Re-Focused: Giants @ Cowboys, Week 14

| December 13, 2011

Exhausting. Fun. Unbelievable.

However you want to describe the New York Giants rollercoaster victory over the Dallas Cowboys, it doesn’t change what was a quite remarkable contest to cap off a good day of football. Full of big plays, blown coverages and lead changes, this was the kind of game that didn’t just live up to the billing; it surpassed it.

I’ll get to the most impressive aspects of the game in detail shortly. Looking past the individual performances for a second, this game was as big a statement as either could make – that it happened in all three phases made it all the more memorable. What if Tony Romo connects with Miles Austin when he was open deep with 2:25 to go in the fourth quarter? What if the Dallas defense doesn’t surrender two late touchdowns? What if Dan Bailey got his kick over the outstretched arm of Jason Pierre-Paul?

They didn’t, and instead the Giants defense got Eli Manning the ball back with 2:12 left and he was able to lead one of the great comebacks of the 2011. That seems as good a place to start as any as we look at the key performances of note on both sides here.

 

New York Giants – Three Performances of Note

Magnificent Manning

Sometimes you go into a game that has been played and think perhaps more of a story has been made of something than it warrants. This was not one of those cases, as there simply aren’t enough superlatives to describe just how good Eli Manning (+7.3 passing) was. The Giants QB overcame some horrendous drops (each of his leading receivers dropped significant balls) to orchestrate a miraculous 12 point comeback that will live long in the memory of any fan of top notch quarterback play. Manning consistently beat coverage regardless of how good it was, with superb ball placement  connecting with receivers whether he stepped into a throw or was throwing it off his back foot. Normally I’d pick a single play which exemplified how a player did in the game. However, if you haven’t seen this game, nothing other than watching every throw Manning makes will do his efforts proper justice.

 

Stepping Up but Still A Ways To Go

There’s no denying that Jason Pierre-Paul (+1.7 defense, +2.0 special teams) is a difference maker. He added another two sacks to his season total, which stands at 12 after this game, forced a fumble with some great hustle and, of course, came up big with the blocked field goal that saw the Giants home. He still needs to focus on generating a more consistent pass rush even though he got the better of Doug Free for two sacks who gave up nothing else to the sophomore stud. The body of work doesn’t quite match the highlight reels yet (it would be near impossible in that regard), but the Giants fans should be very excited at the prospect of getting even more out of the extremely talented sophomore.

 

Left Sided Woes

If you’re a fan of the combination of David Diehl (-5.2) and Mitch Petrus (-3.9) you may want to look away now. Perhaps the two had an inkling of how good Manning would be and so they figured they’d make it more of a challenge. On a serious note, the duo were turnstiles against an active Dallas front that picked up a hit and 11 pressures on them. Diehl was particularly bad, with the hit he gave up to Victor Butler with 1:12 to go in the first half symbolizing the kind of day he had. Struggling at left guard, and struggling at left tackle here (despite being the starting left tackle from 2007 through 2010) for you have to wonder how much time he has left starting in the NFL.

 

Dallas – Three Performances of Note

A Star On the Rise

Regardless of how Dallas’ season ends they will feel reassured in the knowledge that  they’ve found a stud of a tackle for the future in the shape of the youngest player in the league, Tyron Smith (+2.9). The rookie right tackle has been exceptional all year and continued his excellent year by giving up just a single pressure, in addition to a +1.6 run blocking grade. It’s rare to see a tackle come out and play so well, but Smith has been just that good. A move to the left side next year will surely provide him with some new challenges. If he handles the transition in the same manner that he’s handled his move to the NFL coming from Southern California I’ll be betting on him to succeed.

 

Coverage Concerns

It could have been a very different game had Dallas executed a little bit better on defense. First, you have the dropped interception by Terence Newman with 10:42 left in the first quarter. Second, you compound missed opportunities with a number of costly blown coverages (most notably the Mario Manningham touchdown). Newman (-1.7) was as big a culprit as any, even if his four receptions allowed on 10 balls thrown at him may appear to indicate a good game. In reality, he benefited from two dropped passes and he would have given up a first down on every reception he allowed. One of the reasons that Manning was as good as he was is that he was able to exploit the flaws in the Cowboys secondary throughout the game.

 

Persistent Pass Rush

The Cowboys didn’t walk away with any sacks but don’t be fooled. They pressured the quarterback far more consistently than their Giants counterparts did. Tormentors in chief were DeMarcus Ware (+3.8 pass rush) and Anthony Spencer (+2.6 pass rush) who picked up 11 pressures and one batted pass between them. Ware won’t be happy with the two defensive offsides penalties he gave up, nor his substandard work in run defense. You can’t fault Ware or Spencer for putting Manning in tricky positions during the game. Instead you have to credit how at ease Manning looked dealing with the pressure.

 

Games Notes

- The Giants only sent five men or more on seven occasions – one of which resulted in a touchdown.

- By contrast the Cowboys sent five or more 20 times, with the Giants not taking any sacks and picking up 234 yards in the air when they did.

- It’s something that doesn’t really show up, but for fans of fullback versus linebacker confrontations watch the first half and pay particular attention to how Henry Hynoski and Bradie James went at each other. That was a good contest that Hynoski (+1.7) won.

 

PFF Game Ball

One Man(ning) goes down, another steps up. Lets be clear here…Dallas sent quality pressure the Giants way but regardless of whether the coverage was good or bad, Eli Manning made the key plays. That was the difference in this one

 

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