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Unpacking The Win: Dallas

One week after the Giants coaching staff made some tough choices about their starting personell, the Giants played a must win game against the infamous (think 3 Amigos usage) Dallas Cowboys with passion, heart, and determination. These are the intangibles that largely made them under-dog icons in 2007, and they reflect a spirit and attitude of play that has been lacking in this Giants team since perhaps week 5.

As always:
Red is bad.
Yellow is good.
Orange is key.

Telling stats

Cowboys Giants
Final Score 24 Final Score 31
Time of Possession 38:50 Time of Possession 21:10
Net Yards Rushing 45 Net Yards Rushing 100
Penalties (Number-Yards) 5 – 30 Penalties (Number-Yards) 2 – 10
Net Punting Average 26.4 Net Punting Average 39.6
Total Return Yardage (excl. Kickoffs) 0 Total Return Yardage (excl. Kickoffs) 95
Field Goals (Made-Attempted) 1 – 3 Field Goals (Made-Attempted) 1 – 1
Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 2 – 13 Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 1 – 4

So last week if you remember there we all were, full from Thanksgiving and elated about being able to watch our favorite team that night. Then out of nowhere, disaster. Some of us here at Giants Gab tried to put a positive spin on the events, such as:

“They are capable of playing well, it’s time now (more than ever) to put it all together.”

And of course the explaination of how they could possibly win a game going forward was simply this: Play Defense first. The rationale if you needed it was:

“Ultimately, the Giants need to play defense first…. and it starts with run defense and ends with pass rush. Never mind the coverage issues, right now the basic fundamentals of successful Giants football have vanished. And if you look at the 2007 playoffs and Superbowl, you will see the consistent weak link was pass coverage but it was aleviated by the incredible pass rush and run stopping abilities of that team.”

Bingo, Bango, Bongo.

This week, not only did the Giants get pressure and stop the run, they totally came alive on Defense against Dallas. It really was a thing of beauty to watch a second time around – even though Dallas controlled the clock and the flow of the game… the Giants wanted it more. They needed it more. And they delivered.

3 of 5

Offense: Rushing

Giants: Rushing Car Yds Avg TDs
A. Bradshaw 7 47 0 29
B. Jacobs 13 39 1 8

Renants of a running game is better than none — and while my man Ahmad Bradshaw coughed up a nasty fumble at the hands of Ratliff, he redeemed himself big time with a couple of huge runs…. none were sweeter than the 29 yarder that set up a Giant score. I think it was Troy Aikman who commented on toughness in the NFL, and that Bradshaw had to be considered among the top candidates for playing with not one, but TWO sprained ankles and a cracked bone. Is it foolish to have a weapon like Bradshaw out there risking further injury? Maybe. But am I just as excited as ever when he cuts back across the field and turns nothing into a huge gash? You’d better believe I’m up and screaming… I love watching this guy play. And assuming that he and Jacobs can get some momentum going and a head of steam building up for this long stretch into playoff country, the better.

Brandon Jacobs seemed like he did a better job of driving forward for me this game, not as much Barry Sanders side-to-side latteral action and I think that really set the tone of the day: PHYSICAL smash-mouth football. Run and stop the run…. and they did just that. They had a perfect balance of pass and run I thought, Gilbride ought to be proud and Coughlin should be happy with the results. The biggest play of the game for Jacobs was of course a CATCH and run, and while the stats do not show up under the running category it should be noted that Jacobs took a short 6 yard pass out to the left and broke it for 74 yards and a touchdown. That is HERO stuff. That is intensity, that is leadership, that is sheer will at work. Great play call, even if Jacobs only comes up with a first down, great pass from Manning, and amazing execution and extra effort from Jacobs on a brilliant run after the catch. Tom Coughlin reportedly told Jacobs he had never seen him run that fast. I believe it.

How about Kevin Boss on that lateral, by the way? Talk about starting a new trend with your TE… nice!

3 of 5

Offense: Passing

Giants: Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
E. Manning 11/25 241 2 1

Similar to last week – some unfortunate drops and bad breaks kept Eli’s numbers a little deflated. I’ve been seeing a lot of negative posts about his performance but I simply disagree. The line did well enough, but Eli was under pressure for sure. 1 sack is acceptable, but he was hit frequently and knocked down quite a bit. Even still, I thought Eli hit Steve Smith perfectly in the end zone on a pass which was dropped. But more on Smith later.

I don’t think people are grasping the role of Eli Manning on this team, because these are the types of managable games that you want from your QB. Short passes that come with a high percentage of completion, minimizing mistakes, use play action to your advantage, and take your shots down the field when the defense shows an opening. THAT is winning Giants football. The results you look for from Eli are not 38 for 50 with 383 yards and 4 touchdowns… consistency and efficiency at QB is clearly what this scheme, game plan, this team is after. So when you see Eli with 240 yards and 2 touchdowns, that is the time to feel good about his performance.

I think what people are feeling bad about is the fact that Brandon Jacobs took it 70 yards after the catch for a touchdown so Eli looks better than he really played. Fine, I get that.

But you also have to acknowledge that going 11 for 25 was not simply Eli having an off day… he conservatively should have been more like 18 for 25 due to dropped passes by his receivers, drive extending and scoring plays no doubt — so now all bets are off.

Coming back to the reality of what happened over 60 minutes, I thought Eli played well enough to win in his fraction of the game. This time the defense showed up for the majority and as a result the Giants did in fact win the game.

4 of 5

Offense: Receiving

Giants: Receiving REC YDS TD LG
S. Smith 6 110 0 36
B. Jacobs 1 74 1 74
H. Nicks 2 37 1 21
K. Boss 1 10 0 10
M. Manningham 1 10 0 10

Last week, the receivers were the bright spot of a horribly dim game. What I said about this aspect of the Giants was something like this:

“Nicks, Smith, Manningham, and Boss — this is the way forward. Glad to see even in a losing effort the young guys can still make some nice plays. This gives me confidence moving forward…”

And I’m still brimbing with confidence about these receivers… even with a few dropped balls here and there from Smith and Manningham. These guys can create seperation and move with the ball amaxingly well once they have it… the essence of a good short passing scheme.

For some reason, Dallas figured they wouldn’t cover Steve Smith this game — and thats fine by me. The guy was open constantly!! He took a 3 step cross for 36 yards and no one was within 10 feet of him for Petes sake. Wade Phillips has some tape to review and some personell to shift around, me thinks.

What more can you say about the Giants #1 draft choice? Hakeem Nicks has been outstanding for this team, and I wish they could figure out a way to use him even more. But regardless of playing favorites, the receiving rotation has been effective for the Giants and although I’d like to see more from Kevin Boss, when you hit Steve Smith over the middle every time it’s hard to complain. So I won’t.

Brandon Jacobs’ catch and run has already been discused, but I would like to add how seemlessly Jacobs caught and turned up field on that play… almost like it was automatic. With Eli’s pass spot on, I wonder if that particular play is something they had been working on extra since Thanksgiving. It proved to be a fruitful endeavor, regardless of the details.

4 of 5

Defense

Defense T-A SCK INT FF
A. Rouse 10-2 1.0 0 0
T. Thomas 9-1 0.0 0 0
C. Brown 7-2 0.0 0 0
B. Johnson 5-1 0.0 0 0
C. Webster 5-2 0.0 0 0
D. Clark 4-1 0.0 0 0
J. Goff 4-4 0.0 0 0
B. Cofield 3-0 0.0 0 0
M. Kiwanuka 3-3 0.0 0 1
C. Sintim 2-0 1.0 0 0
J. Tuck 1-1 0.0 0 0

There were so many guys that made plays on the defensive unit that it will take forever to discuss…. I had to trim some out but the ones I want to highlight follow.

Justin Tuck was not credited with a sack, although he should be since he wrapped up Tony Romo on the intentional grounding play. Tuck got a lot of press Sunday night, both from the media and from the Dallas O-line. They largely kept Tuck under wraps, but Tuck was still great in maintaining gap pressure and helping to stop the run. Extra attention paid to Tuck certainly helped other guys out, like Clint Sintim.

I’ll never forget Sintim coming off the line like a freight train unblocked and wrapping up Tony Romo — do they make video holiday cards yet? See, THIS is the benefit of using your promising rookies where there is no tape. THIS is the benefit of mixing things up and trying new things — you catch the other team by surprise. Dallas probably had no clue who Sintim was to begin with, but I’m sure they know now… he cost them a few points when Dallas had to settle for a field goal try after Sintim’s sack. Hey, wasn’t that one of the ones that they missed, too? Ouch.

Aaron Rouse had a stellar game, he was everywhere and nowhere at the same time – if you dig.

Terrell Thomas has also really impressed me this year… I just hope he can keep up a high level of play for the rest of the season.

Jon Goff had a fine game — the Giants still can not cover well over the middle but one thing I noticed is that between Goff, CC Brown, Terrell Thomas, Corey Webster, and the Aarons…. the Giants SWARMED a whole hell of a lot better this game. There were no blown coverages or breakdowns — no mistakes mid field. And when Witten did get the ball the Giants pounded him to the ground as quickly as they could. Its a marked improvement and I liked the rotation from Sheridan a ton this week. Seeing your starters come in fresh on a crucial down while everyone else is gassed made quite a differance I think at stopping the run and frustrating the ‘Boys. Osi and Danny Clark did extremely well at playing high octane football when it mattered.

Danny Clark stopped the run like he was in a tank — brutal hits on Felix Jones and Marion Barber quickly got my attention. Way to stick.

Corey Webster bit up on a well designed play action fake and let Roy Williams celbrate twice for 2 touchdowns… both on his watch. Not good.

Bruce Johnson should have come down with an INT… he didn’t. Damn shame.

CC Brown has improved, but I haven’t forgotten about weeks 6 thru 11. I’m a big believer in second chances, but also optimizing the situation and finding ways to best utlize your tools. I think the Giants now have a better grasp on how CC Browns hard hitting can be used, its starting to show, and lets leave it at that.

Special Teams: Punt Returns

5 of 5
Punt Returns (Number-Yards) 0 – 0 Punt Returns (Number-Yards) 3 – 95

It has been said that winning in the NFL comes down to your abililty to dominate 2 of 3 aspects in the game: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. The Giants clearly won the Special Teams battle against Dallas with Domenik Hixon’s epic 79 yard punt return for a touchdown that put the Giants up by 14 points in the fourth quarter. Talk about creating something out of nothing…. Hixon basically fooled everyone and ran around in circles evading tackles until a lane opened up down the right sideline — Hixon darted for it and got some great blocking down field. The rest is history.

You can make the case that this one play saved the Giants season… time will tell.

You can say Hixon was overdue for a returned touchdown… you would have been correct.

But one thing you can’t say is how good it made you feel to see your return specialist take a great punt from the Dallas Cowboys back 79 yards to the house for a back breaking touchdown.

Why Hixon was ever removed from his duty and clearly his calling last year, I’ll never understand.

Special Teams: Punting + Kicking

5 of 5
Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 5 – 0 – 0 Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 6 – 0 – 0
Punts (Number-Average) 5 – 45.4 Punts (Number-Average) 5 – 39.6
Net Punting Average 26.4 Net Punting Average 39.6

So it’s the same old story with Tynes — no kickoffs in the endzone… but then again Dallas didn’t have any either. Tynes did go 1/1 on field goals, good for him.

Feagles on the other hand was somewhat saved by Hixon, because his average would have been a lot worse by comparison if Hixon got tackled at the 21 yard line. But to take a different perpective, Feagles did eliminate the run backs that essentially won the game for the Giants… so can we be too hard on the man for doing his thing and doing it well? No, we can’t.

////////

Alright folks, next Sunday night is a doozy with the Eagles coming to town — it’s another must win game to stay alive and the Giants are due to beat down their bitterest rivals. I smell a rubber match, and the stakes are high.

Cheers

-ai


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