ReFo: Giants @ Cowboys, Week 7
In one of the league’s biggest storylines of the season, the NFC East appears to be filled with competitive teams, with two of them facing off Sunday in Dallas as the Cowboys hosted the New York Giants. Expectations were low for the division and many expected the Philadelphia Eagles to run away with it. Instead, the Cowboys have emerged as the league’s biggest surprise team while the Giants had put themselves into position to do some damage coming into the week.
It was a fairly clean, back-and-forth game until early in the fourth quarter when Giants tight end Larry Donnell fumbled to give Dallas the ball deep in New York territory. The Cowboys capitalized with a touchdown to go up two scores and they survived a late charge by the Giants to hold on for the win, 31-21. Dallas’ formula held true once again as quarterback Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray, and wide receiver Dez Bryant led the way, while the defense sprinkled in a number of key stops.
Here’s a look at the game’s key performances.
New York Giants – Performances of Note
William Beatty, LT: -6.1
Breakdown: After a strong start to the season, Beatty turned in his worst performance, mostly at the hands of Cowboys DE Jeremy Mincey. Beatty surrendered two hits and two hurries on 38 attempts, not to mention a holding penalty, all against Mincey. He finished at -4.2 as a pass blocker and wasn’t much better in the running game at -1.2.
Signature Plays: It’s not always about the number of pressures, it’s also about the speed at which they’re surrendered. Beatty gave up some quick ones, namely at the 14:01 mark of the second quarter when Mincey got inside him right off the snap and then the very next play which was almost identical other than Beatty holding Mincey to keep him away from QB Eli Manning.
Eli Manning, QB: +3.7
Breakdown: Perhaps lost in the defeat was a strong day from Manning who was on target for much of the day. He finished at +3.2 as a passer, including impressive work at the intermediate (11-20 yard) level where he completed 8-of-11 for 131 yards and two touchdowns. There weren’t a lot of great throws, but there were very few misses, as Manning had an efficient day getting the ball out of his hands and moving the chains.
Signature Plays: Early on, it was Manning’s accuracy late in his progressions that stood out. With 3:36 to go in the first quarter, he did a nice job of working to the “back side” of the formation to throw a well-placed “dig” route to WR Rueben Randle, even though the pass was dropped. Later in the quarter, Manning worked back side again, this time accurately hitting Randle on the comeback route to pick up the first down. Other than an ill-advised throwaway that nearly landed in DE George Selvie’s hands, Manning was accurate and decisive.
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE: +7.9
Breakdown: The yearly battles between Pierre-Paul and Cowboys LT Tyron Smith are always fun to watch, but it was Pierre-Paul who won this round. Pierre-Paul finished at +6.3 in the running game while adding two sacks, a hit and a hurry on 25 rushes to grade at +1.4 as a pass rusher.
Signature Plays: Whether it was re-directing runs as he did at the 8:12 mark of the first quarter, forcing a holding call as he did with 9:17 to go in the second, or simply getting inside to make the tackle as he did with 5:28 to go in the game, Pierre-Paul had his way with Smith in the running game. He also got around the edge for his sack with 1:21 to go in the second quarter.
Dallas Cowboys – Performances of Note
Tony Romo, QB: +7.0
Breakdown: Romo’s steady improvement since a disastrous Week 1 has coincided with the Cowboys’ run, but this performance will be tough to best next week. Like Manning, there will very few misses as Romo finished at 8-for-9 for 138 yards at the intermediate level and 4-for-7 for 103 yards on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air.
Signature Plays: Romo’s two touchdown passes to TE Gavin Escobar were impressive plays, particularly the second one. The first was a nice job by Romo to use the time given him by the offensive line as he broke the pocket away from the rush and zipped one in to Escobar in the back of the end zone. The second TD, at the 6:22 mark of the third quarter, couldn’t have been placed better if Romo handed it to Escobar. A play action fake made for a nice window on the post route, but Romo put it right on Escobar’s hands 26 yards down the field to put the Cowboys up 21-14.
Tyrone Crawford, DT: +4.2
Breakdown: A big part of the Cowboys’ success has started on the defensive line where it seems different players step up and contribute every week. This week it was Crawford who wreaked havoc in both the running game (+1.9) and as a pass rusher (+2.1). He notched a hit and a hurry on 27 rushes as well as four stops against the run.
Signature Plays: Crawford got the better of rookie LG Weston Richburg a couple times, first getting around him to flush Manning from the pocket with 14:01 to go in the second quarter and similarly forcing Manning from the pocket on his five yard touchdown with 5:34 to go in the fourth quarter.
Dez Bryant, WR: +3.5
Breakdown: The Cowboys’ top playmaker dominated the second half and finished the game with 151 yards on nine catches. Bryant graded at +3.5 as a receiver and perhaps no play was more telling than at the 2:28 mark of the fourth quarter when Romo trusted him to run a slant to move the chains rather than simply running the ball to keep the clock moving. Bryant converted the play and helped lead the Cowboys to their sixth straight win.
Signature Plays: In addition to the late-game slant, Bryant ran a nifty out route with 8:02 to go in the third quarter and broke free for a 44-yard gain and later did a nice job breaking free from CB Prince Amukamara at the 9:40 mark of the fourth quarter for a 25-yard reception to the 1-yard line.
PFF Game Ball
While it was a strong team effort for the Cowboys, Tony Romo was nearly flawless and made big throws throughout the afternoon to earn the game ball.
Follow Steve on Twitter.