Dec 122016
 
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Romeo Okwara, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Romeo Okwara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 10 – Dallas Cowboys 7

Overview

This was the New York Giants most important victory since the 2011 NFL season, ironically the last time the Giants swept the Dallas Cowboys. Despite winning six out of their last seven games heading into this contest, many were predicting doom and gloom for New York down the stretch after the team’s 24-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to make mincemeat out of the Giants and celebrate their division title on New York’s home field. Making matters worse, all of the Giants Wild Card challengers won earlier in the day.

As good as this feels, the jubilation from the victory must be short lived. The nine wins have not guaranteed a playoff spot and the Giants have three difficult games coming up, including two division match-ups on the road. But being 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the NFC East is much, much better than being 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the division with three games to go.

The game was an old-fashioned, defensive slug match with both teams combining for only 25 first downs, 520 total net yards, and 17 points. There were six turnovers and the Giants and Cowboys were a combined 3-of-29 on third down. Not counting the final turnover on downs, neither team reached the red zone.

Fans will long remember this cold night game with a dusting of snow on the field. And the ghosts of the Giants defensive past must have watched with pride.

Giants on Offense

Despite the thrilling win, we should not lose sight of the fact that the New York Giants offense is playing like crap and getting worse. In a game of immense magnitude, this was a PATHETIC effort across the board on offense. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 10 points
  • 12 first downs
  • 260 total net yards
  • 2-of-14 on third down
  • 3.1 yards per rush
  • 23 percent of the offense coming on one play

This is the fifth time this year the Giants have been held to under 300 yards of offense. And I will keep beating this dead horse until proven otherwise – the Giants offense is completely dependent on the big passing play. Other than Odell Beckham’s 61-yard score, no other play gained more than 19 yards.

The offense should be ashamed and embarrassed. If the Giants are going to make a serious run this year, the offensive players had better get their collective heads out of their asses. And pronto.

Quarterback

Eli Manning played like shit. And he’s getting worse. This is the third game in a row Manning has passed for under 200 yards. Yes, the offensive line stunk. Yes the running game was under-productive. But Manning has been encumbered with those issues in previous seasons, including the 2011 title run. In the first half, Manning was 10-of-16 for 80 with two lost fumbles (one where the ball simply slipped out of his hand on what should have been a 24-yard touchdown to Roger Lewis). He also threw one deep pass that should have been intercepted. In the second half, he was 7-of-12 for 113 yards. And 61 of those yards came on a slant pass for the team’s only touchdown. The other six passes accrued just 52 yards. Worse, on one of the Giants few scoring threats, he threw an interception at the Cowboys 15-yard line with 9:40 left to play when a field goal or touchdown would have been huge. And the Giants were VERY lucky the Cowboys dropped two more throws that could have been picked off, including one in Giants’ territory with 2:52 left to play.

Running Backs

You can’t say the coaches were not persistent. Not counting two kneel downs, the Giants ran the ball 31 times in 62 offensive plays. That’s the very definition of balance. The problem was that both Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins each only gained 45 yards on 15 carries. Bobby Rainey had the other carry for 5 yards. In total, the Giants gained 95 hard-fought yards (3.1 yards per carry). Shane Vereen returned but only played three snaps before suffering a concussion. All four backs were targeted in the passing game, but their efforts only amounted to 26 yards on five catches (5.2 yards per catch). Perkins was flagged with another false start. He also fumbled on the team’s field goal drive and was fortunate to recover.

Wide Receivers

Tell me if you heard this before? It was Odell Beckham and not much else. Beckham was targeted nine times, only catching four of those passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. While his superlative 61-yard catch-and-run on the slant pass proved to be the game-winning score, Beckham also dropped two passes. The first should have been a 31-yard touchdown pass late in the 1st quarter.

Sterling Shepard caught three-of-four passes thrown his way for 39 yards. Shepard’s primary contribution was his 14-yard reception on 4th-and-3 that set up Robbie Gould’s 39-yard field goal. Victor Cruz was a non-factor with one catch in four targets for four yards and one drop. He could have helped out Manning on his interception by coming back for the ball. Roger Lewis was targeted once but he did not have a catch.

Tight Ends

Ever since he arrived on the scene in New Jersey, Ben McAdoo’s offense has favored the tight end over the fullback. And for six years, McAdoo was the tight ends coach in Green Bay. But you would be hard pressed to find a more unproductive group of tight ends in the League. Will Tye and Jerell Adams combined for four catches for 30 yards (7.5 yards per catch). These two do give a good effort when blocking.

Offensive Line

Not good. The Giants ran the ball on half of their offensive snaps and only averaged slightly more than three yards per carry. And while Eli Manning was officially hit only four times, he was under duress too much against a team not known for pressuring the passer. Bobby Hart’s holding call sabotaged the opening drive of the game. Manning was sacked three times in the first half. Right guard John Jerry failed to pick up the stunting end on the first sack. The second “sack” came when the ball slipped out of Eli’s hand just as a free blitzing linebacker was about to hit him. Left tackle Ereck Flowers appears to be regressing and was badly beaten for a sack-forced fumble turnover on the final sack of the first half. He also failed to spot a blitzing linebacker on the play where Manning was hit late and then allowed another hit on Manning on the same drive. To his credit, Flowers did regain his composure and played better in the second half. Left guard Marshall Newhouse was flagged with a holding penalty that wiped out a 21-yard run by Paul Perkins. And as pointed out by Cris Collinsworth, Newhouse missed his pulling block on the inside linebacker a couple of times on running plays.

Giants on Defense

THIS is New York Giants defense. The NFL’s 4th-ranked offense was held to:

  • 7 points
  • 13 first downs
  • 260 total net yards
  • 1-of-15 on third down

Dallas’ 15 offensive drives resulted in:

  • 1 touchdown
  • 1 missed field goal
  • 1 turnover on downs
  • 3 turnovers
  • 9 punts

Dallas’ longest gain of the night was their 31-yard touchdown pass. No other play gained more than 18 yards. There were three sacks, eight quarterback hits, five tackles for losses, two interceptions, nine pass defenses, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Dez Bryant was held to one catch for 10 yards and a fumble. Jason Witten only caught four passes for 26 yards. Wow! And beyond all of the stats, with the game in the balance throughout the 4th quarter, the defense didn’t break. Hell, it didn’t even bend. Ben McAdoo put the game in their hands and they won it. This was old fashioned Giants football!

Defensive Line

Perhaps the Giants best defensive performance in years was accomplished without DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants were down to only three defensive ends as Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) was also inactive. In stepped undrafted rookie free agent Romeo Okwara, making his first NFL start in perhaps the most important game of the regular season. The result? Okwara, despite a bit of a rough start, finished the game with a team-leading 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, a team-high 3 quarterback hits, and 1 pass defense. Are you kidding me? DE Olivier Vernon (5 tackles, 1 QB hit) didn’t put up the same numbers against top-flight left tackle Tyron Smith, but Vernon gave Smith issues as the game wore on and Dak Prescott felt his presence. Reserve Kerry Wynn chipped in with two tackles. Vernon was flagged for being offsides.

Inside, Damon Harrison (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) and Johnathan Hankins (2 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) helped hold down Ezekiel Elliott to a “quiet” 107 yards on 24 carries. And the line did a good job of making sure Prescott did not hurt the defense with his feet (only one carry for one yard). Hankins was flagged with a defensive holding penalty.

Linebackers

Based on the first-half numbers, it looked like Ezekiel Elliott was in store for a huge night. He carried the ball 15 times for 86 yards in the first half, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. But in the second half, Elliott was held to a paltry 21 yards on nine carries. More impressive was a pass defense that held Giant-killer TE Jason Witten to four catches for 26 yards, Elliott to no catches, and Lance Dunbar to just three catches for 12 yards.

Devon Kennard, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Devon Kennard had a big night with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, and 1 forced fumble. Keenan Robinson had 6 tackles and a pass defense. Jonathan Casillas was credited with 5 tackles and a sack. Kelvin Sheppard had three tackles.

Defensive Backs

In a game where many players stood out, Janoris Jenkins deserves special recognition. He held Dez Bryant to one catch for 10 yards, forcing a fumble after that catch that helped to seal the game. Bryant was targeted a Dallas team-high nine times and that lone catch came late in the 4th quarter. Jenkins picked off another pass intended for Bryant in the 2nd quarter. And his 4th-and-10 breakup of Prescott’s last pass effectively ended the game.

As a unit, Cowboys wide receivers were held to 10 catches for 127 yards. Terrance Williams was left all alone for an easy 31-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter. (Landon Collins accepted blame for the blown coverage and it looked like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had initial responsibility for Williams). Williams’ other four catches gained just 45 yards. Slot receiver Cole Beasley caught four passes for 41 yards. Both Eli Apple (2 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Rodgers-Cromartie (5 tackles, 2 pass defenses) had strong games. Leon Hall tracked down a poorly-thrown Prescott ball for a key interception and 29-yard return. Coty Sensabaugh (2 tackles) has quietly contributed to this team as has undrafted rookie free agent Andrew Adams (3 tackles). Landon Collins was credited with 6 tackles, 1 QB hit, and a fumble recovery late in the game. He was often singled up on Witten and he kept him largely quiet.

Giants on Special Teams

A major factor in this victory was the punting of Brad Wing, who punted nine times, averaging 43.2 yards per punt (42.9 yard net) on a cold night. Five of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line with two downed by Dwayne Harris at the 3-yard line. The Cowboys returned three punts for a total of three yards. One of Robbie Gould’s three kickoffs resulted in a touchback. Dallas only gained a total of 28 yards on their two kickoff returns.

The Giants kickoff return game was not much better as both of Bobby Rainey’s efforts gained only 20 yards each. Odell Beckham returned four punts for 22 yards, the longest being 12 yards. But he also muffed a punt that he fortunately recovered. Dwayne Harris returned one punt for four yards. B.J. Goodson was flagged with an illegal block on one punt return.

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 11, 2016)
Dec 122016
 
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Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 10 – DALLAS COWBOYS 7…
The New York Giants defeated the heavily-favored Dallas Cowboys 10-7 on a cold Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the victory, the Giants swept the season series against the Cowboys and improved their overall record to 9-4 (3-1 in the NFC East). Dallas fell to 11-2 (3-2 in the NFC East).

In a defensive war, both teams struggled mightily on offense. The Giants and Cowboys each accrued an identical 260 total net yards with Dallas gaining slightly more on the ground and New York slightly more in the air. The Cowboys only finished with 13 first downs and were 1-of-15 (7 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-2 (50 percent) on 4th down. The Giants only gained 12 first downs and were 2-of-14 (14 percent) on 3rd down and 2-of-2 (100 percent) on 4th down. Both teams turned the football over three times.

The Giants did not score in the first half. Their seven first-half possessions resulted in five punts and two fumbles as New York only accrued six first downs and 84 total net yards. The Giants were limited to 30 yards rushing in the first half on 10 carries. Quarterback Eli Manning completed 10-of-16 passes before intermission for 80 yards and was sacked three times. Two of those sacks resulted in fumbles that were recovered by Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense kept New York in the game against what had been the NFL’s 4th-best offense. Only two Cowboys drives in the first half picked up more than one first down. Dallas did drive 67 yards in 10 plays on their second possession to take a 7-0 lead when quarterback Dak Prescott hit wide receiver Terrance Williams for a 31-yard score. The Cowboys also drove 42 yards in five plays on their seventh and last drive of the half, but place kicker Dan Bailey missed a 55-yard field goal effort as time expired (the ball hit the crossbar). Dallas’ five other possessions resulted in four punts and an interception by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who kept Cowboys star wide receiver quiet all game.

At the half, Dallas led 7-0.

As good as the Giants’ defense was in the first half, it turned it up another notch in the second half. Dallas only picked up three first downs and 76 total net yards for the rest of the game. The Cowboys’ eight second-half possessions resulted in five punts, two turnovers, and one turnover on downs to finish the game. Cornerback Leon Hall intercepted Prescott as the Giants picked off a quarterback twice who had only thrown two interceptions all year coming into the game. Bryant caught one pass all night – for 10 yards. And after this catch, Jenkins forced a fumble that safety Landon Collins recovered with 2:13 left to play.

The Giants’ offense continued to have issues in the second half. Like the first half, New York only accrued six first downs. Four drives ended with punts and Manning was intercepted for his third turnover of the game. But the Giants’ second and third drives of the 3rd quarter provided New York with their margin of victory.

First, an 11-play, 35-yard drive set up a successful 39-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. (The Giants converted on 4th-and-3 on this drive). Then after Hall’s interception and a running back Rashad Jennings’ run that picked up no yardage, Manning found wide receiver Odell Beckham on a slant pass. Beckham caught the ball and raced his way to the end zone en route to a 61-yard scoring strike. Remarkably, those ten points were enough for the Giants to win the game.

Offensively, the numbers were not good. Manning finished 17-of-28 for 193 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also lost two fumbles. Beckham caught 4-of-9 targets for 94 yards and a touchdown. No other target had more than three catches and 39 yards. Running backs Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins each rushed 15 times for 45 yards.

The defense won the game. Dallas was held to 108 net yards rushing and 152 net yards passing as the Cowboys never reached the red zone. Jenkins and Hall both came up with interceptions. Jenkins also forced a fumble that Collins recovered. Defensive end Romeo Okwara, who started for the injured Jason Pierre-Paul, led the team with 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits, and a pass defense. Linebacker Devon Kennard was credited with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, and 1 forced fumble. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas had the team’s third sack. Overall, the Giants defended nine passes with two each by Jenkins and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Perhaps the unsung hero of the game was punter Brad Wing. He punted nine times, averaging 43.2 yards per punt (42.9 yard net) with no touchbacks and five punts downed inside the 20-yard line (and two downed inside the 5-yard line by Dwayne Harris).

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were left guard Justin Pugh (knee), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee), linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), wide receiver Tavarres King, and quarterback Josh Johnson.

Running back Shane Vereen (concussion) left the game in the 2nd quarter. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (burner) did as well, but he returned.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants have clinched a winning record. It is their first since 2012, when they finished 9-7.

The Giants swept the Cowboys for the first time since 2011. They have won three consecutive games against the Cowboys after losing five in a row.

The Giants improved to 6-1 at home, including 2-1 in NFC East games. That ties their highest victory total in MetLife Stadium since it opened in 2010 (they were 6-2 in 2012).

The Giants’ Sunday night record improved to 21-28-1, including 11-12 at home.

The Giants won a game in which they scored no more than 10 points for the first time since December 28, 2002, when they clinched a playoff berth with a 10-7 overtime victory against Philadelphia.

This was the seventh time in their history the Giants played a regular-season game against a team that had won at least 11 consecutive games. The Giants have been the home team in every game. They’re 2-5 in those games, and each of the last five games has been decided by just three points.

QB Eli Manning’s 28 passes increased his career total to 6,707, which moved him past Vinny Testaverde (6,701) and into ninth place on the NFL’s career list. Manning’s 17 completions increased his career total to 3,997 completions and moved him past Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon (3,988) and into seventh place on the all-time list.

WR Odell  Beckham’s touchdown was his 34th on a pass from Manning. That is the most by any receiver. Beckham had been tied with WR Plaxico Burress, who played for the Giants from 2005-08.

ROSTER MOVES…
On Saturday, the New York Giants activated running back Shane Vereen from Injured Reserve to the 53-man roster. To make room for Vereen, the team terminated the contract of offensive guard Adam Gettis.

Vereen was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2016 with a triceps injury that required surgery. Vereen was originally selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2015. As the team’s third-down back, playing in all 16 games with no starts, Vereen had his most productive year in the NFL as a pass receiver in 2015, catching a career-high 59 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns. It was the most receptions by a Giants running back in a single season since Tiki Barber. Vereen also carried the ball 61 times for 260 yards (4.3 yards per carry).

Gettis was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2016 and to the 53-man roster in November 2016. Gettis was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He has spent time with the Redskins (2012-2013), Steelers (2014), Giants (2014-2015), Raiders (2015), and Giants again (2015-2016).

Dec 092016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 11, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
What are the New York Giants to the television networks, media, and football fans who don’t root for the Giants? The big-city market team with a super-talented, prima donna wideout and an overrated, mistake-prone quarterback. This weekend they are supposed to be victim #12 for the media darling, “unbeatable” Dallas Cowboys. This game is expected to be a mere formality. Dallas is supposed to cinch the NFC East title on the Giants home field and celebrate in the MetLife locker room with a grinning Jerry Jones looking on in amusement.

Ever since the Giants beat the Cowboys in the season-opener, Dallas has gotten stronger and won 11 games in a row. They are playing with tremendous confidence. And an NFL suffering through a terrible ratings drop is praying for a Cowboys Super Bowl run, so expect no help from the officials.

The Giants don’t have to be perfect to beat the Cowboys. They weren’t perfect on September 11th when they beat them 20-19. But New York will have to play its best game of the season thus far to win. Do the Giants want to be fodder for Dallas’ highlight reel or do they want to steal their headlines? It’s been a long time since the Giants have won a high-profile December game against a quality opponent with playoff implications for both teams.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR/Returner Dwayne Harris (ankle) – questionable
  • TE Larry Donnell (illness) – probable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – questionable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – questionable
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (quadriceps) – questionable
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – out
  • CB Coty Sensabaugh (ribs) – questionable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It’s a stunning statistic. The Giants are now 26th in offense. We’re reached Dan Reeves/Dave Brown-era levels. This isn’t supposed to happen with Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, and a supporting cast that was expected to be stronger/more experienced than the group that finished 8th in offense in 2015.

The media and fan knee-jerk reaction is to change this or change that. With four regular season games left, it’s too late to make dramatic changes anywhere. You have to go with what you have and pray you execute better. If it fails, the organization will have to make tough assistant coach, scheme, and personnel decisions in the offseason. The problem is obvious. Opposing defenses are not allowing Beckham to wreck the game. They double- and sometimes triple-team him with a safety deep. They dare the Giants to nickel-and-dime them without making mistakes. The Giants can’t run the ball against defenses playing back. And Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, and the backs and tight ends are not doing enough damage DOWN THE FIELD in the passing game to compensate. It’s really that simple. The big question is how much is coaching exacerbating the problem? Some contend the Giants are far too reliant on the 3-WR, 1-TE, and 1-RB (“11” personnel) formation and have become far too predictable. Running out of the shotgun doesn’t seem to be very productive.

The good news is that the Giants may have Justin Pugh and Shane Vereen back this week. The bad news is that both are not 100 percent and both will be rusty.

Dallas doesn’t have a lot of stars on their defense. But they are well-coached. They are 18th overall (2nd against the run, 29th against the pass). More noteworthy, despite giving up a lot of passing yards, they are 5th in scoring defense, allowing only 19 points per game.

“The defense is playing very fast and aggressive, like they always do,” said Ben McAdoo. “They do a great job hunting the ball carrier. (Demarcus) Lawrence is giving them a nice boost, along with (Tyrone) Crawford, and (Maliek) Collins is playing really well as a three-technique. (Sean) Lee and (Byron) Jones have paired to be a great tandem in coverage at the linebacker and safety spots.”

The Giants are 31st in rushing and the Cowboys are 2nd against the run. The Cowboys are 29th against the pass. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Expect another game with the pass-to-run ratio is 2-to-1 or even 3-to-1. Hopefully the weather cooperates. It’s not realistic to expect Rashad Jennings or any of the tight ends to make a serious impact. It will have to be Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, Shane Vereen, and Paul Perkins as receivers. Eli Manning has to elevate his game. He can’t play like he did last weekend or the Giants have no chance.

Bottom line? The Giants are averaging 20 points per game. Dallas is allowing 19 points per game. If the Giants don’t score a touchdown more than that, they probably will lose.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
There is no way to sugar-coat it. Losing Jason Pierre-Paul the week before playing the Cowboys is not good. It’s not even so much about his pass rush but the fact that JPP is one of the best run-defending defensive ends in football. But the situation is what it is and you have to move on. Throughout their history, undermanned New York Giants defenses have risen to the occasion and defeated offensive juggernauts when they weren’t supposed to. Now is the time for Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa to make a statement.

The challenges are severe. The Cowboys are 4th in the NFL in offense. They are 2nd in rushing and 19th in passing. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football. The best running back. One of the best wide receivers in football. A Hall of Fame tight end. And a big, mobile quarterback with a 108.6 QB rating and a 19-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has gotten better with each game. Through 12 games, he has an astounding 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns. Elliott is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He’s the complete package. He can beat you with power, moves, instincts, and speed. And Elliott is very good catching the ball, averaging 11.5 yards per catch (on par with many receivers). Quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Dez Bryant, and tight end Jason Witten present their own unique challenges, but the bread-and-butter of this offense is obvious: Elliott running behind a superb run-blocking offensive line. Everything is secondary to limiting the damage on the ground. The good news is the Giants held Elliott to his season-low in Week One (51 yards, 2.6 yards per carry). But Elliott will no doubt carry that chip on his shoulder into this game against a defense missing JPP. And the Giants defense just gave up its first 100-yard game last weekend, mostly after Pierre-Paul left the game.

Olivier Vernon is playing better now than he did earlier in the year. He needs a top-notch effort against one of the best left tackles in football (Tyron Smith). Whomever plays left defensive end will face the lesser player, Doug Free. But the real battle will be inside with Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison against a VERY strong interior, including two Pro Bowlers. This is a game where the Giants will need Devon Kennard to step up both as a run defender and pass rusher, including from a down position. Kelvin Sheppard – the run-down middle linebacker – will be on the spot to get off of blockers and make tackles.

The Cowboys take advantage of their strong running game to open up things in the passing game. Linebackers tend to bite on play action and opposing secondaries have less help on the back end to deal with Bryant, Witten, and lesser receivers who still can do damage (slot receiver Cole Beasley actually is the leading pass receiver on the team with 60 catches, compared to Bryant who has 37). Giants fans know what Bryant (17 yards per catch, six touchdowns) and Witten (52 catches) can do. But also keep in mind that Prescott can run the ball – he has 217 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

The Giants have no choice but load up against the run and hope their talented secondary can handle the passing targets mostly on their own. I anticipate we’ll see Landon Collins up near the line of scrimmage a lot, but he and the linebackers can’t be too aggressive on play-action. That’s easier said than done. Getting heat on Prescott will be difficult without JPP. Vernon will have issues with Smith. The reserve ends really haven’t demonstrated any pass-rushing prowess this season. Neither have the defensive tackles. And the pass rushers can’t go all out as they will have to maintain pass-rush integrity against the mobile quarterback. Spagnuolo will have to blitz but the Giants lack top-notch blitzers too. The best bet for Steve Spagnuolo is probably to mix things up and hopefully confuse the rookie quarterback and his blockers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
To make matters worse, the Cowboys have a huge advantage on special teams. They have the best place kicker in football who is virtually automatic even from long distance. The punter is outstanding, averaging over 46 yards per punt. Dwayne Harris was a difference-maker in the game in the Meadowlands last year, but he is battling a number of injuries and has struggled. Robbie Gould has been shaky. Don’t be surprised if we see Odell Beckham returning punts.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on how teams approach Odell Beckham: “He attracts a lot of attention. It’s a challenge to get him the ball. Teams pay a lot of attention to him. You know going into the game they’re going to have a plan for him. In the past, there may have been one way to take him away. Now, what we’re seeing is they have a few different ways to try and take him away and make you go the long road. We just have to be patient. That’s where the consistency part of things really shows up. You have to be patient and consistent. You have to eliminate the unforced errors. You’re not going to get many opportunities to let him blow the top off of things… When you have a premier player, they don’t want to have a premier player wreck the game.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The good news is the one team to beat the Cowboys is the Giants. And they did it in Dallas so they certainly can do it at home in New York, like they did last season. The Giants are not scared of the Cowboys. The bad news is while the Cowboys offense has gotten better, the Giants offense has stagnated. And it’s Cowboys who are oddly built to win in cold weather and not the Giants. I’d feel more confident about this game if Pierre-Paul was playing. But I think stopping the run and rushing the passer is going to be a problem without him. The Giants have to figure out a way to score more than 20 points in this contest against a team that is allowing less than that per game. The Cowboys also have the advantage in terms of the kicking game. It’s a game like this where the Giants need a team-elevating effort from Eli Manning. It’s been a long time since that happened. Manning has to be more than “good” on  Sunday night. He has to be “great.”

Sep 132016
 
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New York Giants Offense (September 11, 2016)

New York Giants Offense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Dallas Cowboys 19

Overview

In a game decided by the smallest of margins, there is one statistic that best explains the New York Giants defeat of the Dallas Cowboys: red zone efficiency.

  • New York Giants: 3-of-3 (100 percent)
  • Dallas Cowboys: 1-of-3 (33 percent)

The Cowboys dominated in terms of number of offensive plays (75 to 54) and time of possession (36:43 to 23:17), but their four drives of 11 plays or more resulted in only 12 points. Two of those drives were 15 plays each and two others did not reach the red zone. Indeed, Dallas’ sole touchdown was set up on a short field after a turnover.

On the other hand, the Giants three scoring drives encompassed 4, 12, and 9 plays. But while the Dallas scoring possessions usually resulted in field goals, the Giants were scoring touchdowns.

This was a big reversal for a Giants team that has had issues both in terms of red zone offense and red zone defense in recent years. And it was the deciding factor in the game.

Giants on Offense

Dak Prescott threw for more yards than Eli Manning. The Giants out-rushed the Cowboys. Few people would have expected those results. Part of the reason for the depressed Giants offensive numbers is that the Cowboys maintained possession for so long in this game. They ran 21 more plays and had the ball for 13 more minutes. To put this in proper perspective, Dallas had the ball for almost an entire quarter more than the Giants!!!

But New York was more efficient. While the Giants only had three offensive possessions in the first half, two of those ended with touchdowns.

The second-half was the problem as the Giants began the third quarter with an interception that set up Dallas’ sole touchdown. They followed that up with three first downs and three punts.

The offense redeemed itself late. First came the 9-play, 59-yard, game-winning touchdown drive with 6:13 to go in the game. Then came a 7-play, 40-yard drive that picked up two first downs. While this possession only took 2:52 off of the clock, it flipped the field and forced Dallas to expend all three of their timeouts. Both would prove decisive in a game decided by seconds with a Cowboys place kicker fully capable of nailing a 60-yard field goal.

Quarterback

If you had told me that Eli Manning would only pass for 207 yards, then I would have been sure we would have lost the game. But the key here was his efficiency. Three of Manning’s 18 completions were for touchdowns. After the Cowboys dominated much of the first half with two marathon drives that ate up more than 16 minutes and ended with field goals, Eli made that moot in three throws: a 14-yard pass to Sterling Shepard, a 45-yard deep throw to Odell Beckham, and a 15-yard touchdown to Larry Donnell. Bing, bing, bing. Giants up, Dallas lead gone. Psychologically this was a devastating result and a bit reminiscent of the first half in the 2007 playoff game against the Cowboys.

The impressive element of the second scoring drive – the one right before halftime – was that Manning and the Giants overcame two holding penalties. Manning was 8-of-9 on this drive (with one drop) and finished the possession with a 9-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-3 with seven seconds to go.

Manning did throw one interception at the start of the third quarter, but the blame for that mistake was placed on Shepard who did not come back for the ball. Manning’s worst series was late in the 3rd quarter when he was fortunate a lateral pass didn’t result in a turnover and then he later unnecessarily rushed a 3rd-and-3 incomplete pass that was well off the mark.

Once again, Manning brought his team back with a 4th-quarter game-winning drive. Eli was 4-of-6 on this drive, including the 3-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz on 3rd-and-goal.

Running Backs

At least for one game, Tom Coughlin’s three-headed running back committee was shelved. Only two backs touched the football. Rashad Jennings ran the ball 75 percent of the time with 18 carries for 75 yards (4.2 yards per carry). Shane Vereen had six carries for 38 yards (6.3 yards per carry). Overall, the Giants were surprisingly productive in the ground game, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and out-rushing the Cowboys. Vereen also had three receptions for 23 yards, but also dropped a pass that stalled the first drive.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz were all on the field for 50 snaps or more. Tavarres King (6 snaps) and Dwayne Harris (1 snap) were afterthoughts. Despite the lack of big passing numbers, the Big Three were all important factors in the victory.

Shepard gained 14 yards and Beckham blew past CB Orlando Scandrick for a 45-yard gain on the Giants first touchdown drive. Beckham later caught a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 on the Giants second touchdown drive. Cruz was a big factor on this drive with three catches, including a 23-yarder over the middle where he took a pop. Shepard finished up this possession with an incredible 9-yard touchdown reception despite a lot of contact from the Cowboys corner.

Shepard had a 20-yard reception on the game-winning touchdown drive in the 4th quarter. And of course Cruz had his dramatic moment with the 3-yard game-winner on 3rd-and-goal with just over six minutes to play.

Shepard gave up on his route on the play where Manning was intercepted.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

With no traditional fullback on the roster, we are seeing more and more of Will Tye and Larry Donnell lining up in non-traditional tight end spots such as in the backfield. Both Donnell and Tye did a good job of run blocking for the most part although Donnell had issues late in the game. In the passing game, linebackers have problems with Donnell’s combination of size (especially height) and overall athleticism, as indicated on his 15-yard touchdown reception. But Donnell heard an earful from Ben McAdoo after he couldn’t make a play on an incomplete 3rd-and-5 pass over the middle. Donnell was also flagged with a false start. Tye caught all three passes thrown in his direction for 16 yards.

In an interesting late twist, check out this Corner Forum post by BBI poster cnewk on Brett Jones lining up at fullback late in the game. cnewk also did a nice overview on Donnell’s ups and downs as a run blocker.

Offensive Line

As expected, against a subpar opponent, pass protection was solid. Manning was sacked twice, but one of those sacks was a coverage sack and the other on Rashad Jennings. These were the only two times Manning was officially hit. The running game was better than expected as the Giants actually out-rushed the Cowboys, gaining 113 yards on 24 carries for an excellent 4.7 yards per carry. New York’s best runs were right up the gut…power football…and everyone across the board did their job, including the much maligned right-side of the offensive line. The line did a nice job on their last drive, leading Rashad Jennings to 40 yards on seven carries against a defense loaded up to stop the run. In the 2nd quarter, John Jerry was flagged with a bogus holding penalty while Justin Pugh’s holding infraction looked a tad more guilty.

Giants on Defense

Dallas had three first half drives, with an astounding 38 plays and 22 minutes in time-of-possession. All three drives resulted in points. However, none resulted in touchdowns. (Though the Giants were lucky WR Cole Beasily dropped what should have been a TD on the first drive). In the second half, the defense failed to make a stand after the Giants offense turned the football over at their own 35-yard line. Seven plays later, the Cowboys scored their only touchdown of the day. The last five Dallas possessions resulted in one field goal, three punts, and the clock expiring. The important point is the Cowboys were held to under 20 points. When the Giants do that, they usually win.

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. The Giants were very sound in their fundamentals. Only two defensive penalties (one accepted) and they hit and tackled very well throughout the game.

The pains in the ass in the game were tight end Jason Witten and slot receiver Cole Beasley – who combined for 17 receptions (targeted an astounding 26 times) for 131 yards. Fortunately, these two only averaged 7.7 yards per catch. All of the other Cowboys only caught eight passes total.

Defensive Line

No sacks and officially only three quarterback hits – two by DE Jason Pierre-Paul and one by DT Johnathan Hankins. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was far too comfortable in the pocket, often times experiencing no pressure whatsoever. That said, the Giants began to get more heat on the quarterback as the game wore on in the second half. JPP gave the right tackle some issues and DE Olivier Vernon caused a holding penalty on one rush (and another holding penalty on a running play).

The Giants held potentially one of the NFL’s most-dangerous running attacks to 101 yards on 30 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Even better, they held top draft pick RB Ezekiel Elliott to 51 yards on 20 carries (2.6 yards per carry). Pierre Paul (6 tackles), Hankins (5 tackles), DT Damon Harrison (5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss), and Vernon (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) were all impressive in run defense. And even the reserves got into the act as DE Owa Odighizuwa (17 snaps), DT Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 2 tackles), DE Romeo Okwara (13 snaps), and DE Kerry Wynn (5 snaps, 1 tackle) all saw action.

Linebackers

Despite playing with a rib injury, team captain Jonathan Casillas (58 snaps) led the team with 10 tackles. Casillas made an excellent tackle on RB Ezekiel Elliott after a short pass on 3rd-and-goal to force a field goal. He did get beat by TE Jason Witten for eight yards on 3rd-and-7 on the second FG drive. In the 4th quarter, he had nice coverage on the slot receiver for an incomplete pass.

On the other end of the spectrum was new starting middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard (59 snaps), who was only credited with two tackles. He was a non-factor. Keenan Robinson (30 snaps, 3 tackles) and Devon Kennard (27 snaps, 3 tackles) were mostly quiet although Kennard had a good series in the 4th quarter with back-to-back plays, first stopping the back at the line and then rushing the passer.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Newcomer and high-priced free agent Janoris Jenkins was one of the stars of the game as he blanketed All-Pro Dez Bryant, who only had one catch for eight yards. His only mistake was a 15-yard face mask penalty on a 3rd-and-6 incomplete pass. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who mostly played in the slot, was sometimes matched up on Bryant. One of his two breakups against Bryant was a deep shot into the end zone that was expertly defended. DRC also flashed on the blitz. He did give up a late 11-yard reception to WR Terrance Williams on 3rd-and-10.

Eli Apple (56 snaps, 4 tackles) played a lot outside in DRC’s normal position. Apple was beat by WR Cole Beasley on a crossing pattern for nine yards on 3rd-and-5 and then by WR Brice Butler for 16 yards on the second FG drive. But he otherwise kept his opponent quiet. Apple made a nice open-field tackle on a tight end screen in the 4th quarter.

Leon Hall (17 snaps) saw limited action.

Safety Landon Collins had six tackles and a pass breakup at strong safety. Nat Berhe (5 tackles) and Darian Thompson (3 tackles) rotated at free safety. Berhe had an early big hit on Elliott, but Collins was beat on the next play for a 17-yard gain by TE Jason Witten and then later by Beasley on 3rd-and-4 for six yards on the first FG drive. Berhe had a few big hits on the running back in the first half. The Giants and Collins were surprised by back-up TE Geoff Swaim being the downfield target on Dallas’ longest play of the day – a 21-yard gain. Thompson made a nice open-field tackle on Elliott for no gain two plays later. Collins was oddly locked up on Bryant out of the slot on a deep pass that almost went for a touchdown but Collins knocked the ball out of Bryant’s hands as he fell to the ground, saving four points.

Giants on Special Teams

Randy Bullock did not attempt a field goal and missed an extra point. Three of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. One kickoff was returned 21 yards. This was unfortunately the play where J.T. Thomas tore his knee ligament.

Brad Wing did not have a great game. Three of his five punts resulted in touchbacks, including his last punt which only netted 17 yards. He was lucky that didn’t come back to haunt his team, though to be fair, the high snap by Zak DeOssie on this play didn’t help Wing.

Dwayne Harris returned two kickoffs, one for 29 yards and one for 17 yards. The biggest special teams play of the game for the Giants was his 17-yard punt return before the game-winning drive.

(New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 11, 2016)
Sep 112016
 
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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…

Sep 092016
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 13, 2015)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 11, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Tom Coughlin is no longer head coach of the New York Giants because his teams stopped beating relatively weak NFC East opponents from 2012 to 2015. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins either owned the Giants the past four years or won the key late-season game that decided the division.

  • Giants vs. Cowboys since 2012: 2-6
  • Giants vs. Eagles since 2012: 2-6
  • Giants vs. Redskins since 2012: 6-2 (but the two losses flipped each team’s season)

The Giants have also lost five regular-season openers in a row, including three games to Dallas.

The Cowboys are without Tony Romo and starting two very talented but green-as-grass rookies at quarterback and running back. The Eagles are rebuilding. The Redskins could go in either direction. The NFC is very much up for grabs. The Giants have the only established starter at quarterback and perhaps the NFL’s best wideout. The Giants spent about $200 million to revitalize what had been the NFL’s worst defense in 2015. The big unknown is how will this team respond to new leadership in Ben McAdoo?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (ribs) – probable
  • S Darian Thompson (shoulder) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The New York Giants offense was out of sync all preseason. The main scapegoat by fans was the offensive line. The Giants were unable to run the ball and pass protection could be labeled as inconsistent at best. Publicly, coaches and players appeared unfazed. We’re about to find out of the complaints by fans and pundits were valid or not.

Based on recent years and the 2016 preseason, the Giants appear to be a finesse offense predicated on the passing game, and the Eli Manning-to-Odell Beckham combination in particular. When these two are “on”, the Giants offense performs at a high level. When they struggle, the Giants offense sputters. Have the Giants added reliable and consistent offensive threats to complement these two? Coaches and players rave about Sterling Shepard but he had little impact in the preseason – either by accident or by design. Can Victor Cruz ever regain his old form, and if so, how long will it take? A healthy and productive Victor Cruz combined with Beckham and Shepard completely changes the make-up of this offense. The Dallas Cowboys secondary would have major issues facing these three if they are on the top of their game.

The temptation for balance and forcing the running game to produce may be there for McAdoo. My gut tells me we’re going to see a much different run-pass ratio with McAdoo than we saw under Coughlin. I think McAdoo is going to spread the Cowboys out and pass, pass, pass – not only using the top three wide receivers as main targets but also running back Shane Vereen and tight end Will Tye. I expect the Giants will be in the no huddle for much of the game.

The Cowboys are not a strong pass rushing team and both of their starting defensive ends are suspended for this game. DT Tyrone Crawford and LB Sean Lee remain Dallas’ best front-seven defenders. The rest of the front-seven is just meh, but extremely well-coached under Rod Marinelli. I wouldn’t play it conservatively. Be aggressive and attack. Try to blow the Cowboys out early and put more pressure on the rookie quarterback.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
One would strong think that the Cowboys are going to rely on their superb offensive line and top-pick running back – Ezekiel Elliott – to take the pressure off of their rookie quarterback. I expect to see a heavy dose of the Cowboys running game with the Cowboys wanting to test out Jonathan Casillas’ ribs and Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand in particular. That said, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys take a deep shot or two early to all-world Dez Bryant simply to put the Giants on notice.

The Giants are going to very quickly learn whether or not the additions of DE Olivier Vernon and DT Damon Harrison are going to transform this defense. The battles between the Cowboys interior trio of LG La’el Collins, OC Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin against defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison may be worthy of the price of admission alone. It’s going to be a war. Left tackle Tyron Smith is one of the best in the business, but he struggled with Vernon against Miami last year. That will be an interesting battle to watch. The Giants need JPP to dominate RT Doug Free.

Expect a shot or two early then run, run, run. Not just with Elliott but physical ex-Redskin running back Alfred Morris. The Giants must keep the Cowboys from methodically moving the chains. Turn 1st-and-10 into 2nd-and-8 and then 3rd-and-6. Old school football. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was extremely impressive in the preseason, but he’s still new to the pro game. The Cowboys will try to keep it simple for him by having him focus on his first option. The Giants must switch up their coverages to confuse Prescott and force the rookie to look for his second and third options. Prescott is mobile so containment will be important. He’s also a big guy so the Giants will need to bring the lumber and wrap up. Cowboys may spice things up with some read-option plays too.

We all know the threats in the passing game: WR Dez Bryant and the ageless TE Jason Witten. It’s Witten who has killed New York and there will be pressure on safety Landon Collins and the linebackers to limit his damage. Collins could also be a major factor in run defense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Place kicker Randy Bullock replaces Josh Brown for at least one game. He is the man on the spot. Dwayne Harris and the Giants special teams were a major factor in the Giants victory over Dallas in the Meadowlands last year.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on how WR Victor Cruz will be used: “There’s no dipping your toe in the water now. We’re going. We’re going down there to win a ballgame. There’s no dipping your toe in. We’re full bore, ready to go.”

THE FINAL WORD:
There isn’t much film to work with on Dak Prescott so that can be problematic for any defense. Ezekiel Elliott looks like the real deal too. That said, Steve Spagnuolo and the defense are facing a rookie quarterback instead of Tony Romo. And Elliott may have issues with blitz assignments (one reason we actually may see more of Morris than many expect). Dez Byrant is damn good but so are the Giants corners. The keys defensively are obvious. Stop the run. Cover Witten. Confuse the rookie quarterback. Offensively, the Giants match up well with the Cowboys as long as McAdoo doesn’t play it too conservatively. I expect the Giants to win this game as long as the team is mentally and emotionally ready to play. Enter Ben McAdoo and his first real test.

Oct 282015
 
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no-country-for-old-men-tommy-lee-jones1

New York Giants 27 – Dallas Cowboys 20

Overview

Forty minutes of possession against us, Darren McFadden running like he was at Arkansas, Eli Manning throwing no TDs, 3 interceptions by Matt Cassel, a kickoff return for a TD, a muffed punt to win a woolly contest at MetLife…I don’t know what to make of that. I sure don’t. The games you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to write to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “O.K., I’ll be part of this world.” And a part of this world we are for now Big Blue Faithful, 4-3, atop the NFC East and a chance to make some noise down the stretch. Not much else you can ask for heading for the midpoint in the season but nothing will be easy and none of it makes any sense.

Down 13-10 at the half, kicking off to the Cowboys with Darren McFadden running wild, things looked bleak for the G-Men and their chance to exorcise the Cowboys’ demon that had haunted them for 5 straight games. That’s when DRC came riding in to save the day with his 58-yard interception return that ignited the Giants and sent them to a 17-13 lead as the Cowboys were working down field to open the second half. Then Brandon Meriweather intercepted Cassel at the 1-yard line. After adding a FG on a drive punctuated by a 44-yard fly to Rueben Randle and a 39-yard scamper by Shane Vereen, DRC snuffed out another Cowboys’ drive and the Giants hard-fought 20-13 lead temporarily stood. Taking the ball out of Cassel’s turnover-prone hands would have seemed wise and the Cowboys indeed turned to Lucky Whitehead, Darren McFadden and former Seahawk Christine Michael (someone listened to a “Boy named Sue” one too many times before naming his kid) for six straight plays. That running game gave Cassel the chance he needed and the veteran tossed 21- and 25-yard deep outs to Terrance Williams and Devin Street to knot the game at 20.

And then, Dwayne Harris happened. The former Cowboy, signed to a 5-year, $17 million contract in the offseason cashed in with a 100-yard kickoff return with 7 minutes left in the contest to put the Giants ahead for good and give Tom Coughlin an actual good special teams memory to hold on to. Dallas gave it a go, driving to the Giants 30, but Brandon Meriweather swatted a Cassel offering and a gang of Giants finished off TE James Hanna to kill the threat. After forcing a Giant punt with 1:36 left, the Cowboys had one more chance, but Cole Beasley bobbled the punt and it was pounced on by Myles White and the special teams saved the day for Tom Coughlin and his 100th victory as head coach of the New York Giants.

Quarterbacks

As Eli goes, so go the G-Men. A two-game slump since the 441-yard masterpiece against the Niners, but this week his teammates found a way when Eli was hemmed in. The positives are zero turnovers and Greg Hardy did not in fact in kill, maim, fold, spindle or mutilate your aw shucks signal caller. Manning was dumped twice, and completed just 13 passes for 170 yards against a defense that has struggled to stop the pass all year save for its two contests with the Giants. Manning misfired on a crossing route to Beckham to end the Giants’ second possession with another punt, and flirted with disaster as an errant pass glanced off Shane Vereen and appeared to be picked off by Byron Jones deep in Giants’ territory until a review mercifully saw the ball bounce off of the turf. Manning, as he is wont to do, followed that near-mistake with a rifle shot to Dwayne Harris on a 38-yard catch-and-run that got the Giants into field goal range. Manning had two more great passes, a 44-yarder to Rueben Randle and a drop by the same Randle on a perfectly-thrown post as the Giants were trying to add to their lead.

Running Backs

“How many of those things you got now?” – “Running Backs? Several. Well, depends on what you mean by got. Some are half-wild and some are just outlaws.” Orleans Darkwa, welcome to outlaw status. Castoff running backs seem to find a home in New York and our new outlaw fits the mold. After weeks of a certain big-mouth “writer” calling for him, Tom Coughlin dusted off #26 and lo and behold, a running game emerged. It took 25 totes but the mercurial 4 racked up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, with Darkwa bulling his way to the end zone for the group’s lone score. In true head-scratching style though, no one got more than 8 carries and it appears this rotation may just work as long as Darkwa’s role remains. Darkwa endeared himself to Greg Hardy haters everywhere by leveling the loud-mouthed DE and rumbling forward for a 10-yard gain, and then simply bulling his way to a 15-yard TD run. Shane Vereen actually led all rushers with 56 yards, ripping off a game-long 39-yarder on a Giants’ FG drive in the 3rd quarter. Rashad Jennings’ first two carries went for 8 and 6 yards, then he vanished, finishing the game with 5 more yards on 3 more carries. Andre Williams was again mostly a no-show with 13 yards on 4 carries but his 5-yard run right into Rolando McClain’s kitchen was a thing of beauty. Once a game, Williams seems to deliver a phlegm-loosening hit on some defender, perfect tonic for cold and flu season.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. opened the account for the WRs with a 10-yard grab on the Giants’ second possession, and I have to say, an odd reaction as he got up and shook himself at CB Brandon Carr. I like the fire, but once in a while ODB does something that looks like a hissy fit. At some point, he needs to be more composed. It wasn’t until the Giants were able to establish the run that ODB was able to do some damage and the second-year phenom had another shot at a miracle catch against Carr but wasn’t able to replicate the magic of his previous catch at MetLife. Rueben Randle was the most effective target Eli had, despite only getting his hands on 2 balls, which is fine if you’re giving a physical but not for an NFL receiver. Randle turned his head and coughed enough to haul in a beautiful arcing pass from Manning that covered 44 yards with the Giants in the shadow of their own end zone. Randle pulled in the 3rd-and-5 pass with one hand and gave the Giants life enough to push ahead to a 20-13 lead. But in a game of weird plays, Randle just dropped a ball right in his hands on a perfectly-thrown post by Manning that could have been a TD or led to a TD.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell got started early, picking up a first down on the second play of the game, and another two plays later. Then he simply disappeared like most Giant aerial targets did and finished with 4 grabs for 18 yards on 5 targets. Donnell did have a great block on Vereen’s 39-yard scamper, getting good position and holding his block long enough to spring the diminutive back. Will Tye wasn’t able to handle his first target on a Manning pass on 3rd-and-4, killing the Giants’ first drive. And that was it for the rookie TE.

Offensive Line

Does anyone else kinda miss Will Beatty? The combo of Geoff Schwartz and Marshall Newhouse killed a TD chance by getting blown past by Greg Hardy and Tyrone Crawford. Newhouse again struggled at times, giving up an early near-sack to DE Jeremy Mincey that was mercifully called an incompletion. Other than those two hiccups, a much better day than most had anticipated against the suddenly healthy and dangerous Cowboys’ DL spearheaded by Greg Hardy, who wasn’t exactly Anton Chigurh as many had anticipated going into this tilt. This group bounced back exactly how you’d hoped they would after the debacle in Philadelphia, a great sign going forward that this group is going to fight no matter who’s in front of them. The big boys up front paved the way for their first 100 yarder of the year. They may have found their staple running play, an inside trap that Jennings got 8 and 6 yards on early, and Darkwa utilized for the big gain below:

darkwa2At the snap, LG Justin Pugh pulls, OC Weston Richburg blocks down and RG Geoff Schwartz and RT Marshall Newhouse double the DT opposite of Richburg, creating an A Gap hole. The problem is LBs Rolando McClain and Sean Lee sit in wait to maintain their gaps.

darkwa3Pugh pulling entices Lee and McClain to follow him and Darkwa has a decision to make, follow his lead guard on a trap off tackle or hit the A gap. Darkwa makes a sudden head fake towards Pugh, Lee commits and McClain takes too long to react.

darkwa4The head fake buys Darkwa the time to burst through the A gap and pick up 9 yards as Pugh’s pulling draws the LBs attention. Credit to Richburg for an outstanding power block on the play.

C Weston Richburg had his best game of the year, consistently turning his man out of the hole to lead the way for the Giants rushing attack. Richburg had the key block on Darkwa’s TD run and 9-yard jaunt just moments earlier. LT Ereck Flowers had no trouble with anyone this time out and is fast becoming a rock on the OL. RG Geoff Schwartz gave up the sack to Hardy, who I loathe, so Schwartz gets the gas face. LG Justin Pugh was solid and his leads on the traps did their job – a solid day for the former Syracuse man.

Defensive Line

Horrible, just horrible. 233 yards to a one-dimensional team with no one at RB is abysmal. Not one player on this DL looked like anything but a small bump on a putt-putt course, the one that kinda gets in the way but ultimately doesn’t hinder you on your way to mini-golf glory. The edge containment was non-existent and BBI favorite, DE Kerry Wynn, was downright putrid, first biting inside on a Joseph Randle run on the Cowboys’ first possession and then completely losing contain on his side while simply being erased on a McFadden run on the Cowboys’ first TD drive. Wynn wasn’t alone in his crapitude. DT Markus Kuhn stood straight up and got himself taken out of the hole and pushed backwards on a McFadden 9-yard run. Not to be outdone, DE Robert Ayers gave up his lane and inexplicably chased Matt Cassel as McFadden scooted by as evidenced by this nauseating sequence. The circles indicate where Kuhn and Ayers SHOULD be; they do not make it so.

Kuhn1Kuhn starts in the A (between center and guard) gap, with DE Robert Ayers seemingly responsible for the C gap (outside the OT).

kuhn2Kuhn spots a penny on the turf (and OG Zach Martin peeks over his shoulder for a look see), instead of staying home to take on the block from TE Jason Witten and create some traffic for McFadden…

kuhn3Ayers completely abandons his gap, preferring to see what type of shoe Matt Cassel has on in lieu of taking down a ball carrier. Kuhn goes from zero to blocked faster than any DT I can remember. It has to be the fine German engineering that enables such raw speed. And there is no penny, just a gaping hole for McFadden to exploit.

DT Jay Bromley didn’t fare much better, consistently getting turned out of the hole and giving up leverage far too easily. And naturally it was Kuhn being destroyed on the Cowboys’ first TD of the game. The middle of this defense simply struggles when #78 is on the field. I have no idea how not one coach sees this. Ayers flat out missed on an easy interception chance that Cassel threw right at him, and didn’t have much impact in his first action in weeks. DE George Selvie was solid in spots as was Jon Hankins and Cullen Jenkins, but as a unit, no pressure and 233 yards rushing means you all get an F.

Linebackers

When your starting trio of LBs racks up 24 tackles, something ain’t stirring the Kool-Aid Ace. J.T. Thomas got caught for a late hit on the Cowboys’ first TD drive, just a bad error when the Giants were struggling to stop anything. But the call was iffy at best. The former Mountaineer finished with 6 stops. For the most part, this group was jumping on and dragging down anything that ambled past our DL and that was pretty much everyone with a star on their helmet. Really very little impact despite all of the tackle numbers. I guess it’s good they tackled? Jon Casillas again chipped in with 7 stops, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any of them. Veteran Jon Beason did a lot of dirty work in between the big guys, piling up 11 stops in a game that had to feel like a game of bumper pool for former Cane, with Beason playing the role of the ball. Tough day all around for the defense’s second level against the running game. They were consistently dealing with 300 pounders bearing down them as the DL failed to do anything to slow the tide.

Defensive Backs

DRC, take a bow. Hell take two or three, just don’t pull anything or you’ll be on IR by Saturday. The highly-paid and highly-productive CB was sensational despite a very iffy holding call that gave the Boys a first down as the first half wound down. DRC nearly had a first-half TD by jumping Cole Beasley’s out route. He jumped the exact same route on the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half and catapulted the Giants to a 17-13 lead. DRC wasn’t done, snatching another Cassel pass over the middle as the 4th quarter opened with the Cowboys again driving. S Brandon Meriweather took advantage of an awful Cassel pass midway through the third quarter and gave the G-Men the ball back at their own one-foot line. The former Cane did get bowled over by Darren McFadden on the Cowboys’ next possession, but Meriweather notched 7 tackles and a pick and was counted on heavily to shore up the back end of a fragile defense. And he did just that with a swat of a 3rd down pass late in the 4th quarter that helped snuff out the Cowboys’ final shot to score. CB Jayron Hosley wasn’t good at all. Hosley gave up big gains to Terrence Williams and got out-worked on a Brice Butler reception. If not for a bad Cassel pass, he was beaten badly on Meriweather’s interception. S Landon Collins notched 9 stops but he was slow in reacting to WR Devin Street and gave up the game-tying TD. Collins continued his rugged work against the run, spending plenty of time in the box, but he too shoulders some of the blame for the 233-yard mashing.

Special Teams

Special, neato, super, competent. None of these would describe the Giants’ special teams units under blackmail specialist Tom Quinn for several years, until now. Clearly Quinn’s 9-year plan is finally coming to fruition, he knew it all along. ST ace Dwayne Harris started the day with a drag down of Cole Beasley on P Brad Wing’s second punt and finished in style with a 100-yard, stadium-rocking kickoff return that punctuated an odd afternoon of weird statistics, big plays and Greg Hardy tirades. Credit LB Jonathan Casillas with an outstanding lead on Harris’ return. The coverage units were again outstanding, holding the Cowboys to 73 total return yards. Josh Brown, the cyborg kicker, again made all of his kicks.

Coaching

DC Steve Spagnuolo had no answers for a Cowboys’ running game that pounded out 233 yards. In their first 4 games, the Giants had the #1 rush defense in the league, giving up 279 yards and 69.75 ypg. In their last 3, the G-Men have surrendered 515 yards or 171.6 per game. That’s a full 100 yards per game MORE over our last 3 contests. That simply has to improve. Spags’ maddening decision to use DT Markus Kuhn extensively is reaching Tom Quinn-like proportions. What does Kuhn know and how does he know it? How is he using it to force his way onto the field and who if anyone can stop the big German? I’ll give Spags credit for dialing up a lot of pressure to force 3 interceptions. But I have to ask, what in the H E double hockey sticks is this? 3rd-and-4 and Kerry Wynn, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins and George Selvie line up tight to put pressure on Matt Cassel…dun dun dunn or do they???

zoneb

zone2Yeah that’s right, 3 DL drop into coverage, Cassel misfires outside and DRC almost takes it to the house….a portend of things to come? Has ANYONE ever seen 3 DL drop into coverage???? This has to be a first for Spags.

When the Giants did use a 3-4 front with Ayers and Kennard at OLB, they fared much better against the Cowboys edge-heavy running game. But the Giants routinely returned to the 4-3 and the trampling continued for most of the contest. Credit Spags though for thoroughly confusing the veteran Cassel which led to 2 of the 3 interceptions the Giants used to pull this game out.

OC Ben McAdoo, I don’t know what to make of again. Darkwa explodes for 41 yards on 4 carries and then gets sprinkled in 4 more times total. Odell Beckham Jr. did very little and Eli Manning really only took two shots, one caught and one dropped. However, the running game worked better than it has all season with the addition of Darkwa. Credit McAdoo for adding in the former Tulane star; it paid off with 132 yards on the ground. So Mr. McAdoo, you stress balance in distributing the ball and you don’t like to threaten teams deep very often and it’s resulted in back-to-back poor output by your franchise QB and talented WRs. A win in this campaign though is a win even if your offense only managed 13 points against an outfit that surrendered 39 to the Falcons, 30 to the Patriots and 335 passing yards to the ghost of Drew Brees.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Greg Hardy, you sir may cram it in your cramhole. By it, I mean everything you can find – guns, clipboards, horrible rap CDs with your nails-on-a-chalkboard voice on them. Hardy simply didn’t show for practice last Thursday, slapped his ST Coach’s clip board out of his hand, continued going apey for several minutes and he wasn’t even listening to the Soggy Bottom Boys. Even Dez Bryant looked sane in comparison during the duos heated exchange following Harris’ TD return. We were able to contact Daniel in MI, who unofficially didn’t give us any audio that is not certainly accurate. But here’s what we found when reading the lips of Bryant and Hardy…or at least we had the clip running on the laptop while we decided on what to have for dinner. And the results are shocking and probably fabricated.

Dez Bryant: Y’all gettin’ any rain up your way?
Greg Hardy: What way would that be?
Dez Bryant: I seen you was from Dallas.
Greg Hardy: What business is it of yours where I’m from, friendo?
Dez Bryant: I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.
Greg Hardy: Didn’t mean nothin’.
Dez Bryant: I was just passin’ the time. If you don’t wanna accept that I don’t know what else to do for you. Will there be something else?
Greg Hardy: I don’t know. Will there?
Dez Bryant: Is somethin’ wrong?
Greg Hardy: With what?
Dez Bryant: With anything?
Greg Hardy: Is that what you’re asking me? Is there something wrong with anything?
Dez Bryant: Will there be anything else?
Greg Hardy: You already asked me that.
Dez Bryant: Well… I need to see about closin’.
Greg Hardy: See about closing.
Dez Bryant: Yessir.
Greg Hardy: What time do you close?
Dez Bryant: Now. We close now.
Greg Hardy: Now is not a time. What time do you close?

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 25, 2015)
Oct 252015
 
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Jonathan Casillas, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 27 – DALLAS COWBOYS 20…
It wasn’t pretty, but the New York Giants found a way to win a game where they were very much out-played on both lines of scrimmage on Sunday at MetLife Stadium as the Giants defeated the Cowboys 27-20. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 4-3 and their divisional record to 2-2.

The Cowboys vastly out-gained the Giants in first downs (27-13), third-down efficiency (55 percent to 27 percent), total net yards (460 to 289), net yards rushing (233 to 132), net yards passing (227 to 157), and time of possession (38:04 to 21:56). But the Giants won the turnover battle (4 to 0) and scored touchdowns on defense and special teams.

The Giants received the football to start the game, picked up a couple of first downs, but were then forced to punt. The Cowboys drove 68 yards in 11 plays on their first possession but settled for a 30-yard field goal to go up 3-0 early.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants scored their only offensive touchdown of the game by marching 79 yards in seven plays to take a 7-3 lead on running back Orleans Darkwa’s 15-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys immediately cut into that advantage after the ensuing kickoff went out-of-bounds and the Cowboys managed to gain 30 yards in six plays to set up a 48-yard field goal. Giants 7 – Cowboys 6.

The Giants went three-and-out on their ensuing possession and Dallas then regained the lead by driving 72 yards in just six plays. The drive was aided by three defensive penalties and culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Darren McFadden, who would finish the game with 152 yards rushing on 29 carries. Cowboys 13 – Giants 7.

With 2:17 to go before halftime, the Giants did manage to cut into that score with an 8-play, 51-yard drive that set up a 47-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown. The big play on the drive was a 38-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Dwayne Harris. At the half, the Cowboys led 13-10.

The Cowboys received the football to start the second half and turned it over on their first three possessions after the break. First, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off quarterback Matt Cassel at the Giants’ 42-yard line and returned the interception 58 yards for the defensive score. The Giants were now up 17-13.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas crossed midfield on their second possession but a deep pass by Cassel was underthrown and intercepted by safety Brandon Meriweather at the Giants’ 1-yard line. Aided by a 44-yard reception by wide receiver Rueben Randle and a 39-yard run by running back Shane Vereen, the Giants were able to extend their lead to 20-13 on Josh Brown’s 34-yard field goal.

Cassel threw his third interception of the game on the Cowboys’ third possession of the half. Rodgers Cromartie picked off his second pass of the game at the Giants’ 22-yard line and returned it 12 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Giants picked up only one first down and were forced to punt. Dallas then proceeded to tie the game at 20-20 by driving 80 yards in nine plays with Cassel finding wide receiver Devin Street for a 25-yard touchdown midway through the final quarter.

Then came the play of the game when Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas still had two opportunities to tie the game. The Cowboys drove from their own 31-yard line to the Giants’ 30-yard line with just over two minutes to play. After two plays picked up no yards, the Cowboys went for it on 4th-and-8 but failed to convert when tight end James Hanna was stopped two yards short of the first-down marker.

The Giants were not able to run out the clock but they did force the Cowboys to spend all three of their timeouts before punting. Brad Wing’s punt was muffed by Dallas returner Cole Beasley and recovered by Giants’ wide receiver Myles White with 1:26 to play. The Giants then knelt on the ball to win the game.

Manning finished the game 13-of-24 for 170 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The leading receivers were wideout Odell Beckham (4 catches for 35 yards), tight end Larry Donnell (4 catches for 18 yards), Randle (2 catches for 68 yards), and Harris (2 catches for 43 yards). The leading rushers were Vereen (4 carries for 56 yards) and Darkwa (8 carries for 48 yards).

Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions, one for a touchdown. Meriweather had the other interception. Linebacker Jon Beason led the team with 11 tackles. Defensive end Georgie Selvie and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn shared the team’s only sack. Selvie was credited with three quarterback hits and defensive Robert Ayers with two.

Video highlights/lowlights and post-game locker room celebration are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (finger) and DE Robert Ayers Jr. (concussion evaluation) left the game but returned. DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hamstring) and LB J.T. Thomas (ankle) were both injured during the game and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), LB Uani ‘Unga (neck), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), CB Brandon McGee (back), DE Damontre Moore, DT Louis Nix, and OT Bobby Hart.

The Giants broke a five-game losing streak to Dallas. It was their first home victory vs. the Cowboys since January 1, 2012, the night they clinched the NFC East title on their way to Super Bowl XLVI.

The Giants have won their first two NFC East home games for the first time since 2009.

This was first game in which the Giants scored on both an interception return and a kickoff return since November 4, 1951. Tom Landry returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown, and Emlen Tunnell brought back a kickoff 100 yards for another score in a 37-31 victory over the New York Yanks.

The Giants rushed for 132 yards, their first 100-yard game since they ran for 128 yards at St. Louis on December 21, 2014. They had not rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games, and had been the only NFL team without a 100-yard rushing game this season.

The Giants did not commit a turnover in two games vs. the Cowboys this season.

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning each reached milestones with the victory. Coughlin won his 100th regular-season game with the Giants, and Manning his 95th. Coughlin joined Hall of Famer Steve Owen as the only coaches in the 91-season history of the franchise to reach 100 regular-season victories. Owen had 153 victories from 1930-53. Manning’s 95th regular-season victory tied Phil Simms’ franchise record. The veteran quarterback and team captain presented a game ball to Coughlin in the postgame locker room.

Coughlin became the seventh coach in NFL history with at least 100 victories and at least two Super Bowl wins with one franchise. The others are Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Mike Shanahan, and Don Shula.

Harris tied the franchise record for longest kickoff return touchdown. Tunnell returned a kickoff 100 yards vs. the New York Yankees on November 4, 1951, and Clarence Childs matched him against Minnesota on December 6, 1964. It was Harris’ first career kickoff return touchdown.

Josh Brown kicked field goals of 47 and 34 yards. He has now made 19 consecutive field goal attempts, breaking the team record of 17 he set from October 6 – December 29, 2013.

ARTICLES…

Oct 232015
 
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New York Giants (December 16, 1962)

New York Giants (December 16, 1962)

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 25, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
We’re six games into the season with 10 regular-season games left to go. Everyone in the NFC East is still bunched together. At 0-2, the Giants looked dead in the water. But then Tony Romo and Dez Bryant got hurt in Dallas. And the Eagles, with their quarterback in particular, have looked mediocre at best. The Giants went on a three-game winning streak and unbelievably found themselves in first place in the division. They did so by playing hard and being more physical than their opponents.

That all changed last Monday night when the Giants continually shot themselves in the foot against the Eagles. Losing a football game because you make more mistakes than the other team is no great sin. But getting punched in the face by a division rival that has now beaten you 12 time in the last 15 games and rolling over is. The game was very much within reach still in the 3rd quarter, but the offense – which is supposed to be carry the team – went into a shell and for all intents and purposes, quit. A Philadelphia team that simply isn’t all that good bullied them into submission. The Giants were supposed to be past these type of uncompetitive blowouts.

“We just didn’t play the way we’ve been playing and, quite frankly, I was shocked by it,” said Tom Coughlin. “Where do these things come from and why at that point in time?…You keep moping along doing nothing…You can’t play like that. It’s too important…Do we remind them? We remind them so much they may be sick and tired of hearing about it.”

“We’ve got to be able to handle the big games,” said Coughlin. “The games where things don’t go our way, we’ve got to handle them better. You’ve got handle those situations better.”

So now the Giants find themselves at 3-3. Not great, but not bad. The problem is they are now 1-2 in a division that likely will not have a Wild Card playoff team. They now face the other team in the division that has owned them in recent years, as the Cowboys have won five in a row against the Giants and were a finger-tip away from winning seven in a row.

Ever since the Cowboys lost Romo and Bryant, Dallas’ strategy was simply to stay afloat until those two return. The Cowboys are close to succeeding despite their three-game losing streak because the division is so bad. The 2-3 Cowboys are 2-0 in the NFC East while the 3-3 Giants and 3-3 Eagles are 1-2 in the division. Bryant is on the verge of returning, and Romo may be back next month. Dallas has the best offensive line and defense in the division. If Dallas sweeps the Giants for the third year in a row, they have to like their chances of running away with NFC East.

On the other hand, if the Giants don’t win this game, they may be out of the division race before November for the third year in a row. Given the state of the NFC East (and the NFL) the last few years, that’s a very disturbing trend. But more may be at stake here than simply another lost season.

The Giants went into Philadelphia against a team that had not been playing well, and one that turned the football over four times in the game, and still lost by 20 points. The head coach of the Giants readily admits he was shocked and confused by the performance. Now the Giants will face the Romo-less Cowboys at home. If the Giants with $100 million franchise QB Eli Manning cannot beat either the Sam Bradford-led Eagles or Matt Cassel-led Cowboys in back-to-back weeks with the season on the line, then something is wrong and will have to change. There is no excuse for the Cowboys and Eagles dominating the Giants so completely in recent years. The new contract the Giants gave Manning in September guarantees they cannot trade or cut him in 2016. But everyone else is on the chopping block, including the coaching staff.

Win and arrow is pointing up. Lose, and the Giants will need a miracle to stay relevant despite being given a second chance this season. Ownership, management, coaches, medical/training staff, and players have no one to blame but themselves for the position they find themselves in. Team officials listed in the media guide other than the coaching staff should also be on notice here. Everyone’s gotten far too comfortable with the status quo.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Rueben Randle (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP/out)
  • DE Robert Ayers (hamstring – probable)
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (calf – probable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (hamstring – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – questionable)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – probable)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – questionable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)
  • CB Trumaine McBride (groin – questionable)
  • CB Trevin Wade (concussion – probable)
  • CB Brandon McGee (back – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have a $100 million quarterback. They have invested two #1 draft picks, a #2 draft pick, and spent $17 million on a free agent offensive guard. They have arguably a top-5 wide receiver and one of the best pass-receiving backs in football. There is enough talent here to score more than 10 points in a game against your division rivals. Everything can’t be “perfect” for Eli Manning to carry this team. If it has to be perfect, than he really isn’t a franchise QB. The Giants’ defense was responsible for 17 of the 26 points scored in the first match-up against Dallas. And the Giants offense scored only 7 points against the Eagles. That’s 16 total offensive points in two games against the Cowboys and Eagles.

Dallas’ defense held the Giants to less than 300 yards of offense in the first game, and that was without two of their very best defensive players – DE Greg Hardy and LB Rolando McClain. Both players have given the Giants fits in the past (Hardy with the Panthers). The Cowboys now have the makings of a very, very good front seven with good players across the defensive line and at linebacker. The Cowboys will no doubt see what we saw on tape against the Eagles: they will focus on the Giants short passing game because they will trust their front seven to stuff the run, and trust their pass rush to get to Manning on any deeper passing attempts. More than anything, Dallas will simply expect to be the more physical football team since they saw what happened when Philly got rough with them.

Strategy will be important, but this game will be more about attitude. Are Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, Marshall Newhouse, the tight ends, and fullback tough enough? Can they generate room for the running backs and protect Eli Manning? Will “good” Eli show up against the Cowboys? The answers to those questions will determine the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Though banged up, the Giants should have everyone on defense except for Prince Amukamara. If I’m Jason Garrett, I simply rely on my running game and defense to win this game. Matt Cassel is an upgrade over Brandon Weeden as he has started 72 regular-season games in this league. He just has to manage the game. So the game-plan is pretty clear for New York. Stuff the run and don’t let all-time Giants-killer Jason Witten beat you. Make Cassel and his wide receivers beat you. A huge match-up in this game will be the nickel back (McBride or Wade) against Cole Beasley. The Giants also need a strong performance out of Jayron Hosley, who will be filling in for Amukamara for the second game in a row. The Cowboys sometimes will cross the Giants up too by passing to the back-up tight ends. Get off of the field on third down and get the ball back for the offense in good field position. Running game, Witten, Beasley…those are the three keys.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Cowboys special teams have taken a step back this year. The Giants need to come up big here not only in coverage, but in the return game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin: “We’ve got to be able to handle the big games.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is as big as it gets during the regular season. The Giants attempted to remain relevant in must-win games against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium in each of the last two seasons and came up short. Ominously, they find themselves in the same position again, this time against a back-up quarterback and a team missing its top offensive weapon. If the third time isn’t the charm, then something is seriously wrong. I don’t want to be talking draft in November for the third year in a row.