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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.

Sep 172015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 13, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NFL ADMITS OFFICIALS BOTCHED TWO CALLS IN DALLAS GAME …
The NFL has acknowledged that officials made two game-altering mistakes during the New York Giants 27-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. The first was a bogus pass interference call on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromarties on a 3rd-and-4 incomplete pass that directly led to a Cowboys touchdown in the third quarter. Worse, the officials did not call an obvious holding penalty by a Dallas defensive back against tight end Daniel Fells on the now infamous 3rd-and-goal incomplete pass by quarterback Eli Manning with 1:43 to play. If that flag had been thrown, the Giants could have simply knelt on the ball and run out the clock, winning 26-20.

INJURY REPORT…
Not practicing on Thursday due to injuries were WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Daniel Fells (foot), LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot), and DT Markus Kuhn (knee).

“(Cruz has been) working and he’s doing more and more,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “But they’re not even at the stage where they’re really going to bring him out and turn him loose—let him run for a while—before they make a decision on whether he can practice. So that’s all forthcoming.”

Coughlin said Odighizuwa tried to practice on Wednesday and could not go again on Thursday. “He gets going a little bit, then he gets sore and he has to come out,” said Coughlin.

LB Jon Beason (knee) returned to practice and practiced on a limited basis.

LT Ereck Flowers (ankle) and LB Uani’ Unga (knee) fully practiced.

PHOTOS OF JASON PIERRE-PAUL’S HAND…
The New York Daily News has published exclusive photographs of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s right hand that he damaged in a July 4th fireworks accident.

https://twitter.com/UDWJPP/status/644494473221828608

TOM COUGHLIN AND THE COORDINATORS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following coaches are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Instead of practicing, the Giants will hold a “recovery day” on Friday. The players will select two of six recovery stations, based on seniority. Their choices are massage, yoga, FMS (Functional Movement Screen) exercises designed for the individual, air compression boots, contrast bath (between a hot and cold tub), and self-massage with stick rollers and elastic bands.

The Giants will also have a 45-minute, full-speed practice on Saturday that is not open to the media.

Sep 142015
 
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Dallas Cowboys 27 – New York Giants 26

Game Overview

In 20 years of writing or editing game reviews, I’ve noted that Giants fans don’t have much patience or desire to read lengthy reviews after a painful loss, so I will keep this one short and sweet.

Giants fans (and the coaches and players) need to get over this “woe is me” crap right now. Every week in the NFL you see a game that another team screws up badly, and fans will gather around the water cooler on Monday morning and say, “Did you see that game? Man, did that team blow it or what?” Well, Giants fans, this week it was unfortunately our team. It happens. Get over it. Move on. The Giants are only 0-1, losing a close game that most didn’t give them a chance to win. That’s all. They didn’t get knocked out of the playoffs.

But before we totally close the books on this one, let’s look at this game in a broader context instead of discussing the painful final two minutes.

In many ways, the Giants were lucky to be in this game. Consider the following:

  • If you told me before the game that the Cowboys would out-gain the Giants in first downs 27 to 18, total net yards 436 to 289, and net passing yards 356 to 193, I would have told you that the Giants got badly beaten.
  • If you told me that Dallas would dominate the time of possession 37:10 to 22:50, New York must have gotten killed.
  • The Giants were 25 percent (1-of-4) in the red zone while the Cowboys were 60 percent (3-of-5). Sayonara.
  • The Cowboys were 6-of-11 (55 percent) on third down. Must have been a blowout.
  • Tony Romo wasn’t sacked only once and only officially hit once? Yikes.
  • If you told me that Eli Manning passed for less than 200 yards, Odell Beckham only caught 44 yards, and the offense never really had a touchdown drive, then the Giants must have lost by 30.

This game was only close because of three Cowboys turnovers that directly resulted in 17 of New York’s 26 points. The Giants did not have one turnover. That said, the Giants offense really only generated nine points off of three of their ten possessions. The Cowboys all but handed this game to the Giants. New York refused to take it. Too bad. But the better team on this night ultimately won. Now it’s time to move on and get better.

Quarterback

Eli was not helped by dropped passes, but he was clearly out-played by Tony Romo who is now the comeback king in this rivalry. Obviously, Manning should have taken a sack on the final play. Another bone-headed decision from a veteran quarterback who should know better. I love ya Eli, but c’mon.

Running Backs

The Giants only had 33 rushing yards by halftime but finished with 99 yards (80 from the running backs). One third of those 80 yards came on a 27-yard run by Rashad Jennings on the final field goal drive. The Giants obviously need more consistent productivity out their run game. Andre Williams continues to under-perform and the Giants may want to consider promoting Orleans Darkwa in his place.

If true, the real gut-wrenching issue was supposedly Jennings was told not to score on at least 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line in order to run more time off of the clock. “As a running back, it’s really tough when they tell you not to score,” Jennings said. (Late note: Manning said he was confused about the timeout situation and that he mistaken told Jennings not to score).

Wide Receivers

A major disappointment. “Superstar” Odell Beckham caught five passes for 44 yards (8.8 yards per catch). That’s not going to get it done. Neither is Preston Parker (2 catches for 26 yards) dropping three passes on third down or Rueben Randle only catching three passes for 23 yards. Dwayne Harris wasn’t even targeted. The wide receivers were a major reason why the team lost the game. Want some optimism moving forward? My guess is that this is the worst game this group will play all season.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells caught six passes for 54 yards. The Giants would have won the game had the officials called the beyond obvious holding penalty on Fells on 3rd-and-goal. Shame on the NFL.

Offensive Line

Not bad, but not great. More optimism? This is a unit that should continue to grow and improve with more playing time. The Giants rushed for nearly 100 yards but need greater consistency in the ground game. Eli Manning was sacked once and officially hit only four times.

Defensive Line

The Giants did a better job of stopping Darren McFadden (6 carries for 16 yards) than they did Joseph Randle (16 carries for 65 yards). The ends still need to hold their ground better. But the Giants did a reasonable job of defending a very good run-blocking offensive line by holding the Cowboys to 81 rushing yards. The pass rush was virtually non-existent except for a few pressures by Robert Ayers. Cullen Jenkins may improve the run defense at end, but he can’t rush the passer from that position.

Linebackers

The problem was pass coverage. 22 of Tony Romo’s 36 completions went to running backs and tight ends for 199 yards. Unai’ Unga was put in a tough situation given his inexperience. I would have preferred Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas – both supposedly strong in coverage – being on the field together on the final two drives. Strange decision by the defensive staff.

Defensive Backs

While the secondary deserves some of the blame for the productive night of the Dallas tight ends (i.e., Landon Collins on Jason Witten) and backs, the defensive backs played fairly well. Dallas’ longest pass of the night to a wideout was only 21 yards and Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley were held to 14 catches and 157 yards total. More importantly, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trumaine McBride, and Brandon Meriweather were responsible for 14 of the Giants 26 points. The pass interference penalty on DRC on 3rd-and-4 was bullshit.

Special Teams

This was supposed to be a big advantage for the Cowboys but the Giants held their own. New punter Brad Wing punted well, averaging 45.5 net yards per punt. The coverage teams were solid. The Giants never had a chance to return six kickoffs (all touchbacks). Dwayne Harris only gained three yards on two punt returns. Josh Brown was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts and 2-for-2 on extra points.

Coaching Staff

Obviously there were some questionable decisions made, particularly late in the game on both sides of the football. Contrary to most, I don’t fault the staff for kicking the field goal on 4th down. Dallas has a great kicker and a field goal still could have sent the game into overtime. But passing the ball on 3rd down backfired. Uani’ Unga was put in a really tough spot.

(New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 13, 2015)
Sep 142015
 
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Uani' Unga, New York Giants (September 13, 2015)

Jason Witten Scores Game-Winning TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DALLAS COWBOYS 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 26…
The New York Giants had the Dallas Cowboys on the ropes but they let the game slip away in the final seconds as Dallas quarterback Tony Romo hit tight end Jason Witten for an 11-yard touchdown with seven seconds in the game to win 27-26. The touchdown catch culminated a far-too-easy 6-play, 72-yard drive in 87 seconds.

Making matters worse was the Giants had a chance to put the game away before the drive. Leading 23-20, the Giants had successfully driven from their own 20-yard line to the Dallas 4-yard line with 1:54 to play. After two runs by running back Rashad Jennings had picked up three yards and caused the Cowboys to spend their last timeouts, the Giants faced 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Giants chose not to run the ball. Quarterback Eli Manning threw the ball away instead of taking a sack, causing the clock to stop. Declining to go for it on 4th-and-goal, Head Coach Tom Coughlin called for the field goal and the Giants only went up by six points.

Now a young Giants team will have to quickly recover emotionally from a devastating loss as the team will face the potentially dangerous Atlanta Falcons next Sunday at home.

In a game where the Giants defense was supposed to struggle and the offense was supposed to excel, the roles were reversed until the end of the contest. Not only did New York’s defense hold the Cowboys to only six first-half points, but the defense scored a touchdown after cornerback Trumaine McBride forced wide receiver Cole Beasley to fumble and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned the loose ball 57 yards for a touchdown. On the ensuing drive, linebacker Uani’ Unga intercepted Romo at the Dallas 22-yard line, setting up a 40-yard field goal right before halftime.

Meanwhile, the Giants offense puttered for most of the first half, accruing only six first downs and 86 total yards (33 rushing and 53 passing). At the half, the Giants led 13-6.

The Giants received the ball to start the second half and went up 16-6 after a 12-play, 68-yard drive set up a 30-yard field goal. However, the Cowboys responded with a 9-play, 80-yard effort that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass to cut the New York advantage to 16-13. This drive was aided by a very questionable Rodgers-Cromartie pass interference penalty on a 3rd-and-4 incomplete pass.

The score stayed that way until midway through the fourth quarter. Safety Brandon Meriweather’s hard hit on a receiver caused an interception that was returned by McBride to the Cowboys 1-yard line. One play later, Jennings scored and the Giants had a 10-point lead with just over eight minutes to play.

But alas it was not to be as New York’s defense collapsed late. The Cowboys drove 76 yards in six plays to cut the score to 23-20 with five minutes to play. Then came the long drive by the Giants that almost sealed the deal until the red zone failure.

The Cowboys out-gained the Giants in first downs (27-18), total net yards (436 to 289), and net passing yards (356 to 190). The Giants slightly out-gained the Cowboys in rushing yards (99 to 80). The equalizer was the Cowboys turned the football over three times while the Giants did not turn it over at all.

Manning finished the game 20-of-36 for 193 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Wide receiver Odell Beckham only caught five passes for 44 yards. Running back Shane Vereen caught four passes for 46 yards. The leading rusher was Jennings who had 52 yards on 13 carries with a 27-yarder on New York’s last field goal drive.

While the New York defense did force three turnovers, they rarely touched Romo who was not sacked and only officially hit once.

Video highlights/lowlights of the game are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
DT Markus Kuhn left the game in the second half with a knee sprain and did not return. LT Ereck Flowers injured his ankle but returned to the game.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and various players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Rueben Randle (Video)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (Video)
  • CB Trumaine McBride (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), LB Jon Beason (knee), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot), S Cooper Taylor, TE Jerome Cunningham, OT Bobby Hart, and DT Louis Nix.

The Cowboys are 8-0 against the Giants in season openers.

The Cowboys have won five games in a row over the Giants.

MORE BAD NEWS ON JASON PIERRE-PAUL…
According to FOX Sports, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has damage to three of the fingers on his right hand and Pierre-Paul had another skin graft procedure performed recently. In addition, because Pierre-Paul has not been able to lift weights, he has lost significant muscle mass. The Giants reportedly have told Pierre-Paul that they will re-evaluate his physical condition in six weeks.

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