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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 20 – DALLAS COWBOYS 19…
The New York Giants started their 2016 season off with a nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday. It was the first time the Giants have won their opening game since 2010.

Despite the Cowboys running 21 more offensive plays than the Giants (75 to 54) and dramatically owning the time of possession advantage (36:43 to 23:17), the overall statistics were as close as the final score. The Cowboys barely out-gained the Giants in total net yards (328 to 316) and net passing yards (227 to 203) while the Giants out-gained the Cowboys in net yards rushing (113 to 101).

The Cowboys received the football first and began the game with a marathon 15-play, 70-yard drive that took 8:25 off of the clock and resulted in a 23-yard field goal. The Giants only gained one first down and 15 yards on their first drive and punted. Remarkably, Dallas once again started a 15-play, 52-yard drive that took another 7:58 off of the clock. After an offensive holding penalty wiped out a 46-yard field goal, the Cowboys still connected on the next play with a 56-yard field goal that gave them a 6-0 advantage.

The Giants began their second drive with just over 11 minutes to go in the second quarter. After gaining one first down, quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Odell Beckham deep for a 45-yard gain. On the next snap, Manning threw to tight end Larry Donnell for a 15-yard touchdown and the Giants were up 7-6.

Back came the matriculating Cowboys offense, this time driving 68 yards in 11 plays and finishing with a 25-yard field goal with just over four minutes to play before halftime. While all three Cowboys drives had resulted in points, the Giants were holding the Cowboys to field goals rather than touchdowns. That would come back to haunt Dallas.

The Giants impressively finished the first half with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Manning to rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard with seven seconds to play before halftime. However, place kicker Randy Bullock missed the extra point. At the half, the Giants led 13-9.

The second half began terribly for New York. Manning was intercepted on the second offensive play at the Giants 35-yard line. Seven plays later, Dallas rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott scored the Cowboys only touchdown of the game as Dallas went up 16-13.

The Giants were only able to gain one first down on each of their next two possessions. Meanwhile, the Cowboys added to their lead after an 11-play, 39-yard drive set up a successful 54-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Giants now trailed 19-13.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants began their game-winning drive with 10:12 left to play in the contest. Running back Shane Vereen was featured on this march with one catch for 10 yards and three carries for 21 yards. Sheppard also caught a 20-yard pass. On 3rd-and-goal, Manning hit wide receiver Victor Cruz for the touchdown with 6:13 to go in the game. Salsa time. Giants 20 – Cowboys 19.

Dallas gained one first down but was then forced to punt. The Giants drove from their own 23-yard line to the Dallas 37-yard line but Head Coach Ben McAdoo decided to punt on 4th-and-1 with 1:12 to play. The punt only netted 17 yards as it resulted in a touchback.

The Cowboys desperately tried to move into field goal range. Two mid-range completions moved the ball to the Dallas 46-yard line. On 3rd-and-10 with 12 seconds left to play, wide receiver Terrance Williams gained 14 yards to the Giants 40-yard line, but cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie tackled him in-bounds and time expired.

Offensively, Manning finished the game 19-of-28 for 207 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. His leading receivers were Beckham (4 catches for 73 yards), Cruz (4 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown), and Shepard (3 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown). The only ball carriers were Rashad Jennings (18 carries for 75 yards) and Vereen (6 carries for 38 yards).

Defensively, the Giants did not force a turnover or sack the Dallas rookie quarterback. But the Cowboys longest play of the day was only 21 yards. And top rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott was held to 51 yards on 20 carries (2.6 yards per carry). Wide receiver Dez Bryant was held to one catch for eight yards.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness), quarterback Josh Johnson, running back Paul Perkins, wide receiver Roger Lewis, offensive tackle Will Beatty, linebacker B.J. Goodson, and safety Mykkele Thompson.

Linebacker J.T. Thomas was hurt on the final play of the first half on special teams with what looked like a significant injury to his left knee. No word yet on the severity.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • WR Victor Cruz (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Video)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (Video)

ARTICLES…

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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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