On Sunday we all were witness to Fox's "America's Game of the Week", a prime time week 1 rematch between NFC East rivals the New York Giants, and the Dallas Cowboys. In week 1 the 'Boys opened some eyes going into Met Life Stadium, and defeating the defending champions in convincing fashion. However the weeks following that match up painted two totally different pictures of what we thought of these teams. The Giants (6-2) have been one of the league's best, while the Cowboys (3-4) have struggled to stay consistent at any phase of their game. So when these two took the same field Sunday in Dallas, no one knew what to expect. The Giant's won 29-24, but the moments in between made for some heart pounding, and nerve racking Television.
If your looking at the photo above of Eli Manning with that concerned look on his face, you may be wondering why if you didn't catch the game. Well that's because despite the win, the offense didn't click like we thought they would in this Week 8 match up. Just like in Week 1 the Cowboys defense made it tough for the passing, and rushing attack to get going for the G Men. Eli had to deal not only with pretty solid man coverage from the Cowboy's secondary, but also some great defensive line play from his NFC East rivals as well. He wasn't able to get into a rhythm all game, on 3rd down the Giants were a dreadful 3-15 and in the red zone the Giants continued to struggle all game being 1-4 (25%) in that area. Manning finished the day with 15/29 completions, 192 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The offense was never in charge the entire game, and if not for the total team effort (special teams, defense) things could have been worse for Eli & Co.
However the blame isn't all on Manning for the offensive woes. His star receivers Hakeem Nicks, and Victor Cruz struggled against the Cowboy secondary. They could not get clean releases while running their routes, and suffered from some timely drops that killed momentum. Nicks who still isn't 100% in terms of his health (Knee, Foot issues) wasn't really a factor with only 4 receptions, and 48 yards. The biggest surprise however was Victor Cruz's inability to make the big plays he is known for. Cruz was basically shut down in big part to corner back Brandon Carr, he finished with only 2 receptions, and 23 yards. Rookie receiver Rueben Randle had only 2 receptions, but made them count totaling 78 yards (long of 58 yards).
Despite the offense struggles the rushing attack made sure to at least put points on the board with a 1 yard, Andre Brown (3 carries, 21 yards) touchdown run. Ahmad Bradshaw finished the day with 22 carries, and 78 yards. He also wasn't able to find the endzone, which snapped his three game streak with a score. The star of today's game in terms of offense however was non other than kicker Lawrence Tynes. If you're laughing at the idea of that then you should check the numbers. Tynes has been one of the most proven kickers in the NFL his entire career, and proved himself again putting up 17 points (5/5 FG, 2/2 extra pts) to help his team win. He was the leading scorer Sunday, and without his consistency this game would have ended differently.
Oh Tony Romo, how you love to play games with the minds of millions. Romo has to be the most erratic player in the NFL today. On any given day he'll look like the second coming of Troy Aikman, or the worst thing to happen to Cowboy's football. In the first half of this game he looked like the second description throwing 3 interceptions (one a pick-six), and looked as dreadful as any player could look at the quarterback position. He was under pressure the entire first half thanks to some shaky line offensive line play, and he missed key throws due to his own shaky play. However in the second half, Romo tried to pull of his best Aikman impersonation by bringing his team back from the first half 23 point deficit that the Giants held. Romo finished his day with 36/62 completions, 437 yards, 1 touchdown, and 4 interceptions.
If not for the finger tips of receiver Dez Bryant (5 receptions, 110 yards) touching the back line of the End Zone, Romo would have connected with Bryant on a 37 yard pass, with less than 10 seconds left to overcome one of the worst first half performances of his career, and turned it into a 4th QTR gem. That play would be the highlight of his career, erasing most of the doubt of him coming through in the clutch moments. Instead it wasn't as Romo suffered another interception, and at the end threw the ball out of bounds as the last seconds expired. Despite the issues the other top receiving options for Romo still had good games as Miles Austin finished with 9 receptions, and 133 yards. Jason Witten finished with 18 receptions (Cowboy's Franchise record), and 167 yards. Witten was the go to guy for the Cowboys as he continued to make timely receptions, putting the Cowboys in scoring position many times.
The rushing attack surely missed starting back Demarco Murray who is out due to injury. Felix Jones had 13 carries, with 19 yards, and 1 touchdown. However he also had a key late second half fumble that helped the Giants further their lead. This offense is has many issues starting from the top, and going down to the bottom. If things don't get fixed shortly we could be looking at some major changes coming their way in the Cowboy's coaching staff.
In the first half of this game we were witnessing one of the truly dominant performance by this defense. Not only did the defensive line dominate the Cowboy's offensive line, but this defense also pressured Tony Romo into throwing 3 first half interceptions, one being a pick-six by defense-end Jason Pierre Paul (3 tackles, 1 sack). They also had a big forced fumble on Dez Bryant, as he tried to return a Punt in the earlier parts of the game. Due to their takeaways the Giants had a 23-10 lead going into half-time. However in the second half the defense broke down at times, especially in the secondary where the passing attack of the Cowboys did it's damage.
Due to the second half meltdown by the defense, we saw a near 4th QTR comeback from the Cowboys, if not for Bryant's fateful finger tips touching the back line of the endzone before coming down with what could have been a 37 yard game winning touchdown, with less than 10 seconds left on the clock. Overall what we saw from the Giants defense in the first half, and certain parts of the second half is the defense Giant fans would like to continue to see throughout the season. They forced 6 turnovers from the Cowboy's offense, shut down the rushing attack, and managed to sack Tony Romo 4 times. More of that from this defense, could be the best thing for this team as they go into the harder part of their schedule.
Safety Stevie Brown who has filled in for the injured Kenny Phillips was the star on defense. He had the team high 8 tackles, along with 2 interceptions, and 1 recovered fumble. His recent high level of play has been big for the Giants.
Despite the woes of their offense, Rob Ryan's defense made things tough for the Giant's offensively. This is twice now that they stifled the NFL's third highest scoring team this season (only allowed 293 total yards), and it gives flashes of the team the Cowboys could be. The defense did all the could keeping Eli Manning uncomfortable the entire game, shutting down his most dynamic weapons in Victor Cruz/Hakeem Nicks, and limiting the Giants to only one touchdown in the red zone out of 4 tries. The strong play from the secondary especially corners Brandon Carr, and rookie Morris Claiborne were a major part in their solid team defense.
The defense finished with 1 sack via Demarcus Ware, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Still despite the great play from them, it doesn't help when your offense turns the ball over at an extremely high rate giving the opposing team great field position. The issues for "America's Team" don't lie with the defense, it's the offense that needs to be fixed. However the issues from that side of the ball, greatly affect the team as a whole.
Thanks for reading. The New York Giants are 6-2, and in 1st place of the NFC East. Next week they will play host to Ben Roethlisberger & the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) as they visit Met Life Stadium for a prime time week 9 match up. The game will be next Sunday, at 4:25 pm. Only on CBS.