.

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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