Dec 202000
 
New York Giants 17 – Dallas Cowboys 13

Game Overview: The Giants were very fortunate to come away with a win against an inferior opponent in a critical game. If the G-Men intend to earn a bye week and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, they are going to have to start playing a lot better on offense. For whatever reason, the Giants’ running game has sputtered the last couple of weeks – particularly when Ron Dayne carries the ball. And QB Kerry Collins played his worst game of the year a week after playing his best. The offensive line hasn’t played very well the past two weeks either. Collins, Dayne, and the offensive line – they all must get better quick or the Giants won’t be around long in the playoffs.

The good news coming out of the game was that the defense continued to play extremely well, especially in defending the running game. DE Michael Strahan is re-emerging and MLB Mike Barrow and FS Shaun Williams are fast becoming impact players on the defensive side of the ball. DT Keith Hamilton also continued to show why he got robbed of a Pro Bowl spot. The best news was that the Giants finally overcame a halftime and 4th quarter deficit to win a game. Trailing 13-0 late in the third quarter, the Giants looked like they were on the verge of blowing a great opportunity. But the team did not let up and found a way to win. This type of game – a come-from-behind win – could prove a valuable learning experience for future playoff games.

Coaching: Offensively, I wasn’t crazy about the game plan. As I said in my game preview, I thought it would be foolish for the Giants to challenge Dallas too often on the perimeter due to their superior team speed on defense. The 3rd-and-8 sweep with Ron Dixon when the Giants were driving on their first drive was a perfect example – I didn’t like that call against this defense. The Dallas linebackers were simply too quick for the Giants’ blockers on most outside runs all night. However, the Giants’ coaches were hampered by the fact that Ron Dayne is not running the ball very aggressively and because Kerry Collins was as out of sync as you will ever see an NFL quarterback. I also didn’t particularly like the fact that the Giants ran the ball twice in a row both times after the turnovers deep in Dallas territory in the third quarter. I would have taken a shot at the end zone immediately after each.

Defensively, John Fox proved that my suggestion to lay back and confuse QB Anthony Wright the wrong one. The Giants tried this approach in the first half, but Wright did not make the dumb play and with the extra time in the pocket, made some nice throws. In the first half, Wright went 7-of-11 for 79 yards and was not sacked. In the second half, the Giants came after him and that’s when he began to become unraveled. Dallas only gained 27 yards in the second half. Wright was 6-of-14 and was sacked five times.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (12-of-26 for 140 yards, one touchdown, one interception) was terrible. I think this was the worst I’ve seen him play. Strange, because he was coming off of his best performance and he started the first drive fairly strongly – until he missed a wide open Ike Hilliard deep. Up until that point, he was 4-of-4 with sharp completions to Amani Toomer, Howard Cross, Greg Comella, and Toomer again.

After that, Kerry was just plain awful. His accuracy was way off – if he wasn’t throwing high, he was throwing wide. A few passes were thrown so badly that they landed well out-of-bounds (these were not throw-aways). He badly missed a wide open Ike Hilliard for a touchdown on the first drive as the ball sailed off the field. Collins, and the entire passing offense, was out of sync the entire night. Kerry never looked comfortable in the pocket, even when he did have time. He rushed his throws, threw with bad technique (rarely set his feet), and looked flustered. He also made bad decisions. Kerry never should have tried to force the ball on his interception in the endzone – he should have taken the sack and taken the three points. He should have thrown the ball away deep in his own territory instead of taken the 14-yard sack that forced Brad Maynard to punt from his endzone. The big thing that worries me with Collins now is not the turnovers, but the way he gets flustered when the opposing team gets any kind of significant pass pressure on him. If Kerry does not learn to play with more mental toughness in the pocket, then he will never get the Giants to a Superbowl because playoff teams usually have very good defenses with strong pass rushes.

Thankfully, Collins did save one of his few good passes of the night on his 33-yard strike to Toomer on 3rd-and-6 for the Giants’ first touchdown late in the third quarter. This was a perfectly thrown pass where Kerry finally demonstrated some accuracy on a deep throw.

Wide Receivers: Tough to judge because of Kerry’s poor accuracy. It looked like they were open quite a bit most of the night, but Collins just couldn’t get the ball to them. The production certainly wasn’t there. Toomer (3 catches for 58 yards) made the big play with his long TD grab. He also made a nice catch on the Giants’ opening drive despite tight coverage. WR Ike Hilliard (1 catch for 7 yards) did not help out Collins with another bad drop on one of Collins’ few strong passes of the night right before halftime. Ron Dixon (no catches) got open on a route for a first down, but Kerry missed him badly. The wide receivers did do a good job of blocking down the field both on running and screen plays.

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell (2 catches for 12 yards) is being looked to more and that is good, but he also couldn’t bring in a Collins’ pass on 3rd down (while this would have been a tough catch, it was certainly the type of reception that Pete usually makes). He also almost fumbled the ball away after his last catch. Surprise, Howard Cross (1 catch for 9 yards) picked up a first down with a reception on 3rd-and-8 on the first drive. The blocking was sporadic. For the second week in a row, I saw Dan Campbell having problems making the block on the linebacker on an outside run.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne (8 carries for 19 yards) is not getting it done. He looks sluggish, indecisive, and looks like he is running with his head down. He is not hitting the hole quickly or with power – choosing rather to try to make some sort of move to the outside when he sees bodies at the point of attack. This is not the strength of his game. Ron needs to get back to basics and simply attack the defense. Don’t try to make a big play on each carry; just pick up the 3-4 yards if nothing else is there. Whether he’s hitting that “freshman wall” (rookies are not used to the long NFL season), the Giants are telegraphing the plays when he is in the game, he is not receiving the blocking up front, the Giants are not calling the right plays with him in there or not allowing him to get into a flow, or if he not running well, the truth of the matter is that when he is carrying the ball right now, the Giants are getting little out of that play and find themselves in 2nd- or 3rd-and-long. I think it’s time for the coaching staff to simplify things for Ron and allow him to run those plays that he is best at. But at the same time, Ron has to take it upon himself to run with the same type of pride and power that he did at the University of Wisconsin. The Giants can ill-afford another sub-standard performance from Dayne.

Tiki Barber (20 carries for 80 yards; 4 receptions for 47 yards) was the one offensive bright spot of the night. I was particularly impressed with his work after the catch on two screen passes where he demonstrated fine running instincts after the catch and broke both plays for sizable yardage. His 13-yard TD run after Emmanuel McDaniel’s interception was an excellent display of speed when the original hole was bottled up inside and Tiki and FB Greg Comella decided to take the play outside. Comella showed good power and toughness on his seven yard catch-and-run.

Offensive Line: Not a real strong game. LT Lomas Brown had problems even in pass protection – especially against DE Ebenezer Ekuban. But I also spotted him getting beat to the inside even after Ekuban was tossed from the game. Brown also did not sustain very well on his run blocks. LG Jason Whittle has good quickness, but he didn’t sustain very well on some of his blocks and was flagged with a false start. RG Ron Stone got beat cleanly on one pass play early in the game where there was a jail break on Collins (on the same play OC Dusty Zeigler was shoved right back into Collins’ face). Luke Petitgout was flagged with a false start penalty. The pass protection was sub-par as was the run blocking. There were never any big holes for Barber or Dayne to operate with – though they did a better job late in the game when the Giants drove for their final points on the field goal drive.

Defensive Line: Except for a couple of Emmitt Smith runs early in the game, this unit did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage against a very big and talented offensive line. Smith’s biggest gain came on their first drive – a 15 yard jaunt against the right side of the defense. He later had an 11-yard burst on Dallas’ first field goal drive against the left side – but after that, he didn’t do much at all. He was completely shut down in the second half of the game and finished with only 46 yards on 24 carries. Much of the credit must go to the defensive line: DE Michael Strahan (6 tackles, 2.5 sacks), DT Keith Hamilton (5 tackles, 1.5 sacks), DT Christian Peter (1 tackle), DT/DE Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles), and DE Cedric Jones (2 tackles). All remained stout at the point of attack and allowed the linebackers in particular to make penetration and disrupt the running plays. Griffin made a great play on the 3rd-and-1 quarterback sneak right before Dallas’ last 4th-and-1 gasp. He tripped up Wright before he could get to the first down.

The pass rush was lacking in the first half as LG Larry Allen and RT Erik Williams were doing a number on Hamilton and Strahan, respectively. However, in the second half, the Giants were able to create some match-ups where they got Hamilton over OC Ben Fricke and Strahan matched-up on the opposing tight ends. This caused all kinds of problems for the Dallas protection schemes and Hamilton and Strahan combined for 4 sacks between them (though one of Strahan’s sacks did come at the expense of Williams). Christian Peter was flagged with a late hit penalty on the quarterback.

Linebackers: A very strong game from all three starters. MLB Mike Barrow (11 tackles) was all over the field and was found at the bottom of many piles at or behind the line of scrimmage against Emmitt Smith. He did a great job of reading the play and shooting the gaps. He also did a nice job in coverage except for one holding penalty. He forced Wright to run right into Armstead on his blitz up the gut in the third quarter. Barrow was a great off-season addition by the Giants.

WLB Jessie Armstead (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) was also all over the field. He too was at the bottom of the pile of many Smith rushing attempts. He also made the play on Michael Wiley’s 4th-and-1 attempt at the end of the game. Jessie did a great job of timing one blitz where he shot up the middle and nailed Wright for a sack. On the negative side, he missed a tackle on TE Jackie Harris.

SLB Ryan Phillips (4 tackles) was tough to move out on running plays and he made a real strong play in coverage despite being lined up outside on TE Jackie Harris.

Defensive Backs: Not a real strong performance by CB Jason Sehorn (1 tackle) again. Sehorn was guilty of not only getting beat on Dallas’ longest pass play of the night (a 30 yard catch-and-run by James McKnight), but he also missed the tackle. He later got flagged with a long pass interference penalty (29 yards) – just like last week. Once again, he gave up a step to his man and in an effort to catch up to the receiver, didn’t look back for the ball and ran into the receiver for the penalty. The Giants have a tough decision on Sehorn in the offseason with him being an unrestricted free agent. I wouldn’t give up the moon for him – he’s not the same player he was.

The announcers kept talking about the Cowboys going after Dave Thomas (3 tackles), but I thought they did a better job of going at Sehorn. Thomas did give up a couple of receptions in front of him, but they were not big plays. He did a good job of defending a deep pass into the endzone. His defensive holding penalty on 3rd down was a bad call. But he was called with a legitimate roughing the passer penalty.

Nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel (2 tackles, 1 interception) made the play of the game with his interception of Wright deep in Cowboy territory. McDaniel did a great job of reading the route and stepping in front of the receiver for the pick. This play set up the Giants’ go-ahead touchdown in the 4th quarter.

SS Sam Garnes (4 tackles) was strong in run support (though he did miss one tackle on Smith’s second best run of the night). The guy in the secondary who really stood out again was FS Shaun Williams (2 tackles). Williams was very aggressive in run support, disrupting the blocking on many Smith carries. He also knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage on a blitz. He’s starting to remind me more and more of Darren Woodson. If he continues to improve at this pace, the Giants may have found themselves another impact player on defense.

Special Teams: The kicking game was a disaster. P Brad Maynard was just terrible, especially on his coffin corner work. He got off three sub-30 yard efforts, including an 8-yarder. That’s not acceptable. PK Brad Daluiso had one field goal attempt blocked and missed a 40-yarder. Both could have been huge in deciding the outcome of the game. His 44-yarder at the end of the game was clutch however. PK Jaret Holmes did a better job on kickoffs, but was not overly impressive. His first kickoff lacked height; the second was better.

The good news is that both punt and kick coverage was strong. Jack Golden recovered a fumble that Damon Washington caused on the opening kickoff of the second half. Shaun Williams also made a nice play in coverage. The Giants did a good job of setting up the blocking wall on Barber’s 25-yard punt return right before Collins’ bomb to Toomer. Dixon had one good return where he brought ball past the 40 yard line.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, December 17, 2000)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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