ReFo: NYG @ DAL, Week 1
The first Sunday Night Football game of the season opened with a traditionally big matchup of NFC East foes. The Giants, the class of the division in the past few seasons, traveled to Dallas, a team attempting to finally live up to expectations after years of flattering to deceive.
Dallas did in fact end up with the win, but it was made possible by the Giants turning over the ball in several creative ways to put them in a hole they couldn’t quite climb out of by the end. David Wilson fumbled twice, likely winding himself back in the doghouse he only just extricated himself from after fumbling early as a rookie last year.
So let’s dive inside the game to focus on a few individual matchups and performances.
New York – Three Performances of Note
David Wilson’s Trip Back to the Doghouse
Tom Coughlin does not enjoy turning the football over. He cannot abide fumbling. It was David Wilson putting the ball on the ground as a rookie last year that saw him dropped down the depth chart and practically banished to little else but kick-return duties. With the clearout in the New York backfield this was his chance to regain his rightful place atop the workload pile, unfortunately for him he put the ball on the ground twice in seven carries, losing both fumbles. That, together with blowing a block on DE George Selvie that resulted in a sack in the red zone, earned Wilson a -4.4 grade for the day.
In truth I felt a little sorry for his fumble negatives because he was carrying the ball high and tight on both occasions, but was simply outmuscled by Dallas defenders ripping it out. Wilson has a target on his head now when it comes to ball protection, and defenses are going to go for it until he shows he can keep hold of the football. If he ever gets that chance again!
The Giants haven’t had a particularly strong OL for a number of years now. They find occasional success stories, and spend much of the year juggling lineups, but can’t seem to nail down a unit that can really help the team. LT William Beatty had the unenviable task of matching up with DeMarcus Ware, and though he didn’t surrender a sack, he did cough up two knockdowns and four additional hurries from his 46 snaps pass blocking. He added to that with a penalty and some poor run blocking for a -4.4 overall grade. He wasn’t alone in the red for the Giants, with Chris Snee coming in at -3.8 after surrendering a pair of sacks and three more hurries. The other three members of the line were all closer to average, failing to stand out in either direction in any facet despite some highs and lows between them. Eli Manning has proven he can play in the face of pressure before, but the Giants must know that he’d be even better if he didn’t have to.
Justin Tuck Shows Up
It’s been a while since Justin Tuck was at his best, when he anchored the Giants D-line as it terrorized opposing offenses. Now he’s firmly a back-seat passenger as Jason Pierre-Paul drives the truck. This game however showed us a little of the old Tuck. He notched a sack, a knockdown and four more hurries from his 36 rushes. Pierre-Paul, coming back from injury and a game-time decision, didn’t start the game but still managed to record 51 snaps, earning a sack and three hurries from his outing.
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
We all know that DeMarcus Ware (+5.4) and Jason Hatcher (+4.7) are pretty good, but it will come as a pleasant surprise to many Dallas fans the production the team got out of George Selvie (+3.3), flling in for Anthony Spencer at DE, and Nick Hayden (+2.7), playing on the inside. The two showed impressive drive and rush skills during the game and combined to record a sack, three knockdowns and five hurries while Hayden in particular was a menace in the run game in the middle all game long. Selvie has been around the league in multiple stops, but perhaps just needed the aggressive nature of Kiffin’s 4-3 to find his best form.
Where For Art Thou Mo?
I was a huge fan of Morris Claiborne coming out of college, but watching this game I was struggling to remember why. Coming back from injury, the Giants set out to test the second year man, and they found that to be a pretty successful way of doing things. He was thrown at nine times, allowing six receptions for 139 yards and a hefty 75 after the catch as he was routinely playing too soft and failing to get back in time to challenge the New York receivers. While the rest of the Dallas defense played OK, Claiborne was the lone ugly grade, clocking in at -3.5 and looking nothing like the talent the team expected to see when they drafted him. For a corner, health can be everything, so Dallas will be hoping that he can gain his full fitness back quickly, and start to show something more befitting of his draft status.
Murray A Weapon
I really enjoy watching DeMarco Murray run with the football. He has an ease of movement that seems to shake defenders loose with a subtle cut that doesn’t lose any speed, and he is as dangerous out in space as he is between the tackles. The Cowboys look a totally different unit when he is in the lineup. In this game he caught eight passes on nine targets, even if they did only go for 39 yards in total, but he forced eight missed tackles on those receptions to go with another two on his 20 rushes. Tony Romo is something of an enigmatic quarterback, but there is no denying that he is prone to occasional meltdowns, and the more workload he can pass off to Murray the less likely those meltdowns are to occur – a vital factor in the Cowboys finally having that successful season we have all been expecting for so long.
– The Giants D missed 11 tackles in this game, Murray forced 10 of them.
– Both quarterbacks actually had a better QB rating when pressured in this game than when they were kept clean in the pocket.
– Aaron Ross was thrown at three times (four including the 2-point attempt), allowing just one catch for 7 yards and getting his hands to two of those. Three of those attempts were to Dez Bryant.
PFF Game Ball
In truth it probably deserves to be DeMarcus Ware, who was clearly the biggest threat to the Giants all day, but given his standout performance I’m going to give George Selvie a half-share in the ball. The two bookends split the award.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam