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Dallas Cowboys 35 – New York Giants 17
For the fourth time in five years, Big Blue traveled to Dallas to kick off the regular season. That in and of itself is exceptionally odd but that can be a discussion for another time. The Giants changed their culture and roster nearly as much as any organization in pro football. Gone is arguably the top play-maker in franchise history, gone is arguably their top pass rusher, and in comes a real offensive line and surrounding cast who supports the kind of team that can revolve around their generational talent at running back, Saquon Barkley. This season has a fresh new feel to it and week 1 was as anticipated as its been in awhile.
That anticipation and dare-I-say optimism was rewarded early. The Giants forced a DAL punt on the first drive and proceeded to march down the field and get in the end zone via just 7 plays. The main-gain was a 59-yard run by Barkley through a wide open hole and speedy scamper down the left sideline. Manning hit Evan Engram for a 1-yard score that gave NYG their first, and last, lead of the game, 7-0.
DAL had a dominant offensive day and the warning signs were present on the very next drive. They converted two straight 3rd-and-4’s via the passing game near or inside the hashmarks, a glaring hole that was exposed all day in the NYG swiss-cheese defense. Dak Prescott hit tight end Blake Jarwin up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown without a defender anywhere near him. The Giants have had issues covering the position for years and most in particular against DAL. Let’s not forget that Jarwin was the no-namer last year that scored 3 touchdowns against NYG in week 17. Funny how some things simply do not change.
The refs didn’t do NYG any favors in this one and perhaps the biggest miss was an intentional grounding called on Eli Manning on the following drive. Manning was clearly hit while throwing by the untouched blitzing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which prevented the ball from reaching the line of scrimmage. This penalty took NYG out of field goal range and forced a punt.
DAL opened the 2nd quarter with a 9-play drive that saw Prescott go 7/7 – 95 yards – with a touchdown to Jason Witten. No you aren’t reading a repeat game review from years ago. The 2018 Monday Night Football announcer, in his first game back from retirement, scored his 16th career touchdown against NYG. He doesn’t have 10 total against any other team in the NFL. DAL took a 14-7 lead and they were just getting started. NYG went 3-and-out on the next drive before DAL put together a 13-play, 6:43-game clock drive that ended in Prescott’s third touchdown of the game, this time to Amari Cooper who burned rookie Deandre Baker. All of the sudden halftime was here, DAL was up 14 after having the ball for nearly twice as long as NYG.
The Giants began the second half with the ball and crossed midfield quickly. They were faced with a 4th-and-8 and contrary to what Pat Shurmur opted for in the past, they went for it. That resulted in a conversion via a nice pitch-and-catch to Bennie Fowler but they were unable to create much more. Aldrick Rosas came on to nail his first field goal of the year, a 28-yarder to make the score 21-10.
NYG defense needed to show they could make the halftime adjustment and set the tone. The result? A 45-yard pass to Amari Cooper. A 5-yard run by Ezekiel Elliot. A 25-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that looked like a practice play on air. “On air” means no defense on the field. Nobody even looked at Cobb running his route up the middle of the field, let alone tried to cover him.
NYG was down by 18, albeit with plenty of time on the clock. They made it to the DAL 8 yard line and it was 3rd-and-2. At this point they were in a go-for-the-touchdown mode no matter what. The play call on 3rd-and-2 was a run to fullback Elijhaa Penny. They gained 1 yard. The 4th-and-1 call was a rollout passing play that resulted in Manning not getting rid of the ball, trying to juke 3 DAL defenders, and getting sacked while fumbling the ball. Barkley didn’t touch the ball on either play.
DAL starting deep in their own territory (89 yards away from the end zone), needed just 7 plays to put another 7 points on the board. Deeply aided by a 62-yard pass to WR Michael Gallup, up the middle yet again, Elliot dragged two NYG defenders into the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run. It was 35-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The two teams traded a few possessions after that without anything noteworthy taking place. The Giants scored a touchdown via a Wayne Gallman 2-yard run in the classic too-little, too-late situation. Daniel Jones then got his first NFL regular season action on their next drive. He completed 3-of-4 attempts before scrambling and fumbling, a reoccurring theme we saw out of him in preseason. DAL re-took the ball and confirmed their win.
Giants lose 35-17.
- Eli Manning: 30/44 – 306 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Manning also lost a fumble on a 4th-and-1 passing attempt, a turnover either way. Manning’s overall performance was not a poor one. He protected the ball and made a few big-time throws to both the intermediate and deep levels. He was sacked just once in this one and for the most part, had a pretty clean pocket to work with. The issues with Manning may not have been obvious in the initial look, but after watching this again he made a few major mistakes. When NYG was down 28-10, there was just a crack-in-the-door left in terms of hope. On that drive, Manning was about to have Barkley run past safety Xavier Woods with no safety help over the top. It would have been an easy, long touchdown pass. Instead, Manning got rid of it too fast and ended up hitting Barkley in the back. Later in the drive, Manning had a 4th-and-1 play-action rollout where there was nothing to lose. The initial read was Sterling Shepard, who was running along the goal line more than open enough. Manning hesitated, again, and held onto the ball with multiple DAL defenders closing in on him. The cement-footed QB did his best version of a juke but it resulted in a sack-fumble. A turnover. He has to know by now that in a situation where you are down 18 in the second half and you are that close to the end zone, you have to throw it. Even a blind, toss-it-up-and-hope-for-the-best throw would have been better than holding onto it. Manning’s reaction time, his sluggish movement on long-developing screen plays, and underlying fear to make things happen are going to get him on the bench at some point.
- Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 120 yards – 4 rec / 19 yards. Barkley averaged 11 yards per carry, including a 59-yard highlight-reel play on the first drive. His vision, grit, and balance stood out in this one. He did fumble on the first touch of the game, the first fumble of his career, but luckily it did not result in a turnover. Barkley wasn’t used enough and Manning’s misread on the pass that hit him in the back would have likely ended in a long touchdown. More on this team misusing him later on.
- Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 17 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 24 yards. Gallman picked up some garbage stats when DAL was up 35-10 in the 4th quarter. Still a solid showing for the underrated backup.
- Cody Latimer: 3 rec / 74 yards. Latimer was on the receiving end of the longest, and second-longest passing gains of the game for the Giants. His one-handed reception at the beginning of the first half that resulted in 43 yards was yet another reminder that there is something here that NYG has to exploit. The triangle numbers are there and his ball skills continue to improve. At some point, the eyebrow-raising ball skills and propensity to finish need credit. And by credit, I mean a more consistent dosage of opportunities. He was also interfered with twice but the refs opted to keep the flag in their pants
- Sterling Shepard and Bennie Fowler combined for 11 rec / 84 yards. Fowler made arguably the nicest catch of the night on 4th-and-8 where he fully extended up and out while approaching the sideline, and was able to tap both feet in bounds as he completed the dive towards the ground.
- Evan Engram: 11 rec / 116 yards / 1 TD. There has been chatter revolving around Engram taking over the #1 pass-catcher role in this offense with Beckham out of the picture. If week 1 is the indicator, be ready for a top-3 season at the position in the NFL. Engram was targeted 14 times on all levels and he looks just as explosive as he ever has. He also made the key block on Barkley’s 59-yard run in the first quarter.
- Rhett Ellison and Eric Tomlinson played sparingly, with Ellison still holding onto the main number-2 TE role. He made a few nice inside blocks on the move to spring Barkley free from the initial trash at the point-of-attack. Otherwise, a quiet game.
- Overall, the increase in overall quality of the group was apparent from the beginning. The left side was solid in the run game especially. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez were powerful and effective off the snap. Hernandez got flagged for a hold (the interior pass rush again) but Solder kept the blindside under control for the most part besides one pressure where he lost his balance.
- Jon Halapio has been highly-touted by Pat Shurmur, a former center himself, for a couple years now. And besides one pressure from a very unorthodox stunt where DE DeMarcus Lawrence looped all the way to the center of the line, he was dominant. Halapio was clearing inside running lanes by himself and perhaps the most impressive block of the entire game came from him 10+ yards downfield near the sideline on a screen-type pass to Engram. He tossed his man multiple yards into the air, which allowed another few yards of gain. He was the highest-graded NYG lineman.
- The right side was solid inside with Kevin Zeitler, not so much outside with Mike Remmers. The latter allowed 2 pressures, was blown up twice in the running game that ended up causing TFLs, and was flagged for a false start.
- The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence is a group to get excited about when it comes to run defense. They occupied multiple blockers all game and they did their part in keeping Ezekiel Elliot under wraps (4.1 yards per carry is under his 4.7 career average). But one thing about the three of them, they didn’t make plays and I wouldn’t expect much more out of them. Hill did break through the line a few times. The trio combined for 7 tackles, 0 pressures, 0 sacks.
- Olsen Pierre actually played two more snaps than Lawrence. That is likely a result of him knowing the scheme a bit more and he can offer more as a pass rusher. At the same time, perhaps Lawrence hasn’t quite yet earned it or his lack of conditioning is still an issue? Pierre and fellow backup R.J. McIntosh were quiet for the most part.
- Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter saw the most snaps off the edge. Carter recorded 1 pressure and broke up a pass downfield but was otherwise quiet. Golden saw nearly 80% of the snaps so he was on the field, but he may as well been on the sideline. His attempts at rushing the passer were, to be kind, rusty.
- Rookie Oshane Ximines saw a decent amount of action in is NFL debut, as Kareem Martin left the game with a knee injury. Ximines got violently introduced to the league by Tyron Smith, who remains in the discussion for the top OT in football. Ximines showed some fight, however, which was nice to see. He lost outside contain on a 3rd-down rushing play, as he just wasn’t able to recover after being fooled by misdirection. It resulted in a first down.
- Maybe Alec Ogletree is still hurt? Maybe he is rusty from all of the practice and preseason action he missed? But the perennial up-and-down player was downright awful in this one. Stats aside (6 tackles and a PD), Ogletree was downright abused by play-action. For the leader of the defense, he sure seemed like he had no idea what DAL was trying to do nor did he show any awareness or reaction to what was going on around him.
- I like how they swapped Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly in and out. I’m not going to call for a lineup change right now, but those two were the best LBs that NYG had on the field in this one. Davis had 3 tackles and a pressure but still makes aggressive mistakes. I would still rather live with those than the other way around, though. Connelly finished with 2 tackles and a TFL, with the TFL being arguably the best defensive play of the night stemming from instincts, reaction, and closing ability.
- Janoris Jenkins was probably the top NYG defender on the night. He had 5 tackles (3 of which were against the run) and DAL rarely looked his way when passing.
- The reason for that? Antonio Hamilton and rookie Deandre Baker were on the field. They were absolutely toyed with, torched, beaten…whatever else you want to throw in there…all night. It was ugly and it never got better and there weren’t any positives that came from it. Hamilton was being targeted nearly-non stop but he also missed 3 tackles. One of which was on a 3rd-and-9 pass to Randall Cobb five yards shy of the first down marker. Hamilton had Cobb in front of him, sideline next to him, both hands on, and Cobb barely had to try to get right past him and past the marker. DAL scored a touchdown on the next play to make the score 14-7.
- Grant Haley, the nickel, was just a hair too late on several occasions no matter where the ball was thrown. The nickel spot is as important as any DB position on the field these days and his feel-good, UDFA-story is wearing off. He isn’t making plays.
- A sore spot on this defense for a while now. Week 1 didn’t seem any better and if anything, it may have been even worse than what we saw last year. Antoine Bethea has had an overly-impressive career. But the 35-year old who the 20th-ranked IND defense didn’t want after 2013, the 32nd-ranked SF defense didn’t want after 2016, and the 20th-ranked ARI defense didn’t want after 2018 is now starting for NYG. He was fooled, very badly, nearly every time DAL showed misdirection. The play-action fakes had him running in the wrong direction as wide open pass catchers (both tight ends and wide receivers alike) trotted right by him almost as if it was a joke. The worst play of the night was the 62-yard gain to WR Michael Gallup via a short slant pass where Bethea took an awful angle to the action but was still within a yard or two of Gallup when he caught the ball. He simply didn’t have the twitch to just touch him, let alone make a tackle. It was atrocious.
- Jabrill Peppers and Michael Thomas won’t escape this without blame. They too looked overly stiff and out of position. They are both aggressive, physical defenders but neither showed the ability to forecast and react. By the time they knew what DAL was doing, by the time they were actually moving in the right direction, it was too late. You can be sure future opponents are going to watch this game tape and salivate over their inability to read-and-react.
- K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 28) – 2/2 XP.
- P Riley Dixon: 4 punts – 41.5 avg – 41.5 net – 3 inside 20
- RB Saquon Barkley, OC Jon Halapio, TE Evan Engram
- S Antoine Bethea, CB Antonio Hamilton, EDGE Markus Golden
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
- Michael Gallup. The number 1 graded WR on my draft board in 2018. The WR who I said will out-produce Amari Cooper in the coming years starting right now. Be afraid of this kid, guys. His combination of speed, agility/looseness, ball skills, and knack for special awareness can make him a household NFL name.
- Should they pay Dak Prescott? Or do they have possibly the best possible situation around him that makes him seem better than he really is? I think a valid argument can be made either way but the truth is simple. This team is 32-16 with him as the starter and there isn’t a position in football that messes with team chemistry more than QB. Maybe Zeke is more responsible for their and his success than anything, maybe it is the OL, maybe it is the improving young defense. But messing around with QB could damn then for a long time. Pay him.
- Pretty quiet night for the DAL pass rush. I think that is still the question with this team and whether or not they can make a big push in the postseason. DeMarcus Lawrence is legit, but who else is getting through a quality offensive line? At this moment in time, I don’t see that guy yet. And they won’t be able to purchase anyone in the near future.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- 158.3 – The perfect passer rating. The Giants defense was fully healthy. They had two new safeties. They had a 1st-round pick at corner and a 1st-round pick at DT. They contained the running game for the most part. However Dak Prescott put together one of the best passing performances, maybe even THE best, in DAL franchise history. There are bad games and every defense is allowed to have them. But “bad” doesn’t do just how poor this was. It was an embarrassment and to be honest, DAL shot themselves in the foot via penalties by OG Zack Martin (who rarely commits penalties) and drops. This could have been so much worse, if you have the stomach to imagine that.
- 3rd-and1. 3rd-and-2. 4th-and-1. Three situations where NYG was losing and the game was starting to slip out of their grasp. Saquon Barkley, whom ended up averaging over 10 yards per carry (best in the NFL week 1 for backs with 7+ touches), Saquon Barkley, whom is a “generational talent”, Saquon Barkley, whom has this offense built around, did not touch the ball on any of those plays. Two passes and a hand off to the fullback. Those 3 plays resulted in a gain of 1 yard and a turnover. I can understand and respect that you can’t be too predictable, that you need to put other things on tape. But when your struggling offense needs to make things happen and your best player is literally dominating every time he touches the ball, give him the ball. “Keep it simple, stupid.”
- You can’t think of many worse ways to start off a year but at least the offense showed the ability to make some plays. Barkley, Engram, and Latimer raised a few eyebrows. The offensive line was stout and consistent. The ship isn’t completely broken but the defensive side of it needs to at least look like a pro unit against BUF next week at home. If something like this happens against Josh Allen and company, let’s start talking 2020 NFL Draft.