Dec 132017
 
Share Button
Rhett Ellison, New York Giants (December 10, 2017)

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 30 – New York Giants 10

RECAP

A 2-10 team could not have had more attention than what the Giants had coming into their home, week 14 match-up against the middle-of-the-pack Dallas Cowboys. Eli Manning made his first start back after a one-week hiatus for the first time since 2004. This was the result after ownership opted to fire Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese which was inevitable but possibly accelerated because of how they handled the Manning benching. With the NYG throwback uniforms being worn and a crowd that was fully behind Manning at the start, the game had an intense feel to it for the first time in months.

There was an odd, uncommon start to the game. Both teams put together marathon drives, 16 plays for DAL and 17 for NYG. They both resulted in 3 points respectively and before we knew it, the game was into the 2nd quarter. Dallas was shooting themselves in the foot with multiple offsides penalties by their defensive line and failure to capitalize on two NYG fumbles.

Spurred by a 35-yard pass to Evan Engram, NYG marched down to the goal line on their 3rd drive of the game. In true calm, cool, and almost relaxed fashion, Manning hit Rhett Ellison for a 1-yard touchdown on a play-action rollout to the right. NYG led 10-3 against a Cowboys team that has been mightily struggling to find their offensive identity without their suspended running back Ezekiel Elliot.

The sparse NYG crowd came to life but it was short lived. Dak Prescott hit Dez Bryant on a short slant and an aggressive mistake by cornerback Brandon Dixon, who went all in on trying to deflect the pass, led to Bryant spinning free post-reception with nothing but green in front of him. It was a 50-yard touchdown that evened the game at 10 with under 2 minutes left in the half and that ended up being the score at halftime.

The 3rd quarter saw DAL and NYG trade possessions a few times, with Damon Harrison dominating the Cowboys offensive line and Sean Lee impacting the game on every possible level against the Giants’ offense. The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey, missed his second in three chances as the end of the quarter came to a close. On 3rd-and-2 near midfield on the ensuing NYG possession, Sterling Shepard dropped a pass (adding the NYG first place ranking in that category). After forcing a 3 and out, NYG had 3rd-and-2 again approaching midfield and this time it was Roger Lewis who came up with the drop. The NYG receivers helped to set up what ended up being one of the ugliest quarters of the 2017 season.

Prescott hit Giants killer Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown up the – you guessed – middle of the defense with 7:45 left. All was not lost and NYG was still very much in it. Poor play calling and execution led to an NYG punt despite being in DAL territory. DAL faced a 3rd-and-3 and even though their thought process was to get the clock to 0:00, they went with an empty backfield approach. One quick slant later to RB Rod Smith and the NYG defense was trying to catch him from behind but to no avail. DAL took the commanding 23-10 lead (failed extra point).

As if that wasn’t enough, Manning threw his first of two interceptions into the waiting arms of Sean Lee. DAL was able to put the ball in the end zone one more time, shoving the knife a little deeper, via a 15-yard run by Smith. DAL keeps their playoff hopes alive and NYG falls to 2-11.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 31/46 – 228 yards – 1 TD/2 INT. The two interceptions at the end of the game have an asterisk next to them. It was desperation time and he had to force things. The drops by Shepard and Lewis were killers and, at this point, both inexcusable but expected, ironically. Manning didn’t have a lot of “minus” throws and he just doesn’t have time to go through a lot of reads. This truly has become the worst situation in the league for any QB to work with from what I have seen.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 12 att/59 yards, 7 rec/40 yards. Career high in rushing attempts, rushing yards, catches, and receiving yards for the rookie. I think he needs to be the feature backfield presence on this team from here on out. His vision and decision-making, combined with his athletic ability, make him a big-play threat this backfield hasn’t had in years. He did fumble early but it was luckily recovered by the offense.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 10 att/29 yards – 2 rec/15 yards. Darkwa had 2 poorly graded blocks and also fumbled early in the game, with his teammates falling on it. His presence as a tough inside runner was still there and he didn’t drop any passes, so good for him there.
  • Shane Vereen: 6 att/23 yards – 3 rec/24 yards. A lot of Vereen’s production comes in garbage time and/or on rushing plays when the NYG offense is facing 3rd and 10+. It is clear he won’t be a part of the picture after 2017.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Roger Lewis: 7 rec/46 yards. I knew Lewis was going to get more and more opportunities from Manning after their big play a few weeks ago. He led the team with 11 targets, the next leading target count among WRs was 3. His drop was a big one and he continues to show what I talked about in August, solid tools but minimal skills.
  • Sterling Shepard: 2 rec/16 yards. His impact on the game was never really felt, as he was only targeted 3 times. Shepard had a huge drop on 3rd down that took the wind out of the NYG sails.It was really disappointing to see him have trouble getting open against single coverage. He has not capitalized or risen to the occasion since Beckham and Marshall have been injured.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec/54 yards. Watching the all 22 tape, this was the most double coverage Engram has seen all year. They were often bracketing him, a move I am surprised defenses didn’t do earlier in the season. He had the biggest play of the day for NYG, a 35-yard reception where DAL completely forgot about him in deep coverage. Engram added a drop and is among the league leaders in that category.
  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/20 yards – 1 TD. Ellison continues to be Mr. Reliable when targeted, as he has been all year. His 1-yard touchdown catch was actually pretty high-difficulty and impressive.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers righted the ship after a rough game last week in Oakland. He was the highest graded NYG blocker, well above the average mark. One encouraging sign other than simply not getting beat as often in pass protection, is he has really limited the penalties. His technique is still very shaky but it doesn’t always have to look pretty. Bobby Hart was back in the stating lineup, as Chad Wheeler was out with a concussion. He received a lot of help against Demarcus Lawrence. I wouldn’t call this a good game for Hart, but he only allowed 1 pressure and didn’t make any major mistakes that we were used to seeing.
  • Interior: Brett Jones and Jon Halapio both took a step back against the very average Cowboys DTs. Jones mightily struggled in pass protection when left alone for the second straight week, and Halapio allowed 3 pressures and was flagged for a hold. John Jerry didn’t get a lot of push in the run, and was inaccurate on trap blocks, missing his target twice. He hasn’t been good at making adjustments on the fly all year and that is a part of the job that is becoming more and more essential in the NFL.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: The glaring positive of this entire team over the course of the year is Damon Harrison. We are getting a treat in watching this guy play – the top DT in the game. His dominance against the inside run is almost assumed now but what stood out Sunday were the hustle plays he made near the sideline and down the field. You simply don’t see the big guys like him with that much range. Having him around is absolutely huge for the future of this team. Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley split duties next to him and both had quietly effective games.
  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul had 5 tackles and a pressure. His impact on the game remains woefully inconsistent and near non-existent on 3rd downs. Olivier Vernon was outclassed by Tyron Smith, the top OT in the game. He finished with 1 tackle and a foolish roughing-the-passer penalty. When he can’t out-quick the blocker, his hand game just isn’t good enough to give a guy like Smith a problem.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Shepard and Calvin Munson were #1 and #2 in tackles on the day (10 and 9) but both had really bad beats on multiple occasions. Shepard is a between-the-tackles run defender only, as seen when he was assigned to cover RB Rod Smith in the 4th quarter on 3rd down and couldn’t stay within 3 yards of him on a quick slant. Munson has been improving as the year goes, but he hasn’t been getting off blocks at all. He really struggles there. Both of them and Devon Kennard had negative grades in coverage, with the glaring mishaps coming from Shepard (mentioned above) and Devon Kennard on Witten’s touchdown.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell and Brandon Dixon continue to dominate the playing time, as both were in for every snap. Cockrell continues to look better and better each week. I think this guy needs to be in the long-term picture. He had two very high-level PDs. Dixon added 2 PDs of his own, showing physical and aggressive play. He got a little too aggressive on the 50-yard TD pass to Bryant, however.
  • Darryl Morris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were each on the field less than half the plays but were very solid when they were in.
  • Eli Apple remained inactive, and his hole is being dug deeper and deeper.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins and Darian Thompson both graded out as average. Collins had a nice impact on the running game, notching a TFL and forcing the DAL ball carriers to re-direct. His feel through traffic is outstanding, excellent instincts. Thompson missed 2 tackles, neither of which were overly complicated. His lack of long speed was put on display a couple times as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 39. Rosas only had one shot in this game, and he came through. He really hasn’t had a full dose of action to give NYG a real idea if he should be here long term or not.
  • P Brad Wing: 8 Punts – 43.4 avg/33.9 net. Wing wasn’t sailing the ball high enough and it gave DAL a few clean returns. He leads the NFL in punts this year and has appeared to take a step down in terms of quality.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, OG Jon Halapio, DE Olivier Vernon

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  • I said something similar after the week 1 matchup, but the impact a LB like Sean Lee has on the game week in, week out is as strong as any top-tier defender in the league, and I mean that. This guy impacts the game in so many ways, in so many situations. And the thing about having a LB like this is that it is incredibly hard for an offense to avoid him. He is everywhere. Take notes and apply, new front office.
  • This was a major confidence booster for the DAL offense. Their numbers without Ezekiel Elliot vs. their numbers with him have been atrocious but Rod Smith has been getting discussed for awhile now. It looks like he has things figured out and the talent is taking over. This team has the capability of getting hot from here on out and doing damage if they can sneak into the playoffs.
  • I was very high on the DAL draft this past year and two main reasons for that were CBs Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie. Those guys can ball. Their impact on the game will be very strong for the next few years.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • I am working on a list of coaches who I think NYG will be looking hard at. One common thing I am looking for is a guy who players really respond to, get behind, and will bleed for. I think that has been a major missing link with this team in recent years. Look at how PIT players play for Tomlin among other things. Vikings for Zimmer, Seahawks for Caroll…etc.
  • Get the ball to Gallman as much as possible over these next 3 weeks. I think it is important to get as much information on him as a player as possible. Saquon Barkley is going to be available when NYG is on the clock and unless you fall in love with a QB in the process, he has to be in the picture at least. If Gallman can be the guy, then that idea lessens. But you need to know.
  • I really do think NYG has something in Cockrell. I have watched every one of his snaps from the All-22 tape over the past few games and he’s been steady and impressive on all levels. There is a lot he does well, very little that he doesn’t do well.
Dec 102017
 
Share Button

LATEST ON THE NEW YORK GIANTS GENERAL MANAGER SEARCH…
ESPN is reporting that the Cleveland Browns hired John Dorsey as their new general manager before the New York Giants could interview him. Dorsey, who was general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs (2013-2016), was scheduled to interview with the Giants on Tuesday.

ESPN also reports that Dave Gettleman is now the favorite to become the Giants’ next general manager. Gettleman was the Giants pro personnel director (1999-2011) and senior pro personnel analyst (2012) before becoming the general manager of the Carolina Panthers (2013-2017). The Panthers fired Gettleman in July 2017.

Meanwhile, NFL.com is reporting that the Giants do want to take a deliberate approach and interview general manager candidates who are also currently employed. That said, NFL.com also says Gettleman is the early favorite to land the position. It is speculated that if Gettleman is hired, he may tap Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as the team’s next head coach.

DALLAS COWBOYS 30 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
Another game day, another loss. The pathetic New York Giants fell to their division rival Dallas Cowboys 30-10 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Cowboys blew the tight 10-10 open late with 20 unanswered 4th-quarter points. With the loss, the Giants fall to 2-11 on the season. The last time the Giants were 2-11 during a season was 1974.

Offensively, the Giants continue to show an inability to put enough points on the scoreboard. For the eighth time this season, the Giants were unable to score more than 17 points. The Giants scored 10 points on their first three drives and then the offense called it a day as the team’s final nine possessions resulted in seven straight punts and then two interceptions.

After the Cowboys took an early lead by driving 73 yards in 16 plays on their first possession to set up a 21-yard field goal, the Giants responded with a 17-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a 39-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas. The Giants scored their only touchdown of the day on their third possession, sparked by a 35-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning to tight Evan Engram. Five plays later, Manning rolled out and found tight end Rhett Ellison for a 1-yard score. The Giants briefly led 10-7 with just over two minutes to go before halftime.

Defensively, the Giants were done in by three big plays of 50 yards or more. On Dallas’ fourth offensive possession, with just 2:07 left on the clock, quarterback Dak Prescott completed three passes for a total of 25 yards before hitting wide receiver Dez Bryant for a short completion in which Bryant broke an attempted tackle by cornerback Brandon Dixon en route to a 50-yard touchdown. At the half, the game was tied 10-10.

The game remained tied until midway through the fourth quarter. Dallas punted the ball away three times and missed another long field goal attempt, while every Giants possession until late ended with punts. Then on 3rd-and-2, with eight minutes to play, Prescott threw a short pass to wide receiver Cole Beasley who broke off a 54-yard gain. On the very next play, Prescott hit Giant-killer tight end Jason Witten for a 20-yard score, as Dallas went up 17-10.

The Giants drove across midfield but punted. Three plays later on 3rd-and-2, Prescott hit running back Rod Smith for an 81-yard touchdown to put Dallas up 23-10 with 4:08 to play (the Cowboys missed the extra point). Smith badly beat linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in coverage.

With the contest all but officially over, Manning threw his first interception a few plays later. After two Dallas runs picked up six yards, Smith broke off a 15-yard touchdown run as the Cowboys went up 30-10 with three minutes to play. Manning threw a second interception at the Dallas 17-yard line with just over a minute left in the game.

Manning finished the game 31-of-46 for 228 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He was not sacked. His leading receivers in terms of catches were wide receiver Roger Lewis (7 catches for 46 yards) and running back Wayne Gallman (7 catches for 40 yards). Gallman was also the leading rusher with 12 carries for 59 yards.

The Giants defense did not garner a sack or force a turnover. Prescott was officially only hit twice.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), cornerback Eli Apple (hip/back), wide receiver Travis Rudolph (hamstring), quarterback Davis Webb, WR Tavarres King, and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton.

“We deactivated (Apple) today,” said Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo after the game. “The decision there was because he just didn’t get enough reps during the week. I talked with him earlier. He’s going to be ready to go next week and hopefully we’re up and running.”

Safety Landon Collins left the game in the 4th quarter with an ankle injury; he was spotted wearing a boot after the game.

Wide receiver Darius Powe broke his foot (fractured his fifth metatarsal) in his NFL debut. He did so in the first half, but stayed in the game. Powe was on crutches after the game.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo and select players will address the media on Monday.

Dec 082017
 
Share Button

Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 10, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The 2017 New York Giants season is the never-ending nightmare. We are still only 3/4 of the way through this mess. I’ve never been more ready for a football season to just end.

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks for Giants fans with the benching of Eli Manning, the firings of Jerry Reese and Ben McAdoo, the promotion of Steve Spagnuolo as interim head coach, and the reinstatement of Manning as the starting quarterback. But it is important to take a step back for a moment and understand the big picture.

This past week was a cataclysmic event for one of the NFL’s flagship franchises. The last time the Giants fired a general manager was 1978. The last time they fired a coach in-season was 1976. The last time they fired a coach after so short a stay was pre-1930. The Giants just did two things they simply do not usually do and it is the ultimate indication of how great a disaster this season has been. The decline is surreal when you take into account that the Giants were 11-5 and a playoff team just one year ago and widely expected to challenge for the NFC East title in 2017.

What follows is pure uninformed opinion and speculation on my part, so take it with a grain of salt:

I believe Ben McAdoo was dead man walking after his team got embarrassed by the dreadful San Francisco 49ers in mid-November. I think Jerry Reese also had one foot out the door at this point, but ownership was looking for an excuse to keep him. An upset against the Chiefs and another embarrassing loss to the Redskins on Thanksgiving followed. Then came the benching of Manning.

Regardless of how it was handled, everyone admits that ownership, management, and the head coach signed off on the move. What may or may not have surprised the Giants was Eli’s refusal to play along with their start-the-game-but-the-sit strategy (I don’t trust any public comments by the Giants here). Having McAdoo announce the move in a usual post-practice press conference setting without the owner on the premises and the GM nowhere to be seen reeked of throwing McAdoo under the bus. It was a cowardly act. And then to have a teary-eyed Eli Manning address the press throng at his locker with his teammates oblivious to the solemn nature of the moment was a PR disaster.

What I do believe is that the Giants were absolutely shocked by the level of intensity of the reaction from advertisers, fans, former players, and national and local media. It became not just a local sports story, but a national one covered by the general press. Fans put up billboards. Former players were going to show up on the sidelines of the Dallas game with Eli jerseys on just to shame the organization. At this point, I think John Mara and Steve Tisch were in damage-control mode. Revenue and reputations (ego) were at stake. They knew they were going to fire McAdoo and possibly Reese. So to temporarily stop the firestorm, they sacked both a month early (a smart PR move). Then John Mara held what appeared to be a sincere press conference. When the mob is angry, throw them a couple of heads. In the short-term, they’ve stopped the hemorrhaging, but the underlying wounds still remain.

There is a certain degree of logic in what the Giants had tried to do. The 2-10 Giants are a dysfunctional mess with a soon-to-be 37-year old quarterback who is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL and who also has been on a downward slope since his 2014-15 career revival. The coach was going to be fired and the team is going to have a top-10 and possibly top-5 draft pick with the opportunity to select one of the best quarterbacks coming out of college. Benching Manning would allow the Giants to evaluate Davis Webb as well as not encumber the new head coach with unenviable label as the guy who got rid of the legendary Manning.

But THE WAY the Giants handled this is where they screwed up. First and most importantly, they never got Webb ready (which they should have started doing in October and November). Because of that, sitting Manning to play Geno Smith never made any sense unless Reese and McAdoo were seriously considering Smith as a potential 2018 contender for the starting job. (There is a small chance Smith could still develop into a viable NFL starter, but Giants fans were never going to accept him as Manning’s replacement – that was a non-starter). Secondly, again, the PR optics were dreadful. Mara and Reese hid and threw McAdoo under the bus. McAdoo – who never learned how to deal with the press – coldly and matter-of-factly announced the benching. Eli was sadly left to address the press in a poor locker room environment.

So what? Well, now the Giants may have given their fans some short-term satisfaction in their quest for blood, the same issues remain and actually may have become more difficult. Unless you are totally convinced that Eli Manning is still a stud quarterback capable of a 2011-type season and that none of the past six years are his fault, then the Giants are left with the problem of how and when to make the transition to the next quarterback. Entering the 2018 NFL Draft, they will have no idea of what they have in Davis Webb. And the next regime is going to be encumbered with what has now become a super-charged transition issue because of the way the Giants already botched things the first time. Many of us – including myself – felt that we had seen the last of Manning on Thanksgiving. But we did not anticipate the December 4th in-season housecleaning. The good news is that we now get to show Eli our appreciation over the course of the last four games (three at home). The bad news is where do we go from here and how?

The pressure on John Mara to get this right is immense. In 2018, the Giants will have (1) a new general manager, (2) a new head coach, and (3) probably the heir-apparent to Eli. If they screw any of this up, the franchise may be in for a very dark period for a significant amount of time. They will also have to decide (4) the best way to part ways with Eli and when, and (5) whether or not to re-sign Odell Beckham.

Underlying all of this is whether the Giants remain loyal to their post-1978 organizational structure (which has brought them five Super Bowl appearances, with four wins). It is difficult to see Mara parting ways with the bulk of the scouts. As Greg from LI points out in The Forum, the Giants drafting noticeably began to decline when Marc Ross began to oversee the operation. What preconditions will be placed on the new GM? Will he be allowed to fire Ross and pick his own scouts? Will they simply import someone already comfortable with the existing structure such as Dave Gettleman or Kevin Abrams? Will they take the “interim” off of Steve Spagnuolo’s title, allow him to tweak the staff, and stay the course? That won’t sit well with many fans who suspect the institutionalized, staid thinking within the organization is a big part of the problem. But “new and fresh” faces are no guarantee of future success. As pointed out by Fatman in Charlotte, Dan Reeves and Ben McAdoo were outside faces. What matters is not the type of changes made, simply that THE CORRECT changes are made.

Things can get better. But they can also get worse. Much worse. John Mara faces a historical crossroads and new chapter for the franchise his father bequeathed to him.

THE INJURY REPORT:
Seventeen players are on Injured Reserve, most notably WR Odell Beckham, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Dwayne Harris, OC Weston Richburg, OG D.J. Fluker, LB Jonathan Casillas, LB Keenan Robinson, and CB Janoris Jenkins. Eight others have been waived from IR since October.

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (illness – questionable)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (hip – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Travis Rudolph (hamstring – questionable)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • OL Chad Wheeler (concussion – questionable)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (finger – questionable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (elbow – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • CB Eli Apple (hip/back – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Yes, it will be great to see Eli Manning back at the helm so we can show him our proper appreciation. But the problems remain. The offensive line remains in shambles, especially with Justin Pugh still not playing. (Incidentally, it is looking more and more like the Giants will need to let Pugh walk… the concussion/back issues are major red flags for a player who simply can’t seem to play a whole season). And the NY running game has noticeably declined since the physical D.J. Fluker was placed on IR. Eli will have a gimpy Sterling Shepard (hamstring) and Evan Engram to throw to but not much else as this is clearly the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL.

The Giants are averaging less than 16 points per game and an offensive “explosion” for them must now be considered 20 points.

What makes me angry is the Giants were given a tremendous opportunity to evaluate Davis Webb before the 2018 NFL Draft. They botched it and now it is too late. After Sunday, there will be only three games left and Webb still hasn’t been bumped up to the #2 spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants need to be very careful in their evaluation of Steve Spagnuolo. They like him. He’s a nice guy. But he was a very uncompetitive 10-38 as the head coach of the Rams. His defenses have been up-and-down throughout his coaching career, and despite showing some life recently, the Giants defense is a major reason why the team is 2-10 this year. Keep in mind the off-field player issues with the defensive backs (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple) have all been on his side of the ball.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
If Tom Quinn survives the 2017 purge…

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo: “It’s our hope to unite, restore and find a way to win football games. When I mean restore, you know, restore Giant pride. It’s hard to be real prideful when you don’t win a lot of football games.”

THE FINAL WORD
I know what most Giants fans want – they want Eli Manning to come out of the tunnel with the crowd roaring in approval, and for him then to carve up the hated Dallas Cowboys. The problem is reality. Many Giants fans have already sold their tickets – many going to Dallas fans. And Eli is still a 36-year old quarterback on the downside of his career, encumbered by a pitiful supporting cast. And while injuries were not a factor/viable excuse for most of the season on defense, they are now becoming one in the back seven.

Now comes a statement that is going to be difficult for many to accept: from a strategic perspective, it is not good for the Giants to win any of these last four games. The short-term, feel-good gain will mean nothing moving forward. But it could significantly damage the team’s draft position and steer ownership towards false conclusions.

Stand up and cheer for Eli. Pray he plays well. But I’ll leave it at that.

Sep 122017
 
Share Button
Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (September 10, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 19 – New York Giants 3

RECAP

Five days before the game, things were looking up for the injured Odell Beckham and the decision to uphold Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension was public. Fast forward to the hours prior to kickoff and Beckham decided the confidence in his ankle just wasn’t there, forcing him to sit out while Elliott was granted permission to play until his case was heard in Federal Court (AKA the suspension won’t be served until 2018 in all likelihood). The Giants were without their star and the Cowboys finagled their way into being full strength – and it was eerie how unsurprised Jerry Jones was about the whole thing.

How the game began became the underlying theme of the night. Long, steady possessions by Dallas with proper run/pass balance, ball protection, and overall control. The first two Giants drives resulted in 6 plays, 4 total yards, a sack, a holding penalty, and Eli Manning looking insecure in the pocket. In fact, the Giants initial first down didn’t come until the 2nd quarter. The Giants defense was on the field for 20:43 out of 30:00 minutes in the first half as the Cowboys recorded 47 plays, the most by any NFL team since 2007.

Down 16-0 at halftime, Eli Manning led a 16-play, 9:44-drive that resulted in their only three points of the night. They were 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line with an opportunity to seize momentum, but blown blocks up front, a 9-yard sack, and completed pass well short of the needed yardage brought rookie Aldrick Rosas onto the field for his first career regular-season kick, a 25 yarder.

Momentum was there for taking again, as the Giants defense stopped Dallas and got the ball back in the hands of Manning. The response? Reaching their own 32-yard line but going no further because of missed blocks and Manning rushing through his reads while neglecting his passing mechanics.

There were only six total points scored in the second half between the two NFC East rivals, as Dallas bled the clock out with consistent ball control and the Giants missing that big-play presence. Manning threw his first interception the play after their biggest gain of the night with just under 8 minutes left in the game, the final nail in the coffin.

The Giants head back to East Rutherford trying to figure how to increase their 2.9 yards-per-carry and 33% 3rd-down conversion rate. The problems with this offense from 2016 are still here, albeit without Beckham in the picture. Speaking of the Giants star receiver, he made plenty of money by not playing because there may not be a non-quarterback in the league that impacts his respective team more than #13.

QUARTERBACKS

  • 29/38 – 220 yards – 0 TD – 1 INT – 78.8 rating. Manning lacked command and toughness. His shaky feet in the pocket could partially be blamed on the poor play upfront, but he rushed several throws when he didn’t need to. There was enough zip on his passes and his lone deep pass of the night actually had too much on it. When the team needed him to step up, he didn’t answer the bell. A couple of the biggest opportunities resulted in Manning not getting the job done.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 16 yds – 2.3 avg. Minimal space to run, yes. But he didn’t create anything on his own, either. He was late to make his decisions and didn’t break tackles. That is a rough combination. Only on the field for 30% of the team’s plays.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 14 yds – 4.7 avg. Had the nicest run of the night, 12 yards on his first attempt which didn’t happen until the second half of the second quarter. Pass blocked well, showed more life with the ball in his hands than Perkins.
  • Shane Vereen: 9 rec – 51 yards – 5.7 avg. Had plenty of garbage time production, but played well earlier in the game as well. His knack for positive plays and reliability on passing downs wasn’t used enough early on. Lacks the star power but he is a chain mover via the pass game. Not one carry for the back that seems to find the hidden yards every time he touches the ball is inexcusable. Vereen may very well be the best RB on this team by a wide margin; he needs more meaningful touches.
  • Shane Smith: On the field for 8 offensive plays; got the job done on 3rd down. His presence wasn’t too noticeable, but he was an important player in his limited reps. He moved the pile on a 3rd-and-1 Darkwa conversion.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 44 yds. The 6.3 yard average per reception isn’t good, but Shepard played tough and did what was asked of him in the offense. This is a very underneath-heavy passing game and Shepard’s strength and toughness fit the slot role well. With Dallas was dropping so may defenders into deep half coverage, Shepard’s short routes in combination with the poor pass blocking up front, Manning looked his way plenty. He dodged a bullet with his self-recovered fumble in the 2nd quarter.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 54 yards. Two of the 3 biggest gains on offense went to Lewis, who saw more snaps because of the Beckham injury. He made a couple nice catches on the move and ran good routes into the vacant windows against the Cowboys Cover-2 defense. If he can continue to show he picking things up mentally, his tools will be used this year.
  • Brandon Marshall: 1 rec – 10 yds. The hyped WR signing couldn’t have had a quieter night. His first target came with 1:32 left in the 2nd quarter. He was held without a catch until the garbage-time drive at the end of the game and had he not come up with that 10 yard reception, it would have been the first time since his rookie year in 2007 in which he was held without a catch. He got one downfield opportunity in the second half which resulted in zero separation and a throw that was about 7 yards past his reach. Marshall’s play presented the question, can he create on his own?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 44 yds. Engram got the start and played more than twice as many snaps as Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams combined. The longest Giants play of the night was a 31-yard pitch-and-catch where he showed his elite-level speed down the sideline. His blocking was average at best, including a bad miss on the Giants 1st-and-goal rush from the 5-yard line. If he has the time to get into his intermediate and deep routes, Engram is going to make a lot of plays in this offense.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yds. One of the surprises of the night, Ellison was only on the field for a third of the Giants offensive plays. His one target resulted in an impressive 9-yard gain where he bowled over defenders and dragged them for an extra few yards. In an offense that struggled to pass the ball anything beyond quick releases, Ellison was vastly under-utilized. His blocking was solid, but he had two significant misses that resulted in TFL or no-gain runs.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers started off on the right foot, but fell well below the average mark. His second half was an image of what we watched for pretty much all of 2016. Poor use of leverage and too much over-committing his upper body, leaving him unbalanced and without control. Bobby Hart had the worst night of the group, making Demarcus Lawrence look like he was Von Miller off the edge. He spent way too much time on the ground and lacked a consistent push in the run game.
  • Interior: Justin Pugh played the best of the bunch, putting together an above-average score, although he did tail off a bit in the second half. His technique and initial punch stood out to me in a positive way. Weston Richburg had an average performance, making a couple of effective second-level blocks but was, once again, pushed back into the pocket a couple times. John Jerry got off to a horrific start, allowing a sack, a pressure, and committing a penalty all within the first 6 plays. He hit a nice stride in the 2nd half, getting movement as a run blocker and neutralizing his man in the pass game. But the damage was done early, ending with a below average grade.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: As we saw last year, both Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon played the majority of the defensive snaps (89% and 97%, respectively). Pierre Paul had the highest grade of the group, showing his usual excellent range in pursuit and sturdiness at the point of attack. He brought Dak Prescott down once on a pressure. Vernon recorded the lone New York sack, a play in which he went untouched to the QB. Otherwise, he had a quiet night and struggled to break free from Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara saw time in the diverse, borderline exotic fronts that Steve Spagnulo threw together but neither made any impact.
  • Interior: Damon Harrison led all defensive linemen on my grading sheet, playing his usual dominant version of himself. He was stout and active, adapting to the game’s situation all night. His versatility created pressure for Dak Prescott up the middle, deflected a pass, and brought down running backs for a loss. He is a weapon that no offensive line will keep contained. After watching him break down last year, they were sure to keep his snaps limited to just under 65%. Technically Jay Bromley started, but rookie Dalvin Tomlinson out-snapped him 3:1. As I said when they drafted him last spring, Tomlinson would impact the game week 1 in Dallas. He was an integral piece to holding down the 2016 NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliot for the most part. Robert Thomas saw 21 snaps, but struggled to make any impact. He was brought in on favorable pass-rush downs but struggled to disengage from blockers and at times, look way over-matched by the size of Dallas guard Chaz Green. He had a very rough game.

LINEBACKERS

  • The brightest spot of the entire defense, the highest grade I have given a Giants linebacker in over a year went to B.J. Goodson. His 18 tackles were the most in the NFL by a long shot on opening weekend. His range and power presence on the move especially stood out. There was a play where he completely lit up All-Pro Guard Zack Martin and finished it off with a tackle for loss. Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard played a physical brand and helped contain the Cowboys run game, especially in the first half. Kennard didn’t play even half the snaps, as the Giants were in the nickel for the majority of the game, but his presence was felt on plays where is wasn’t directly involved on the tackle. They played a physical, blue collar brand.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins was all over the field, being used as a linebacker, nickel cornerback, and roaming safety. His performance in coverage was top notch, if only they kept him on tight end Jason Witten all night. Those were the few times #82 had a hard time getting open. Darian Thompson, in what is basically considered his rookie season, struggled to react. On several occasions he was a step or three too late to support the run, especially to the sidelines. His physical impact when making hits just isn’t there, as he looks like an average-sized cornerback trying to play the safety spot. He wasn’t tested much in deep coverage. Andrew Adams was on the field for 8 defensive snaps, but wasn’t really tested.

CORNERBACKS

  • Arguably the most entertaining one-on-one battle of the night was Janoris Jenkins vs. Dez Bryant. Jenkins dominated this match-up in 2016 and while I can’t use that word again this time around, he did keep Bryant contained. Minus the one long penalty (21-yard pass interference) that set up the lone touchdown of the night, Jenkins won every match-up down field (3 attempts). He did miss two tackles where there was a VERY questionable effort put forth. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the team’s nickel corner, was on the field for 70% of the plays. His knack for reading routes and forecasting throws gets better and better, but he is not the ideal defender to cover the quicker slot receivers. Cole Beasley made him look silly on a couple of occasions. Eli Apple received the lowest grade of all the Giants defensive backs that played significant snaps. He was beat by Brice Butler early to set up the first Cowboys field goal, beat by Jason Witten on the lone Dallas touchdown, and targeted often on 3rd down where his success rate was not high. His impact on the run game was strong, however.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, otherwise a quiet night.
  • P Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 44.8 yard avg. 41.5 yard net avg, both solid numbers.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 STUDS

  • LB B.J. Goodson, DT Damon Harrison, OG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • RT Bobby Hart, LT Ereck Flowers, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS

  • The linebackers in a 4-3 defense can absolutely change the game. Anyone who watched the combination of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith cannot argue against that statement. Those two were as responsible as any for the Dallas win. They compliment each other perfectly and will be headache for opponents all year.
  • Dak Prescott was inaccurate for the majority of the game. He missed a handful of very easy throws, but he looked antsy and overly-excited. Putting too much mustard on the ball and finishing high. This game could have been much worse had he been on top of his game.
  • No, I don’t think the Dallas defense is improved up front. The likes of Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper, and Demarcus Lawrence have the Giants offensive line to thank for that talk. They are a sub-par group.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The most over-reactionary thoughts in the sports world are post-week 1 NFL football. The sky is not falling, this team is not going 0-16. If you have paid attention to the Eli Manning career, the Giants have had several of these games, sometimes multiple in each year. It was as ugly as it got, but that was not a representation of this Giants squad. They will be better Monday night at home.
  • Odell Beckham made a lot of money by not playing. His mere presence on the field changes the complexion of the entire offense, and his true value will be felt when he gets back on the field. He makes other players better, plain and simple.
  • Hats off to the defense after an exhausting first half. But a solution needs to be found for defending the tight end. Enough of this already. Each year more and more teams are adding the athletic pass catcher to that position; it will become the norm very soon. Jason Witten became the all time leading receiver for the storied organization and his historic production against the Giants was highlighted (150 career catches against the Giants alone). If there is an Achilles’ heel to this strong defense, the tight end is it.
Sep 112017
 
Share Button
Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 10, 2017)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

DALLAS COWBOYS 19 – NEW YORK GIANTS 3…
The New York Giants were soundly defeated by the Dallas Cowboys 19-3 on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas. Minus wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who sat out of the game with a lingering ankle injury, the Giants struggled on offense throughout the evening. Dallas held New York to 13 first downs and 233 net yards of offense with only 35 yards coming on the ground. The Giants’ offense generated a pathetic 49 yards in the first half, gaining two first downs and punting the ball away on all five of their offensive possessions.

The Giants had one lone scoring drive, a 16-play affair at the start of the 3rd quarter that ended with a 25-yard field goal, but helped the Cowboys by taking almost 10 minutes off of the clock. The Giants didn’t get the ball back until the 4th quarter, and their final three drives ended with a punt, interception, and the end of the game.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys took a 16-0 halftime lead on four scoring drives that included three field goals and a touchdown. Dallas managed scoring possessions of 9-plays, 51-yards (field goal); 14-plays, 41-yards (field goal); 6-plays, 65-yards (touchdown); and 7-plays, 51-yards (field goal). Dallas only had three second-half possessions, two of which resulted in punts and the final one that ended with a field goal. In total, the Cowboys generated 22 first downs and 392 yards of offense (263 yards passing, 129 yards rushing) with no turnovers.

Quarterback Eli Manning ended the night 29-of-38 for 220 yards and one interception. His leading receivers were running back Shane Vereen (9 catches for 51 yards) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (7 catches for 44 yards). The Giants only ran the ball 12 times for 35 yards. Defensively, the Giants did not force a turnover and only accrued one sack (by defensive end Olivier Vernon).

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were wide receiver Odell Beckham (ankle), linebacker Keenan Robinson (concussion), quarterback Davis Webb, running back Wayne Gallman, wide receiver Tavarres King, tight end Matt LaCosse, and offensive lineman D.J. Fluker.

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)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)

ARTICLES…

Sep 082017
 
Share Button
New York Giants Offense (September 11, 2016)

New York Giants Offense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 10, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The most direct route to make the playoffs is to win your division. And the best way to win your division is to have a winning record against your division opponents, and particularly against those division opponents who represent the biggest threat. Because of all of that, this is a big game whose outcome quite possibly will affect the playoff picture in December.

It is no accident that the NFL has mandated that the Giants play the Cowboys in Dallas for the fourth time in five years. The Giants-Cowboys contest is always a ratings bonnaza for a league that saw its popularity take a big dip in 2016. (The conspiracy theorist in me suspects this is why Ezekiel Elliott is playing despite his 6-game suspension being upheld).

The Cowboys won the NFC East in 2016 with a stellar 13-3 regular-season record. But two of their losses came at the hands of the 11-5 Giants, who swept the Cowboys by a total of four points. Once again, the Cowboys and Giants are expected to be the leading contenders for the NFC East title. This game should be close and come down to the 4th quarter.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • FB Shane Smith (quad – probable)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle – probable)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – out)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle – probable)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Will Odell Beckham, Jr. play? And if he does, how effective will he be? In a game that actually counts, the Giants have yet to prove they can move the football and score without someone other than Beckham making plays. Look no further than last year’s game in the Meadowlands. The difference in that 10-7 game was a 61-yard pass play to Beckham, which unbelievably accounted for 23 percent of the team’s offense in that game. No other play gained more than 19 yards. It truly was a pathetic display of “offense” for the Giants.

The book on defending the Giants is prevent the big play to Beckham, and force the Giants to beat you with their running game and throwing to other players. This will likely remain the book until the Giants hurt teams with their other weapons. Enter Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and second-year players Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. The expectation is that these players will be effective players in their own right, and make the Giants’ offense less predictable and dependent on Beckham. That remains to be seen.

The largely no-name Dallas defense is a perfect example of a unit whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On paper, the Cowboys defense shouldn’t be very good. But unbelievably they were #1 against the run in 2016 and 14th overall. While some of this is due to the fact that the Cowboys controlled the clock and limited opportunities by opponents, don’t underestimate the fact that this is an exceptionally well-coached, cohesive unit that plays hard, hustles to the football, and forces turnovers. They are a scrappy bunch.

Unless both teams play outside their 2016 norms (Cowboys #1 run defense vs. Giants #29th rushing attack), don’t expect New York to be able to consistently run the football. The Giants are not a physical football team. If I’m Dallas, I dare the Giants to beat me with the run and focus on defending the pass (and specifically Beckham if he plays). The good news for the Giants justifiably-maligned offensive line is that the Cowboys really don’t have any consistent pass rushers who scare you. The Cowboys will likely have to scheme their pass rush by using stunts and blitzes, placing stress on both young outside tackles and right guard John Jerry.

On paper, where the Giants should be able to make hay is the passing game. With or without Beckham, the passing game is still the strength of the Giants offense. Much depends on how much Brandon Marshall has in the tank and how much rookie stage-fright Evan Engram has. But Marshall, Engram, Shepard, Ellison, and hopefully Beckham should expose a Cowboys’ secondary that has had issues for years. Look for Dallas to play it conservatively, try to prevent the big play, and force the Giants to nickel-and-dime their way down the football field without making a mistake. This is where Engram comes in. If the Cowboys play a lot of 2-deep coverage, Engram has the athletic ability and speed to exploit the middle of the defense – something the Giants didn’t have last year.

Turnovers. This is always important in closely-fought, divisional games. The team that commits more turnovers will likely lose. Eli Manning must play it safe and throw the ball away or take sacks instead of throwing the ball up for grabs. When sacked, hold onto the football. Same with Paul Perkins running with the football.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The New York Giants defense is the strength of the team. The Giants finished last year 10th in total defense (339.7 yards per game) and 2nd in scoring defense (17.8 points per game). Everyone is striving to exceed last year’s marks. The Giants lost Johnathan Hankins in the offseason, but there are a number of areas where the defense may be stronger. Both defensive ends looked primed to exceed their 2016 play. B.J. Goodson appears to be an upgrade at middle linebacker. Eli Apple – as long as his ankles are OK – should be better. The expectation is that Darian Thompson will be an upgrade over Andrew Adams at free safety. But let’s be clear, the Giants have multiple impact players on their defense in Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins. They are loaded.

The Cowboys are loaded on offense as well. They finished last year 5th in total offense and 2nd in rushing offense. They are the NFL’s most balanced team with a near equal run-pass ratio. 2016 rookie sensations quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott are now in their second year and should be better.

Coach Ben McAdoo broke them down well: “It all starts up front with them. They are good up front. They lost a couple pieces, but they haven’t missed a beat. They are very talented there with the guys who jumped in to replace their two departures. They are very good, very physical, and they work well as one. Talented in pass protection, as well. They may be the finest unit in the league. There are a couple others that are chasing them, but they are very good. Obviously, Dak does a nice job. Really jumped in with both feet last year. I’m sure he is a lot more confident going into his second year than he was in his first year, and they seem to be putting more on him this year from a mental standpoint. Zeke is one of the better backs in the league. He is a complete back. He is not just a runner. He can play, he can protect, he can play in the pass game, and he’s very explosive and dynamic when he gets into space. The perimeter players, what makes them unique is they all complement each other well. They have a big receiver in Dez (Bryant). They have the quick twitch receiver in (Cole) Beasley, who can get open in a phone booth type guy. They have (tight end Jason) Witten, who is a consistent pro, a future Hall of Famer who can do a variety of things for them, including block, which he doesn’t get a lot of credit for. They have some other role players that come in and do a lot of good things for them. So they are very talented. One of the better offenses in the league.”

That all said, the Giants match-up very well with the Cowboys on this side of the ball. Janoris Jenkins gave Dez Bryant fits in 2016 (only 2 catches for 18 yards and a fumble in two games). Elliott ran for 51 yards in the opener and a “quiet” 107 yards in the second game last year. Witten and Beasley had a greater impact in the opener (17 catches) than the second game (8 catches). The question here is how much will Keenan Robinson be missed in pass coverage? Provided the defensive tackle who lines up next to Damon Harrison does his job, the Giants should continue to be one of the few teams who can keep Elliott in check. If I’m the Cowboys, I use play-action or a trick play early to keep the Giants from being as aggressive against the run. New York needs to be wary of that. Apple needs to keep Terrance Williams quiet and DRC will be challenged by the very quick Beasley.

Up front, Dallas is as good as it gets at left tackle, center, and right guard. But there are changes at left guard and right tackle. The JPP versus La’el Collins match-up will be one to watch. I would expect Steve Spagnuolo to send more than a few defensive back blitzes (including Landon Collins and DRC) as well as B.J. Goodson up the middle. The Giants will have to be disciplined on their pass rush, however, as Prescott can hurt you with his feet.

The Cowboys didn’t turn the ball over much in 2016. Prescott only threw four interceptions during the regular season. And Dallas only had nine fumbles. But three of those turnovers – including two of Dak’s interceptions – came in the second Giants-Cowboys game. (Dallas did not turn the ball over in the first game).

It’s true against any team, but more so against the Cowboys than anyone else: stop the run, make Dallas one-dimensional, then get after the quarterback.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I think practically everyone would have gone with Aldrick Rosas as the place kicker, but here is one of the big unknowns of the Giants 2017 season. Rosas could literally sink the Giants season. The pressure on this kid will be immense. Along the same line, the Cowboys will be going with a rookie returner (Ryan Switzer) on both kickoffs and punts. Get down the field, put hats on him, and try to knock the ball loose. We didn’t see much of Dwayne Harris this preseason. Let’s see if he can spark the return game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on Ezekiel Elliott: “He’s a premier back. There’s 32 in the world that play that position. There’s 32 teams. There are some really good backs, but he obviously proved last year that he makes an offense go. I know they have a really good offensive line, but he’s able to do all the things you want a great back to do. He has great vision. He can run inside. He bounces it outside. He turns the corner and it’s scary and he runs with power. I mean, he’s not an easy back to take down. He’s become a good pass receiver, too, so we have to worry about that. He’s a guy we have to respect and we have to go out and always be concerned about. When No. 21 is out there, we have to be concerned about it.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I always think too much is made of the first game. This is a big contest and it would really help the Giants if they can beat the Cowboys in their own park to start the season, but this is a game the Giants obviously can afford to lose. That said, the Giants match-up well against the Cowboys. The Giants strengths (passing offense) are the Cowboys weaknesses (passing defense) and the Cowboys strengths (rushing offense) are the Giants strengths (rushing defense). The Giants will be the more one-dimensional team, but the Cowboys are facing the much more talented Giants defense. If the game is close, it will come down to special teams and turnovers – and this is where the Giants could lose the game if they are not good (or careful) enough.

Dec 122016
 
Share Button
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
 
Share Button
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
 
Share Button
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
 
Share Button
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)