Oct 192005
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Dallas Cowboys 16 – New York Giants 13 (OT)

Game Overview: There were no silver linings from this game. This was a bad loss that could come back to haunt the Giants. The Cowboys tried to give this game away and New York refused to take it.

Offense: I think most of us expected some setbacks for the Giants’ offense, specifically the passing game, but their performance against Dallas was simply dreadful. Consider these facts:

  • The Giants only had 53 offensive snaps.
  • The Giants only picked up three first downs in the first half (and 11 for the game).
  • Seven of the Giants’ 12 offensive drives did not pick up a single first down.
  • Due to the defense, the Giants’ offense started drives at the Dallas 39, New York 47, Dallas 32, and Dallas 31, but came away with only six points on these four possessions.
  • The Giants’ had 15 net passing yards in the first half.
  • Four of the six drives in the second half ended with turnovers.
  • The Giants only really moved the ball in their final two possessions of the game with less than five minutes remaining.

Simply put, the offense was dreadful and lost the game.

Why? It wasn’t the running game. The Giants averaged almost 5 yards per rush on 19 carries. The problem was the passing game. And everyone was at fault here. At times, QB Eli Manning made the wrong decision or an inaccurate throw; at other times the pass protection failed; and at other times the receivers dropped the football, ran poor routes, or couldn’t get open. The coaching staff did not help matters either as they probably should have run the football more. Dallas played much of the game in the nickel in order to put an extra defensive back on the field to guard against TE Jeremy Shockey, who really wasn’t a factor until the second half. The Giants have some wonderful new toys in the passing game, but HB Tiki Barber is a proven performer who can make a difference in both the running and receiving game.

Quarterback: It was going to happen and it happened in a pretty big way. Eli Manning took a major step backwards in this game. Manning was 5-of-12 for 32 yards in the first half and finished the game going 14-of-30 for 215 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Manning continues to focus almost exclusively on Shockey and Burress and he needs to start spreading the football around more. On the Giants’ second drive of the game, he did try to hit WR Amani Toomer deep but the pass was badly off the mark out-of-bounds. Manning was not helped on his next drive but a terrible call (and instant replay review) of what should have been a deep sideline completion to WR Tim Carter. Then on the next play, on 3rd-and-8, Shockey did not get enough depth on his route and dropped Manning’s pass. On the Giants’ final drive of the first half, Manning threw an inaccurate slant pass to Burress. He then just missed Burress deep on a fly pattern on 3rd-and-9.

It was for most of the second half where Manning got really sloppy and looked more confused and/or rattled by the Dallas defense. He threw a terrible interception at the Dallas 1-yard line, taking almost certain points off the board. It was a bad decision (thrown into double coverage) and an even worse throw (nowhere near Burress). Later in the third quarter, his quick screen pass to Shockey was thrown too low. Two plays later, his 3rd-and-12 pass to Shockey was almost intercepted by S Roy Williams (and it might have been returned for a TD). Manning did throw a really nice deep, touch pass to Shockey on the 59-yard pass play in the fourth quarter, but this drive ended with a fumble by Manning after a big hit from DT La’Roi Glover. On the second to last drive of the game for the Giants, Manning found Shockey for 18 yards. But his throw to Burress two plays later should have been intercepted. Manning then threw a very wobbly ball to Tim Carter. On the next play, he abandoned the pocket despite solid pass protection and was forced to throw the ball away by doing so. Manning did remain calm on 4th-and-10 to find Shockey for 14 yards and a first down.

Manning’s best play of the day was obviously the 28-yard pass play to Burress on the last possession where he stepped up into the pocket, spun to avoid a defender, and then quickly reset himself to find Burress. On the very next play, Manning hit a wide-open Shockey for the 24-yard touchdown.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress (5 catches for 55 yards) did not play particularly well. He had problems with CB Anthony Henry. Near the end of the first quarter, he slipped on a slant route and the timing was thrown off on an incomplete pass from Manning. On the next possession, a costly false start on Plaxico turned a 3rd-and-2 into a 3rd-and-7. Manning was sacked on the next play and the Giants were forced to settle for a field goal deep in Dallas territory. Late in the half, on Manning’s deep pass to Burress that was slightly overthrown, I thought Burress could have done a better job of running to the football. In the second half, Burress fumbled the ball away after a 10-yard gain, turning the ball over at the Giants’ 19-yard line. On the Giants’ final possession, Burress should have been able to keep his feet and scored on the play preceding Shockey’s touchdown reception.

Amani Toomer (2 catches for 11 yards) remains an afterthought in this offense. Both of his receptions came in the first half.

Tim Carter (1 catch for 15 yards) was robbed of a deep sideline route where he did an excellent job of keeping his feet in bounds (despite what the officials said). Carter made an excellent catch of low, wobbly pass for a 15-yard gain on New York’s second-to-last drive of the game.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey did not make much noise in the first half as the Cowboys often doubled him with a corner and linebacker. He had no catches in the first two quarters. Jeremy also contributed to a drive ending when he did not run his route deep enough on 3rd-and-8 and then proceeded to drop the pass from Manning upon contact with the defender. However, Shockey was a major factor in the game after intermission as he caught 5 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. The first really big play was his 59-yard catch and run early in the fourth quarter. On the Giants’ second-to-last drive, Shockey caught an 18-yard pass to start the drive, and then kept the possession alive with his clutch 14-yard reception on 4th-and-10. On the final possession, Shockey got wide open and sprinted into the endzone from 24-yards out to send the game into overtime with 19 seconds left in regulation.

Both Shockey and TE Visanthe Shiancoe blocked well for the run. However, Shiancoe did miss a block a tight end screen to Shockey on the play where Shockey couldn’t handle the low throw from Manning. He was also guilty of a false start penalty at a very bad time in the game right after Shockey’s 59-yard catch and run.

Running Backs: I thought FB Jim Finn played a heck of a game in the lead blocking department.

HB Tiki Barber was productive; the problem was that the Giants were unwilling or unable to run him more (the fact that the Giants could not sustain drives kept his touches down). Barber carried the ball 8 times for 32 yards in the first half (a 4.0 yards-per-carry average) and 6 times for 32 times in the second half (a 5.3 yard average). The Giants should try to get Barber more involved in the passing game more. Coughlin did say they attempted two screens.

Derrick Ward looked good in limited work with 3 carries for 15 yards. I liked the way he ran with authority on a 2nd-and-1 play that picked up 8 yards in the first quarter. He later showed an ability to turn the corner with a 5-yard run around left end.

I’m really surprised at how much color commentator Troy Aikman’s comments regarding Brandon Jacobs’ carry on the goal line that resulted in a fumble seems to have impacted the point-of-view of so many fans and media types. Jacobs is THE short-yardage runner on this team. It is a role that he has been VERY successful with all during camp, the preseason, and thus far in the regular season. He made a very good power run on the play where he fumbled. Jacobs made a mistake, but to suggest that he should not have been in the game makes no sense to me at all. That’s why he is on the team.

Offensive Line: The run blocking was solid, but the pass blocking was far too spotty. There were times when Manning did have an excellent pocket to throw, but he was also sacked four times in the game and these sacks (and other pressures) were a major factor in the passing game woes. On the Giants’ first drive of the game, Manning’s pass to Shockey was tipped as LG David Diehl was bull-rushed back into the quarterback. Later in the second quarter, there was a stupid pass blocking scheme that asked Diehl to cross the formation to block DE Greg Ellis on boot leg in that direction – in other words, Diehl had to run farther than the defender to block the man who Manning would also be running towards. Ellis caused Manning to hesitate and OC Shaun O’Hara got beat by DT La’Roi Glover on this 3rd-and-3 play that ended in a 7-yard sack. On the next possession, RT Kareem McKenzie got beat cleanly to the inside by Ellis for a 10-yard sack on 3rd-and-7 at the Dallas 17-yard line.

In the second half, the problems in pass protection continued despite occasions (such as the 59-yard pass play to Shockey) when pass protection was perfect. LT Luke Petitgout was flagged for tripping on a play where he was beaten by LB/DE DeMarcus Ware and Manning was forced to unload the ball early. In the fourth quarter, Ware got a great jump at the snap and ran around Petitgout for a 10-yard sack (Diehl also failed to pick up the blitz on this play). Diehl then gave up two bad pressures that cost the Giants dearly. Glover beat Diehl to pressure Manning and cause him to scramble on a play that Shockey got wide open in the endzone on. On the very next play, Glover beat Diehl again, sacked Manning, and caused a fumble that was returned 37 yards, costing the Giants at least a field goal attempt and changing the field position situation dramatically leading to more points for Dallas. On the next possession, McKenzie was beaten by Ellis again, leading to another incomplete pass by Manning. On the touchdown pass to Shockey, Diehl failed to pick a blitz and Manning was fortunate to get rid of the ball in time.

Kareem McKenzie was flagged with a false start penalty. In the running game, both guards looked sharp when pulling to the opposite side of the formation.

Defense: I may be in the minority, but I feel that the defense played well enough to win the football game. Not great, but well enough to win. And again, I take issue with some of those who seem to be paying too much attention to the commentary from Troy Aikman. One minute, he is saying what a good job the Giants’ defense has done in the game, and the next he is telling the TV audience that the Giants’ defense hasn’t really stopped the Cowboys’ offense, that it is the Cowboys who are shooting themselves in the foot. And for some reason, some folks seem to be parroting that message. Bullcrap. The Giants caused three of the four Dallas turnovers. Dallas had 13 drives in the game and only moved the ball on three of those drives. They had a long, 16-play, 8 minute drive in the second quarter that resulted in a touchdown; a long, 15-play, 9 minute drive in the second half that resulted in a field goal; and an 8-play, 51-yard drive in overtime that resulted in a field goal. The other field goal in regulation was set up by a Giants’ turnover. Basically, the Giants’ defense gave up 10 points in regulation (13 if you count the field goal that came off of the turnover). That is good enough to win most NFL games. More than that, the defense gave the Giants’ offense excellent field position four times (three times in Dallas territory).

Now it is unfortunate that the defense could not make a stand in overtime. But given the fact that the defense was on the field for over 40 minutes in temperatures over 100 degrees on the playing field, it is also somewhat understandable. The major issue still remains getting off the field on 3rd down as the Giants allowed a 56 percent conversion rate (9-of-16). Four of these 3rd down conversions occurred on Dallas’ lone touchdown drive. I give credit to the Cowboy play-calling on two of these…on 3rd-and-4, Dallas crossed the Giants up with a draw and on 3rd-and-1, they crossed New York up with a pass. And there was one run by the Cowboys in the red zone where the Giants were caught off guard by the quick snap, leading to an 8-yard gain down to the 2-yard line. This is something that San Diego did as well and the Giants have to be careful that future opponents do not continue to take advantage of this tardiness (though when Dallas tried this again in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-1, the Giants were ready and stuffed the play).

I was extremely annoyed with one play in particular where WR Keyshawn Johnson caught a short crossing route and turned this into a 15-yard gain on 2nd-and-15 coming off the goal line in the third quarter. There was no Giant defender anywhere near Keyshawn so either someone blew their assignment (such as MLB Antonio Pierce) or the Giants were playing some super-soft zone coverage. This was a really damaging play because it allowed Dallas to continue a field goal drive that went from the Cowboys’ 5-yard line to the New York 11-yard line and took almost 9 minutes off of the clock. As Coughlin said on Monday: “And at some point in time, we have to take responsibility for getting them off the field defensively…We didn’t really give up the big play, although they got the 26-yarder, which put them in field goal range in overtime. Again, not enough concentrated tough, hard-nosed coverage in the underneath areas and even to a certain extent on the outside, which we still have to improve upon.”

Defensive Line: The defensive line played a solid game. Aside from a few runs, the Dallas ground game was pretty much stuffed. The Cowboys only averaged 2.4 yards-per-rush on 38 carries. The pass rush was not real dynamic, but the Giants (3 sacks) had much more success pressuring QB Drew Bledsoe than the Eagles did the previous week.

Michael Strahan (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery) played well both against the run and the pass. Strahan was regularly double-teamed with chip blocks aiding the right tackle. His first sack was very much assisted by a blitz by SS Gibril Wilson. In the second quarter, Strahan picked up his second sack by speeding around the rookie right tackle. In the second half, he got three good pass pressures, including on the 3rd-and-10 incomplete pass by Bledsoe out of the endzone near the end of the fourth quarter. Strahan was flagged with an offsides penalty.

Osi Umenyiora (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) also made an impact. His run defense against a quality run-blocking left tackle was quite good. He stuffed one running play for a 2-yard loss when he was left unblocked. I spotted him getting one good pass rush in the first half. Early in the third quarter, Umenyiora sped around LT Flozell Adams for an 8-yard sack and forced fumble that was recovered by the Giants. In overtime, on Dallas’ first offensive play, Osi got good heat on Bledsoe on a play that was unfortunately completed.

Justin Tuck (2 tackles) played some and made a real nice play in run defense holding the back to no gain.

Defensive tackles William Joseph (5 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Kendrick Clancy (2 tackles) held up well against the run. Joseph made a nice play against the run on Dallas’ first offensive snap by playing down the line and making the tackle. Joseph later caused a holding penalty on a running play that helped to stymie a drive. In the second half, Joseph made two nice plays against the run for no gain. He also did a great job of deflecting away a screen pass on 3rd-and-goal, possibly saving a touchdown. Clancy got a good pass rush on Bledsoe on one play late in the second quarter, and later got heavy pressure on the quarterback on the 2nd-and-goal play preceding Joseph’s deflection. A few plays earlier, Clancy stuffed a HB Anthony Thomas run for no gain.

Reserve tackles Fred Robbins (1 tackle) and Kenderick Allen (1 tackle) also saw a fair amount of playing time. Robbins’ pressure on Bledsoe caused the latter’s deep pass to WR Patrick Crayton to be underthrown and intercepted. (For some reason, the officials chose to ignore the fact that Dallas’ right guard also ripped Robbins’ helmet off on the play). However, Robbins and Allen did get suckered on the key 3rd-and-4 draw play on Dallas’ lone touchdown-scoring drive. Robbins did trip up the running back for no gain on 2nd-and-goal from the 2-yard line.

Linebackers: I thought the most impressive linebacker was WLB Nick Greisen (10 tackles, 1 fumble recovery). Greisen was very active in run defense, making a number of plays right at the line of scrimmage. Early in the second quarter, Greisen also recovered WR Keyshawn Johnson’s fumble and returned it 26 yards, setting up a field goal. In the second half, Greisen got good pressure on Bledsoe on a blitz. Greisen stuffed HB Marion Barber on the 3rd-and-1 play early in the fourth quarter. Late in regulation, Greisen almost tackled Thomas in the endzone for a safety. Greisen came very close to saving the game for the Giants in overtime as he perfectly timed a run blitz that resulted in a 6-yard loss (and almost caused a fumble on the exchange).

MLB Antonio Pierce (6 tackles) and SLB Carlos Emmons (7 tackles) were fairly active, but did not stand out. Emmons did get picked on the well-designed touchdown pass to TE Jason Witten. At the beginning of the third quarter, he got beat by Witten for a 16-yard gain (this is the play where Emmons sprained his ankle).

Pierce tackled Thomas in the backfield for a 2-yard loss in the fourth quarter. But he also was flagged for a 2-yard defensive pass interference penalty on 2nd-and-7 in overtime.

Reggie Torbor recovered the fumble that Umenyiora caused in the third quarter.

Defensive Backs: Not a real strong performance. It is becoming somewhat clear to me that the reason the Giants’ corner may be playing softer is that they (1) lack confidence and/or (2) just are not that good. The good news is that the Giants are not giving up big passing plays. The bad news is that they are getting nickel-and-dimed to death.

Will Allen (2 tackles, 1 forced fumble) played a bad game. Interestingly, the Giants chose to play Allen at right corner for much of the game, matching up with Keyshawn Johnson. This didn’t seem to help matters early on as Allen was beaten on Dallas’ second offensive play for a 21-yard completion. When the Giants went to the nickel, Allen was often covering the slot receiver. Late in the first quarter, Allen was locked up with WR Patrick Crayton on 3rd-and-14. Allen had excellent coverage on Clayton, but as is Allen’s history, the ball somehow passed around his outstretched hand for a big 17-yard completion and a first down. In the second quarter, Johnson beat Allen for 26 yards on 2nd-and-16, but Allen forced Johnson to fumble and the Giants recovered (SS Gibril Wilson was credited with the fumble, but it was Allen who actually caused it). Allen did look good defending a running play to his side in the first half. Unbelievably, Allen screwed up again at the end of the third quarter by not only dropping a sure interception on 2nd-and-14, but his deflection of the ball enabled Johnson to come down with a key catch on a field goal drive that gave Dallas a 4-point lead. Allen’s inability to make a freaking play on the football is beyond ridiculous now.

Except for one drive, I felt that Curtis Deloatch (5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass defenses) acquitted himself pretty well. He played at left corner and gave up an early 18-yard completion to WR Terry Glenn on a deep out. But two plays later, Bledsoe was a tad late on a similar throw to Johnson and Deloatch knocked the pass away. Deloatch later intercepted an underthrown deep pass to Crayton and returned the pick 20 yards. Deloatch was holding up pretty well until the lone Dallas touchdown drive. Curtis had excellent coverage on Johnson on a 3rd-and-3 slant, but the ball was perfectly thrown and Deloatch just missed knocking it away. He later gave up completions of 9 and 10 yards on this drive by playing too soft. In the second half, Deloatch had excellent coverage on a deep pass to Glenn that fell incomplete. He did not give up another reception for the rest of the game until Crayton caught a 10-yard slant on him in overtime (but Deloatch supplied tight coverage on this play).

Corey Webster (1 tackle) was beaten on a slant by Crayton for 9 yards on 3rd-and-5. He also played far too soft on an easy 6-yard completion to Johnson on the touchdown drive. In the fourth quarter, Webster was beaten by Glenn for a 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-6. In overtime, he missed a tackle on Glenn that turned a short pass into a 13-yard gain.

Gibril Wilson (10 tackles) was obviously active in bringing down ball-carriers. He did miss a tackle on a 12-yard run by HB Anthony Thomas in the first quarter. But later in this drive, his blitz up the middle helped to cause Strahan’s first sack of the game. Wilson missed another tackle on Glenn on a short pass that turned a 2nd-and-8 into a 3rd-and-1 on the Cowboys’ touchdown drive. On the very next play, he got beat by Glenn for a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-1. In the second half, I was impressed with his run force on one play, but he later missed a tackle on the back in the backfield on a play that picked up three yards.

I have officially had it with Brent Alexander (3 tackles). On the play where Jason Witten was left wide open for an easy 15-yard touchdown, but the play was fortunately called back, I suspect it was Alexander who failed to spot Witten’s ploy of falling to the ground on an “attempted” block and then getting up to catch the pass. It was either him or Pierce and my best guess is that it was Alexander. Later in the fourth quarter, Alexander badly missed a tackle on HB Marion Barber that picked up 8 yards. Then in overtime, the play that killed the Giants was Alexander getting beaten badly by Witten for 26 yards. Instead of staying with his assignment, Alexander moved up to cover Johnson. “I should have just kept playing it, stayed back, took it away and made him drop it off into the flat,” said Alexander. When unathletic, aging, veteran safety starts making severe mental mistakes that costs football games, it is time to go in other direction.

Shaun Williams (1 tackle) got good heat on Bledsoe on a safety blitz on the play where Allen dropped a sure interception and Johnson caught the ball.

Special Teams: I thought the special teams played OK, but I was not as excited about their play as Coughlin was. Willie Ponder has not been able to break a bigger return since his 41-yarder against San Diego. Worse, against the Cowboys, he badly muffed a ball out-of-bounds that caused the Giants to start one drive at their own 7-yard line. His other three returns went for 31, 21, and 26 yards.

Chad Morton did not return a punt (he had his first fair catch of the season). Morton has not broken a big return since the opener.

Jeff Feagles punted 5 times for a 42.4 yard average, including four inside the 20-yard line. Punt coverage was mostly solid with David Tyree down in a hurry against double-team blocking. Making tackles on punts were Chase Blackburn (after a 3-yard return) and James Butler (6-yard return). However, the Giants were fortunate that Dallas blocked Tyree in the back on one big return where Reggie Torbor missed a tackle.

Kickoff coverage was solid. Dallas only average 20 yards per return on five kickoff returns. Making tackles were Justin Tuck (2), Gibril Wilson, Reggie Torbor, and Shaun Williams.

Tuck also made a big play by blocking Dallas’ 49-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 16, 2005)
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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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