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

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys 31 – New York Giants 28

Game Overview

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

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

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

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

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

But hey, at least ownership is happy.

Robert Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Steve Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Offensive Overview

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

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

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

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

Quarterback

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

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

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

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

Missed opportunity #1

Missed opportunity #1

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

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

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

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

Missed opportunity #2

Missed opportunity #2

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

Running Backs

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense’s attention…

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

…that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

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

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

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

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

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

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

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

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

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

Tight Ends

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

Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Line/Linebackers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oompa Loompas

Giants zone defense on Bryant’s 31-yard TD

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

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

Special Teams

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

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

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

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014)
Nov 242014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants lost their sixth consecutive game of the season Sunday night to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-28, dropping the team’s record to 3-8 and eliminating it from from a potential NFC East divisional title.

New York got things going early. On the team’s first possession, quarterback Eli Manning marched the Giants 80 yards in 13 plays before finding receiver Odell Beckham Jr. for a three-yard score. After Dallas scored a field goal on their next possession, New York again got in the end zone.

With a first and 10 and the Cowboys 43 yard line, Manning dropped back and fired a pass deep down the right sideline in the direction of Beckham. While being interfered with, Beckham dove backwards and reached his right hand out. Beckham managed to gain control of the ball and pull it into his body for the score. On the night, Beckham finished with 10 catches for 146 yards.

Dallas was able to rebound from the Giants surge. Quarterback Tony Romo took the team 77 yards on nine plays before finding Jason Witten for a four-yard touchdown pass. On the Giants next possession, Manning again took the Giants on a scoring drive, setting up Andre Williams with a three-yard touchdown. Manning finished 29-of-40 for 338 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

Leading 21-10 at the half, New York had the momentum, but the red-hot offense cooled off in the third quarter. The Giants punted on their first two possessions of the quarter and Manning threw an interception deep in Cowboy territory on the third. Dallas took advantage of New York’s stagnant offense, scoring a pair of touchdowns on a Romo 45-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley, then a 31-yard score to Dez Bryant.

With nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Manning finally got the offense going again. The quarterback took the team 93 yards in 14 plays before finding Adrien Robinson for a one-yard touchdown. The score put the Giants up four with just over three minutes to play.

After a touchback put the Cowboys at their own 20, Romo deflated the home crowd at MetLife. With little pressure from the Giants defensive front, Romo had near all night in the pocket. Quickly, he took the Cowboys to the Giants 13 yard line with 1:11 to play. In the shotgun, Romo moved slightly to extend the play 10 seconds before finding Dez Bryant in the back of the end zone.

The Giants had a chance to tie the game on their next possession, but went four-and-out when a pass to Rashad Jennings on fourth and two came up inches shy of a first down.

The loss drops the Giants to a two-way tie for last place in the NFC East with the Washington Redskins. Dallas remains in a two-way tie with the Philadelphia Eagles for first play. Dallas and Philadelphia play each other Thursday afternoon on Thanksgiving.

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

Nov 202014
 
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New York Giants Defense (October 19, 2014)

New York Giants Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014

Some New York Giants fans are still in denial. They refuse to accept that 2014 New York Giants – like their 2013 predecessor – are a bad football team. The Giants are 31st in the NFL on defense. They are 21st in rushing and haven’t come close to 100 yards rushing in weeks. The Giants have a terrible offensive line. They have one receiver who scares anyone. Assets? Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. And every now and then Larry Donnell flashes. That’s about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a 3-7 football team that plays like a 3-7 football team despite one of the better QBs in the NFL and incredible head coaching continuity. The Giants may upset someone, but usually when they play a good football team, they are going to get beat. That won’t change until they get better players on offense, defense, and special teams.

The players should be on watch. The remainder of this season they will be closely evaluated by a franchise that will have to dump half its roster again in the offseason. There are no guarantees that another team will offer them employment either. Jobs are at stake.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Will Eli Manning bounce back?
Contrary to what many idiots in the media have been saying this week, Eli is was actually having one of his best seasons until last Sunday despite the fact he (1) was coming off April ankle surgery; (2) was learning a completely new offensive system, terminology, footwork fundamentals, routes, etc.; and (3) he was surrounding by a mediocre supporting cast, exacerbated by the loss of Victor Cruz. But last Sunday against the 49ers, Eli fell back into some old bad habits and forced some throws.

Eli is a competitor and wants very much to win and is willing to take chances when the chips are down. But he has to accept that the rest of 2014 is more about 2015 and beyond. His focus at this point should be to continue to acclimatize himself to this West Coast system. Don’t force the issue, but treat the remaining six games almost as practice for 2015. Work on his technique and understanding of this system. If the play is there, make the throw. If not, throw the ball away. For his own physical and psychological well-being, let’s not start inflating those interception totals again. Keep the nay-sayers at bay.

The good news? The Giants are not facing a top-10 defense this week.

Second Down
Can Odell Beckham continue to bring the “wow” factor?
Let’s be honest. The only reason some Giants fans continue to tune in at this point is Odell Beckham. He hasn’t been perfect (media and fans have underplayed some of his drops), but it is obvious to everyone that he is the only truly exciting player on the Giants roster right now. And despite his tremendous productivity in just a few games, there is a sense that he has only scratched the surface. Is he capable of practically single-handily taking over a game, and winning a game the Giants should otherwise lose?

Third Down
Can the Giants stop the run?
The Giants are dead last in run defense. 32 out of 32, allowing an average of 145 yards per game. Dallas is 2nd in the NFL in rushing, averaging over 153 yards per game. Dallas’ strength is New York’s weakness. It’s pretty easy to figure out what the game plan will be.

Fourth Down
Can the Giants stop the pass?
Just one month ago, the Giants played Tony Romo and the Cowboys. The results? The Cowboys accrued 20 first downs and 423 yards of offense. Dallas was 9-of-14 on third down (64 percent). The Cowboys were 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone. Romo only had 6 incompletions, and none in the second half of the game where he was a perfect 9-for-9. Dallas also had five pass plays over 20 yards. WR Dez Bryant had 9 catches for 128 yards and TE Gavin Escobar 3 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. WR Terrance Williams had the third touchdown reception. Giant-killer TE Jason Witten was kept quiet but we all know his ability. Now the Giants are without their most consistent corner (Prince Amukamara) and best coverage linebacker (Jacquian Williams).

BREAKING DOWN DALLAS:

OFFENSE
Strength?
The Cowboys have no major weakness on offense other than a recent historical tendency to act like a bunch of spoiled babies on the sidelines when things don’t go there way and Tony Romo’s fragile back. They are 6th overall in the NFL in terms of yards gained, averaging 387.5 yards per game. The Cowboys are tied for 7th in terms of points with 26.1 points per game. They are 2nd in rushing and 17th in passing. RB Demarco Murray – by far – is the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,233 yards. WR Dez Bryant is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. TE Jason Witten is a future Hall of Famer and back-up TE Gavin Escobar caught two touchdown passes against the Giants in October. Tony Romo is completing over 68 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 107.2. And if that were not enough, Dallas arguably has the NFL’s best offensive line with three first rounders who are playing like first rounders.

Weakness?
Bryant is the one true stud the Cowboys have at wide receiver. Terrance Williams has six touchdowns, but only 27 catches. The next most productive wideout is Cole Beasley with 16. The Cowboys are also -1 in turnover differential having turned the football over 18 times (10 fumbles, 6 interceptions by Romo, 2 by the backup).

DEFENSE

Strength?
Dallas is in the middle of the pack defensively, ranking 15th in terms of yards allowed (14th against pass, 12th against run). There are no obvious defensive superstars on the team but the unit has played much better than expected. Before the season, it was anticipated Dallas’ defense would be one of the worst in the league. Their strength has been their overall consistency. MLB Rolando McClain has been a major addition as a fiery leader and play maker. CB Orlando Scandrick is their best defensive back who can play both outside and the nickel.

Weakness?
On paper, this defense should be much worse than it is. Perhaps Dallas’ offense is so productive that it hides the defense. Dallas only has 16 sacks on the year. And their third-down defense is subpar, allowing teams to covert over 42 percent of the time. Dallas suffered another big hit at linebacker when they lost Justin Durant late last month.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Place kicker Dan Bailey is exceptional. He’s automatic from even 50+ yards. Dwayne Harris averages over 25 yards per kickoff return and almost 9 yards per punt return..

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Odell Beckham
If one player could help pull off the upset, it’s Odell. But the opposition will begin to concentrate more and more attention on him.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
With no Prince Amukamara, the Giants not only need Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play well against Dez Bryant, they will need him to stay on the field for most of the game. DRC hasn’t played a full game in quite some time due to his IT band (back/hamstring) issue.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting, that is all it takes, one game at a time, bounce back. Again, it is about all of those eyes that look at me on Wednesday morning, I am thinking about them, quite frankly, trying to bring them through the disappointment toward the next opponent.”

Jason Garrett - “That has always been something that we have strived for around here – to  be a balanced attack, to be able to attack a defense a lot of different ways…Really, when you are talking about any of this stuff it starts with the guys up front. We made a real commitment to get better on the offensive line here in the last three or four years by using first round pick to draft guys. We think it has been a good investment for our team and it really allows you to do what you want to do offensively. It allows you to feature the skill players that you have both in the running game and in the passing game…The idea is that we want to be a more physical football team, control the line of scrimmage more and be a team that can run the football. Fortunately, we have been able to draft the guys we have up front and we think they are some really good, young, cornerstone type of players who can be here for a long time.”

FINAL WORD:

The Giants should be able to move the football better against this opponent than they have in recent weeks as long as the offensive line plays better this week against a lesser defensive opponent. Justin Pugh (quadriceps) is probably out so look for Geoff Schwartz to start at right tackle. The Giants need John Jerry to bounce back.

However, the real problem for the Giants is on the defensive side of the football. The Giants what they are – the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL and the 32nd-ranked run defense. And the Giants linebackers don’t match up well against the Cowboys tight ends and running backs in coverage.

Look for Beckham to take one to the house on special teams, but it won’t be enough. Cowboys 42 – Giants 27.

Oct 232014
 
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New York Giants Offense (October 19, 2014)

New York Giants Offense – Photo by Big d E

Dallas Cowboys 31 – New York Giants 21

Both quarterbacks played well. This game was lost in the trenches. It really is that simple. The Dallas Cowboys out-played the Giants on the offensive and defensive lines. It’s hard to win football games when you are out-played up front. The Giants could not rush the football because the offensive line could not generate move out a subpar front seven that had struggled against the run. The Giants defensive line exerted virtually no pressure on the Cowboys quarterback and gave up 156 yards on the ground.

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Can the defensive line and linebackers contain DeMarco Murray?
No. Murray rushed for 128 yards on 28 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and one touchdown.

Second Down
Can Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite play? Can he be effective?
DRC only played 15 defensive snaps, mostly on third down. In hindsight, the Giants would have been better off to have sit him.

Third Down
How will Justin Pugh respond?
Much better than a week ago versus Philly, but then again, it would have been hard to be worse. Aside from a penalty directed his way, Pugh held his own against the Dallas Cowboys. He wasn’t terribly great, but wasn’t terribly bad, either.

Fourth Down
Is Odell Beckham Jr. ready?
Beckham has yet to have his truly ‘breakout performance,’ and by breakout, its in reference to 100 or more receiving yards, eight or more catches, but Sunday was again another indication that the rookie is progressing. Beckham caught four passes for 34 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Manning looks to be targeting the rookie more and more. Beckham also rushed once for 13 yards.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes

The Giants offense gained 352 total yards of offense versus Dallas, rushing for 104 and passing for 248. The team picked up 20 total first downs, held the ball for 26:11.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

QUARTERBACK - by Connor Hughes

As has been the case against every opponent not nicknamed the ‘Detroit Lions,’ Eli Manning was very efficient versus the Cowboys. Manning completed 21-of-33 for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It marked the third straight game in which Manning did not throw an interception.

One of the more alarming observations from the game was the fact Manning and Co. have not attempted to stretch the field much this season. Of his 21 completions, Manning averaged just 7.5 yards per completion. Comparing that to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 17 passes, he averaged 12.1 yards per completion.

Manning has the weapons to stretch the field, but the team just isn’t looking to do it. With a running game that hasn’t truly got it going yet with Andre Williams in the backfield, it may be beneficial for Manning to take the shots.

Even if the pass is incomplete, the defense will need to respect the pass. The safety will need to come out of the box for fear of the deep bomb. With New York never even taking a shot, there’s no fear of anything past 10 yards.

RUNNING BACKS - by Connor Hughes

It’s tough to gauge exactly why Andre Williams is struggling to establish anything consistent on the ground: It could be the offensive line, could be Williams not seeing potential cutback lanes and strictly running where the ball is supposed to be. Discounting his 22 yard rush, Williams rushed 17 times for 29 yards (1.7 yards per carry).

When Rashad Jennings was in the game, rarely did he run strictly through the hole the play was designed for. While Jennings isn’t the strongest or fastest running back, he has tremendous vision. He could see the lane left when running right, and adjust his carries to compensate and pick up yardage. With Williams in the game, it doesn’t appear as if that’s the same case.

At times, it looks like Williams strictly runs through the hole the play is designed to go through. That works when the hole is there. When its not, Williams is tackled for no gain or a loss.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Odell Beckham – Photo by Big d E

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Connor Hughes

Victor Cruz will be missed. That was evidently clear on Sunday. Yes, the Giants have Odell Beckham and need Beckham to step up, but Beckham isn’t replacing’ Cruz in the slot. That’s Preston Parker.

While Parker will play a role of if he’s open, he’s hardly a game-changer like Cruz. On Sunday, Parker caught just two passes for 19 yards.

The Giants had been hoping Rueben Randle would step up, but as this season has made clear, it doesn’t look as if Randle is a clear-cut No. 1 in the NFL. Hypothetically, Beckham – if he can establish to a No. 1 – with Randle on the other side and Cruz in the slot is a perfect receiving corps. Every player compensates for each other perfectly. The Giants would have one of everything at the three spots.

TIGHT ENDS - by Connor Hughes

Larry Donnell didn’t cost the Giants a game, but he contributed to the loss. While his seven catches for 90 yards were a nice breakout from the one catch in the previous two complete games, Donnell’s fourth quarter fumble cost the Giants their best chance at tying the game.

For as good as Donnell has been, he’s also lost three fumbles on his 33 touches. That’s not good.

Donnell gives the Giants a chance to stretch the field and is New York’s best receiving option at the position, so it’s unlikely New York benches him, but Daniel Fells is right now the more “sure” thing. Fells is the type of tight end that would have started for New York any year under Kevin Gilbride. He’s reliable, runs the right routes, and can get to spot A on the field when he’s supposed to be there.

When Fells is in the game, the Giants know what they’ll get out of him, but what Donnell does with his pure athletic ability are things Fells just can’t do. Donnell can’t come off the field, but he’s doing his part in trying to make it so he can.

Tom Coughlin has been a stickler for players who can’t hold on to the ball. One more fumble from Donnell may cost the tight end his No. 1 spot.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

The Dallas Cowboys defense controlled the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys were the stronger, more physical team. That showed up most clearly in New York’s attempted ground attack. Coming into this game, the Cowboys defense had been surrendering 5.1 per carry. Take away runs by Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, and the one meaningless 9-yard run by Peyton Hillis at the end of the first half, and the Giants averaged 3.1 yards. Take away the one 22-yard run by Andre Williams, and the Giants averaged 2.2 yards on 24 carries.  Given the fact that the Giants only ran 59 offensive plays in the game, that means 41 percent of their snaps averaged 2.2 yards.

Who was the problem? It was across the board, and it just wasn’t always the offensive line. But the line did not win their one-on-one match-ups…even missing blocks away from the play and allowing backside defenders to disrupt the play. There were occasions where a player simply got beat (physical mistake), and other occasions where the defender making the play wasn’t blocked (mental mistake).

Tyrone Crawford Beats John Jerry to Disrupt Run

Tyrone Crawford Beats John Jerry to Disrupt Run

Pass protection was better in that Manning was not sacked and only officially hit three times. But keep in mind that Dallas is a terrible team at rushing the passer (only six sacks all season) and that Eli again made his protection look better than it was due to quickly getting rid of the ball. It’s pretty clear that in some instances, Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo simply don’t trust the line and/or their quarterback in very long down-and-distance situations as New York continues to run the ball even on third and long.

No One Blocks DT Terrell McClain

No One Blocks DT Terrell McClain

As troubling as the inability to run the football against a weak defensive front was, penalties were also a huge problem. I’ve pointed out in our Giants-Redskins game review that the short passing game in the West Coast Offense can be a thing of beauty as long you don’t suffer any setbacks on 8-12 play drives. But a penalty, sack, or negative run can stymie a drive. Teams only have so many possessions per game. Not counting the two meaningless drives at the end of the half and game, the Giants had nine offensive possessions against the Cowboys. The Giants scored touchdowns on three of those drives (one-third). They overcame a holding call on Will Beatty on one of these drives.

But on three other possessions, penalties put a halt to things:

  • False start on Will Beatty on a 4th-and-1 attempt. Punt.
  • False starts by Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, the latter on 2nd-and-13. Punt.
  • Not the OL, but Rueben Randle offensive holding on 1st-and-10 on Dallas 40-yard line. Punt.

What about the other three drives?

  • First possession of the game, after two runs, the Giants face 3rd-and-11 and hand-off to “speedster” Peyton Hillis for four yards. Punt. That’s the same as surrendering on 3rd-and-11. Not a very brave message to your team to start the game.
  • Near the 2-minute warning in the first half, after two runs picked up 6 yards, Eli could not connect with WR Preston Parker on 3rd-and-4. Punt.
  • Early in the 4th quarter, Eli connected with TE Larry Donnell for the first down, but Donnell fumbled the ball away.

In my opinion, Dallas never really “stopped” the Giants passing game. But penalties and an inability to run the football prevented the Giants from doing even more damage than the 21 points they accrued.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEWby Eric Kennedy

The expectations coming out of training camp were that the defense was the far more settled portion of the team, with no turnover on the entire defensive coaching staff, same system, and an infusion of talent into what was going to be one of the best secondaries in the league. The Giants defense dominated its offensive counterpart throughout camp and there was talk of this being a top five unit.

But the same old problems remain.

In five seasons under defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, the Giants defensive rankings in terms of yards allowed are as follows:

  • 2010: 7th
  • 2011: 27th
  • 2012: 31st
  • 2013: 8th
  • 2014: 25th

Defensive rankings, points per game:

  • 2010: 17th
  • 2011: 25th
  • 2012: 12th
  • 2013: 18th
  • 2014: 21st

There is a whole lot of mediocrity there. Even when the yardage totals were respectable (2010 and 2013), the points per game totals were not. And it’s the same shit each year: blown coverages, blitz packages that rarely if ever produce, an inability to get off the field on third down, and an inability to make key stops in critical situations.

When the parts change but the results don’t, that suggests coaching is an issue.

Perry Fewell, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Perry Fewell – Photo by Big d E

That said, Perry Fewell once again has a built-in excuse to save his butt. The Giants lost their top nickel corner (Walter Thurmond) and his replacement (Trumaine McBride). The team’s #1 free agent acquisition (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) can’t stay on the field and isn’t producing as expected. There was a major downgrade at free safety with the release of Will Hill. And Jon Beason has been more of a liability than asset with his foot issue. Personnel matters too. And simply put, the Giants are not good enough on defense. The defensive line is not getting to the quarterback. The linebackers are below average. And the secondary is beat up and underperforming.

Perry Fewell and his defensive team looks great when they face someone like Kirk Cousins or Josh Freeman, but the results are usually pretty bad when they face a quality NFL starter.

As for this particular game, the numbers – once again – tell the story. The Cowboys accrued 20 first downs and 423 yards of offense, including 156 yards on the ground. Dallas was 9-of-14 on third down (an unacceptable 64 percent). Dallas controlled the clock 33:49 (to Giants’ 26:11). The Cowboys were 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone. QB Tony Romo only had 6 incompletions, and none in the second half of the game where he was a perfect 9-for-9. Dallas also had six plays over 20 yards totaling 162 yards.

Dallas scored on half of their possessions: four touchdowns and a field goal on 10 opportunities. Their first three touchdown drives went 76 yards in 11 plays, 80 yards in 10 plays, and 93 yards in 6 plays. When the Giants got to within 28-21 with 5:28 to play, the defense could not stop the Cowboys, allowing Dallas to to pick up three first downs and 49 yards, erasing 4:29 from the clock, and setting up the game-clinching field goal. On these five scoring drives, Dallas converted on 3rd-and-8, 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-10, 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-9, 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-8, and 3rd-and-1.

Coming into this game, the Giants game-plan had to be to limit the damage of RB DeMarco Murray, WR Dez Bryant, and TE Jason Witten. Murray rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown (4.6 yards per carry). Bryant caught 9 passes for 151 yards (16.8 yards per catch). In other words, 279 of Dallas’ 423 yards were by these two players. The Giants were able to limit the damage of Witten (2 catches for 27 yards), but were burned by his backup (3 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns). Romo completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. His QB rating was a gaudy 135.7.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

Jason Pierre-Paul (60 snaps, 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 3 quarterback hits) and Mathias Kiwanuka (55 snaps, 2 tackles) saw the bulk of the playing time at defensive end. Cullen Jenkins (1 quarterback hit) left the game with an injury after playing only 11 snaps at defensive tackle. Because of that, Johnathan Hankins (40 snaps, 3 tackles), Mike Patterson (32 snaps, 2 tackles), and Markus Kuhn (23 snaps, 1 tackle) saw the most action at defensive tackle.

DE/DT Robert Ayers (19 snaps, 1 tackle) and DE Damontre Moore (10 snaps, 0 tackles) saw more limited time.

The Giants gave up 102 rushing yards (6 by Romo) in the first half alone. That said, there were times when they did a nice job on the Cowboys running game. JPP and Hankins stood out at times against the run and both caused holding penalties that helped to stop two first-half drives. The left side of the defensive line – Mathias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins – were two who had issues in run defense.

The bulk of Murray’s 73 first-half yards came in big chunks as he had runs of 17, 10, and 21 yards – accounting for 66 percent of his production. Other than those three runs, the Giants actually did a decent job on him. Unfortunately, those three runs do count.

On 2nd-and-9 on first TD drive, Murray picks up 17 yards as Beason (blocked by #72), Jenkins (blocked by #70), and Kiwanuka (blocked by #78) were effectively handled at the point of attack. Murray has a huge hole to run through.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.07.27 PM

Beason, Jenkins, and Kiwanuka Effectively Blocked

On 1st-and-10 on second TD drive, the Giants are in good position to stop Murray, but Devon Kennard is stiff-armed and a 10-yard gain results.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.15.25 PM

Kennard Can’t Make the Play

On 1st-and-10 on same drive, Murray picks up 21 yards as Dallas runs at Kiwanuka and Kennard.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.18.37 PM

TE Blocks Kennard, RT Takes Out Kiwanuka

In the second half, most of Murray’s damage/impact again came on three runs:

  1. A 15-yard gain when Patterson, McClain, and Kuhn were blocked.
Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.29.49 PM

Patterson, McClain, and Kuhn Can’t Make the Play

  1. An 8-yard run on 3rd-and-1 when the Cowboys were trying to run out the clock.
  2. A 17-yard cutback run on the very next snap where either Kiwanuka and/or Kennard appeared to lose contain.

But the big problem wasn’t the run defense, there was no pass rush. JPP had two good pressures, one resulted in an incompletion on what could have been a 57-yard TD pass (that’s what pressure does). And he had a very nice sack against Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith late in the first half. His early sack was more of a coverage sack/snafu by Romo than an actual good pass rush. Other than that, it was like Romo was playing 7-on-7 back there as he was rarely even disturbed. The few times Fewell blitzed, it didn’t get there, and there were times when the pass rush was minimized by dropping linemen into coverage (i.e., Jenkins was dropped into coverage on the 3rd-and-5 play that resulted in a 24-yard completion to TE Gavin Escobar).

Just one example where Romo had all day to throw was his 18-yard touchdown pass to WR Terrance Williams. The Giants had good coverage on the play, but Romo had all day to find a receiver who would eventually get open. On this play, the Giants initially rushed four, but Markus Kuhn got stymied at the line and then peeled off to cover the running back.

There was no pressure on Romo at all in second half as he completed all nine of his attempts (again, it was like a 7-on-7 drill).

What really bugs me is dropping defensive linemen into coverage. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong plays, but this never seems to work. Look where the Giants’ best pass rusher (#90) is on the 44-yard completion on 3rd-and-6 in the third quarter.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 3.27.21 PM

#90 Caught in No-Man’s Land

LINEBACKERSby Eric Kennedy

Jon Beason was only able to last 17 snaps before being forced to leave the game with his never-ending toe issue. It’s time to shut him down, put him on IR, and let him have surgery. He wasn’t very good when he played (no tackles). He was effectively blocked at the point-of-attack (see 17-yard run above) and looked a step slow in coverage (Escobar’s 24-yard completion on 3rd-and-5). The team plays better with Jameel McClain inside.

Jacquian Williams (62 snaps, 7 tackles) saw the most action, followed by McClain (53 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss), and Devon Kennard (22 snaps, 4 tackles). Williams gave up a 12-yard completion to Witten on 3rd-and-8 on the first TD drive, but the Giants did a good job of keeping Witten under wraps and Williams probably deserves a lot of credit there. I’d like to see more of Kennard, but he did get stiff-armed on the 10-yard run and blocked on the 21-yard on the second TD drive.

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

The main four in this contest were Antrel Rolle (62 snaps, 3 tackles), Quintin Demps (61 snaps, 6 tackles), Prince Amukamara (59 snaps, 7 tackles 1 interception, 2 pass defenses), and Zack Bowman (45 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 pass defense).

Stevie Brown (0 tackles), Jayron Hosley (1 tackle), and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (1 tackle) chipped in with 15 snaps apiece. Chandler Fenner saw four snaps.

Tony Romo’s one interception came on a play where Dez Bryant fell down. The Giants only defended three passes as Tony Romo only threw six incompletions, and was a perfect 9-for-9 in the second half. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

Plays that stood out me included:

  • Jayron Hosley and DRC holding Bryant 1-yard short of the first down on 3rd-and-8.
  • Bowman’s excellent deep coverage on WR Terrance Williams.
  • Demps missing Romo on a safety blitz.
  • Either Hosley or Beason badly busting coverage on Escobar’s 15-yard TD reception on 3rd-and-10 (seems to happen far too often in Fewell’s defenses).
  • Amukamara having excellent coverage on Bryant on a perfectly-thrown 8-yard slant on 3rd-and-6. A few plays later, Amukamara got beat deep by Bryant, but he recovered in time to knock away Romo’s under thrown ball (one of few times Romo was pressured).
  • A typical Fewell zone special where Romo was provided with an easy pitch-and-catch opportunity to his security blanket (Witten) on 3rd-and-9 on the second TD drive.
Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.55.03 PM

You’ve Got to Cover Witten Better Than This

In the second half, it was worse, again with no incompletions for the Cowboys.

Chandler Fenner was completely lost when attempting to cover Bryant out of the slot on 3rd-and-6, resulting in a game-changing 44-yard completion. On this play, Fenner and Demps also missed the tackle after the completion.

Two plays later, Amukamara was beat by Bryant for an easy 17-yard completion.

On the next snap, all of the linebackers bit on the play-action fake and Bowman was beaten by Escobar for a 26-yard touchdown on a very well-thrown pass. Demps, for some reason, did not smash Escobar as he came down with the throw. This 6-play, 93-yard drive put the Cowboys up for good and all of the damage was done on these three plays.

Amukamara continued to have issues with Bryant on other second-half possessions. He gave up a completion of 23 yards in the 3rd quarter. In the 4th quarter, on 3rd-and-8, Bryant beat Amukamara’s jam for a 24-yard completion down to the 1-yard line. Late in the game with the Giants trailing 28-21 and desperately trying to get the ball back, Bryant beat Prince for gains of 10 and 13 yards.

Antrel Rolle was invisible. He’s not playing like he did last year. If he doesn’t turn it around, this may be his last season with the team.

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy

Special teams were not an issue in this game.

Steve Weatherford punted five time, averaging 44.8 yards per punt (39.6 net). Dallas only returned two punts for six yards. All four of Josh Brown’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks as Dallas never returned a kickoff.

Michael Cox returned three kickoffs for 87 yards (29 yards per return) with a long return of 40 yards. Odell Beckham returned two punts for 21 yards, with a long of 13 yards.

In terms of return yardage, the Giants out-gained the Cowboys 108 to 6.

(New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 19, 2014)
Oct 192014
 
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Daniel Fells, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DALLAS COWBOYS 31 – NEW YORK GIANTS 21

The New York Giants dropped their fourth game of the season, and second consecutive divisional game, to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-21. Below are several quick hits and tidbits from the Giant defeat, including stats and post-game notes.

Game Inactives
Dallas Cowboys

  • OLB Bruce Carter
  • DT Davon Coleman
  • DE Jack Crawford
  • OT Doug Free
  • DB Jakar Hamilton
  • OT Donald Hawkins

New York Giants

  • OT James Brewer
  • DT Jay Bromley
  • RB Rashad Jennings
  • OG Brandon Mosley
  • OG Adam Snyder
  • WR Corey Washington

NOTES:

Offense…

  • On the Giants second touchdown, quarterback Eli Manning hit tight end Daniel Fells for a 27-yard touchdown. The touchdown marked the eighth for a Giants tight end this season. The eight scores by the tight ends are the most by the positional group since 2009 when Kevin Boss caught six touchdowns and Darcy Johnson two. If another tight end catches a touchdown pass this season, it will mark the first time in more than two decades that the positional group had nine touchdowns or more.
  • For the third straight game, Eli Manning did not throw an interception. In 2013, Manning threw interceptions in all but three games. It is the first time Manning has gone three games without an interception since 2008.
  • Through the season’s first seven games, Eli Manning has thrown just five interceptions. At this point last year, Manning had thrown 15.
  • After catching just one pass the last two games, Larry Donnell caught seven passes for 90 yards. With Victor Cruz absent, the team used both Preston Parker and Odell Beckham Jr. in the slot.

Defense…

  • Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks versus Dallas. It was his ninth multi-sack performance of his career and his first since Oct. 14, 2012 versus San Francisco.
  • Prince Amukamara and Jacquian Williams led the Giants with seven tackles each.
  • After allowing LeSean McCoy to run for 149 yards a week ago, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 128.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie started the game playing just third downs, but did not play the second half. Amukamara guarded Dez Bryant for the majority of the game. Bryant caught nine passes for 151 yards

Injuries…

  • Giants DT Cullen Jenkins left the game with a leg injury and was seen in a walking boot following the game. The Giants used both Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson in his place.
  • Linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the first half and was taken back to the locker room for x-rays on his injured toe. The x-rays came back negative, but Beason did not return to the game.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul missed a few plays with an unknown injury, but returned to the game.
Oct 192014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Good teams don’t make these plays.

On fourth and one, a good team’s offensive line won’t jump offsides. Trailing by seven in the fourth quarter, a good team’s tight end won’t fumble a ball after picking up a first down deep inside their own territory.

A good team’s tight end won’t fumble again with under a minute to play.

A good team won’t claim a game as a ‘Must Win,’ then get gashed for more than 400 yards on defense, including 156 on ground.

Maybe the New York Giants are what the preseason expectations stated they were: An average, to slightly below average, football team.

Sunday afternoon, the Giants lost their fourth game of the season – second in a row to a divisional opponent – falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-21. The loss dropped New York’s record to 3-4, 1-2 in the NFC East and 2-4 in the conference.

“We had opportunities,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We couldn’t stop them when we had to stop them.”

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the first half, New York looked to be ready for the divisional fight many expected. After Dallas took the lead on a first quarter touchdown pass from Tony Romo to tight end Gavin Escobar, the Giants scored 14 unanswered points.

Quarterback Eli Manning marched the Giants 71 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive off on a nine-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. After a Prince Amukamara interception got the Giants the ball back five plays later, Manning took just one play to get New York back in the endzone.

At the Dallas 27 yard line, Manning rolled out on a play fake and found tight end Daniel Fells for the score. Manning finished 21-of-33 for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the third straight game Manning did not turn the ball over.

But the Giants lead was short lived. On the ensuing possession, Tony Romo hit Terrance Williams for a 18-yard touchdown to tie the game. In the second half, Dallas snapped the 14-14 tie when Romo found Escobar for a 26-yard touchdown past Zack Bowman.

With the Giants down seven, Manning looked to march the team on a game-tying drive, but quickly the one-possession game turned into two. Facing a third and 8, Manning fired a pass over the middle to Larry Donnell.

Daniel Fells, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As Donnell fought forward for the first, the tight end fumbled the ball. Dallas recovered and four plays later, DeMarco Murray ran in from a yard out to put Dallas up, 28-14. After allowing LeSean McCoy to rush for a season-high 149 yards, Murray tallied 128 on the ground against New York.

Murray has now tied an NFL record with seven 100 yard rushing games in a season, and set the NFL record for most 100 yard rushing games to start the year.

With Dallas leading 28-14, Manning marched the Giants 80 yards in 11 plays, taking 3:43 off the clock, before finding Beckham for his second touchdown of the game.

Facing a fourth and goal at the five, Manning hit Beckham on a slant. Beckham finished with four catches four 34 yards and two touchdowns.

With New York back in the game, it turned to its defense to get a stop and give Manning the ball back, but those hopes never materialized. Romo took Dallas on a 10-play drive, eating up 4:29 of the clock. Dan Bailey capped the drive with a 49-yard field goal, putting Dallas up 10 with under a minute to play.

With little hope left, New York fumbled away its final chance when Donnell was stripped for a second time.

New York (3-4) will have a bye next week while Dallas (6-1) will host the Washington Redskins (2-5).

Oct 172014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 19, 2014

After a dismal performance versus Philadelphia, the suddenly silent Giants travel to Dallas to take on the surprising 5-1 Cowboys.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can the defensive line and linebackers contain DeMarco Murray?
Versus the Philadelphia Eagles last week, running back LeSean McCoy made a mockery of the Giants defensive front, crossing the century mark for the first time this season. On Sunday, the Giants will face a running back that has gone over 100 yards in ever game this season. Running behind arguably the best offensive line in football, Murray is putting together the best season of his young career, displaying tremendous vision and explosiveness getting to and through the holes. If New York can’t contain Murray, something no team has been able to do this year, it may be a long day in Dallas.

Second Down
Can Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite play? Can he be effective?
The biggest question surrounding Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t exactly if he’s going to play, but if he’s going to be effective playing. The Giants gave the former first-round pick a massive contract in the offseason to go toe-to-toe with receivers like Dez Bryant during the regular season. But if Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t entirely healthy, he may be as much of a liability as an asset. DRC practiced for the first time all week on Friday, and coach Tom Coughlin and Co. should have gotten a nice look on what exactly he could do on the field. If he can’t go, or is a go at half speed, it may be New York’ s best bet to have Prince Amukamara shadow Bryant.

Third Down
How will Justin Pugh respond?
Last week, Justin Pugh made Connor Barwin look like the second coming of Lawrence Taylor. Then again, nearly everyone that lined up across from Pugh Sunday night looked the same. The second-year pro played the worst game of his football career, per his own admittance, and will surely look to put that game behind him. On Wednesday, Pugh admitted that he has been wearing an elbow brace for the last three weeks, two of which it was covered up with a sleeve. When asked if it will require offseason surgery Pugh said he didn’t know and that the injury was “just something I’m dealing with.” If Pugh isn’t 100 percent, it explains his sudden drop off in production last week. If it’s an injury that’s going to linger, the Giants offensive line could be in trouble.

Fourth Down
Is Odell Beckham Jr. ready?
Just a few short weeks ago, Odell Beckham Jr. was the biggest question mark on the Giants offense. Was the rookie injury prone, a bust, a star, average? After catching four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown in his season debut, everything seemed to be aligning for the Giants. Rueben Randle and Beckham could man the outside, Victor Cruz in the slot. Cruz’s season-ending  injury threw that idea in the trash and now Beckham needs to step up as “The Guy” not “Another guy.” Can the rookie handle it?

BREAKING DOWN DALLAS:

OFFENSEby Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The Cowboys are loaded on offense. The offensive line has three first-round draft picks playing like first-round draft picks. DeMarco Murray is the most dangerous running back in football. Dez Bryant is a top 5 NFL wideout. The ageless Jason Witten has a long history of killing the Giants at tight end. Quarterback Tony Romo is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and still looks like Houdini at times back there when you think he is about to be sacked.

Weakness?
Really, the Cowboys don’t have any glaring weaknesses on offense. If pressed, one can say Murray has been injury-prone and Romo is a long history of choking in big spots. The other receivers outside of Bryant are not world-beaters, but the running game, Bryant, and Witten draw so much attention that guys like Terrance Williams have five touchdowns in 18 catches. Right tackle Doug Free will miss the game, but there shouldn’t be a big drop off between him and back-up Jermey Parnell.

DEFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
The Cowboys defense has been much, much better than expected in 2014, and a lot of that has to do with it’s success stopping the pass. The Dallas secondary has graded out with a positive 17.8 rating from ProFootballFocus and its two cornerbacks are a big reason why. Neither Orlando Scandrick or Sterling Moore have allowed a touchdown this year as the Cowboys have allowed the 12th fewest passing yards per game this season. It’s not great, but compared with how terrible things were a year ago, it’s an improvement.

Weakness? 
Without Sean Lee, the Cowboys have struggled stopping the run this year, allowing an average of 115 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. The Giants offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage and open up running lanes for Peyton Hillis and Andre Williams. The biggest thing the Giants offense can do is keep Tony Romo and Dez Bryant off the field with New York’s secondary – potentially – without Rodgers-Cromartie. Running the ball and controlling the time of possession is the No. 1 way to do that.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Justin Pugh
When Justin Pugh admitted Wednesday he had been “dealing” with an elbow issue, it instantly threw up red flags for me, personally. Sure, everyone in the league is dealing with injuries at this point, but coming off a four-sack let up performance. Pugh may be dealing with it more than he’d like to admit. While the Cowboys haven’t exactly been the best at getting after an opponent’s quarterback – they enter Sunday’s game with just six team sacks – I’ll have my eye on how Pugh handles whomever comes his way.

Eric Kennedy -
Jon Beason
Run defense is about all 11 defenders on the field, but Jon Beason is the man in the middle and it’s his job to get his teammates lined up properly and make plays on Murray. Still struggling with his toe injury, Beason has not played well in the three games he has played this season. Against this particular opponent, the Giants need a monster game out of him both as a run defender and in pass coverage.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – “(The Cowboys) have outstanding team speed, as you know. Their offense has done an outstanding job of controlling the ball, controlling the clock. They’re number one in the league in rushing. They’re scoring 27 and a half points a game, 56 percent on third down. Defense, they’ve played very well. They have outstanding team speed, they run to the ball very well. They do have a nice rotation going. They’re giving up 21 points a game, which is outstanding. Their special teams feature Dan Bailey, who kicked a 56-yard field goal last week. They do an outstanding job with Chris Jones as the punter. The return game with Dwayne Harris is very good and they do have outstanding speed on their coverage teams.”

Jason Garrett - “DeMarco (Murray) is a really good football player and he has been since we drafted him four years ago. I just think we have gotten better and better on the offensive line. We have allocated resources to that position. We have three first-round picks up there. The other guys, Doug Free and Ron Leary, are all playing well together. Our tight ends are blocking, receivers are blocking, fullback is blocking and DeMarco is an awfully good football player, so we made a real commitment to be better in this area and allocated resources to do it. I think we are just seeing the fruits of all that at the start of the season. Obviously, DeMarco is a big part of it.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes - This is one of the more interesting games of the season, more because no teams can come into the game off more different performances. The Dallas Cowboys are fresh off a shocking victory over the Seattle Seahawks on the road, while the Giants are coming off an embarrassing defeat to the Eagles. The Giants could come in dead and demoralized after losing captain Victor Cruz, or hungry and motivated to put last week’s dismantling far behind them. The Cowboys could come in emotionally drained from defeating Seattle, or red-hot knowing they beat the best of the best where they were unbeatable. In my mind, the Victor Cruz loss is going to take it’s toll on the Giants. While he drops may have plagued New York, he was still a game breaker and reliable. He was the most sure thing the Giants had. Now, with Rashad Jennings out, Manning walks to the line with questions across the offensive line, again, a running back that hasn’t proven he can pass protect, a rookie wide receiver, another receiver who hasn’t proven he can be a No. 1 target, a receiver that was building Tiki Huts last year and a tight end who’s caught one pass the last two games. I don’t think that Dallas is all that great and their injuries across the offensive line are cause for concern. But on Sunday, I feel they’ll be the better team, especially if Rodgers-Cromartie can’t go.
Dallas 27 – Giants 13

Eric Kennedy - Screw the prediction. When you put on the “ny”, you are expected to perform and proudly represent the 90-year old flagship franchise. The Giants are rebuilding…and they are hurting…and everyone expects them to lose this game. But as we saw last week, attitude, emotion, and a sense of urgency still can make a difference. Play smart, play physical. Play for your teammates. Bring the pain. Everything else will fall into place.

Jul 092014
 
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Osi Umenyiora and Antonio Pierce, New York Giants (August 21, 2010)

Antonio Pierce – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys will be facing off just a bit earlier than the team’s first scheduled regular season match-up Oct. 19.

This Sunday, on July 13, at 3:00 PM, the ‘Doomsday Defenders’ will face the ‘NYG Hoopsters’ at The Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, New Jersey for a basketball game. The matchup will bring together both past and present Giants’ and Cowboys’ players.

Rosters are still presently being put together, but confirmed athletes dressing up for the ‘Doomsday Defenders’ will be Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones, Kevin Smith, Drew Pearson, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris. Suiting up for the ‘NYG Hoopsters’ will be Antonio Pierce, Jessie Armstead, Stephen Baker, Eric Dorsey and Bennett Jackson.

Following the game, which which runs every two years, players will be made available for an autograph signing session.

For complete information on the game and how to purchase tickets, visit Cowboy Hoops online.