Jobu reviews the Giants’ week one loss to the hated Dallas Cowboys.
It’s always a bit of a shame when your team loses, especially against its most bitter of rivals. The Giants ended up losing 24-17 to the Cowboys in their season opener, but it was a game they probably could have won. That’s frustrating, but the Giants have never really been a fast start team. When they do have great starts, they tend to collapse midway through the year, so I’m OK with the loss. I’m trying to focus on the positives in this post, but some glaring negatives cannot be ignored.
What Went Right
This section won’t be too long, even if I am trying to focus on the good of the evening. I’ll start out with the two players I thought looked their best in this game. The first was Martellus Bennett. The former Cowboy was signed this off-season to provide Eli Manning with a solid target at the Tight End position, and he looked like he could be all that and more in game one, catching 4 passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. The other guy I thought looked pretty great was third receiver Domenik Hixon. Hixon, who is trying to establish himself as the solid third option for Eli, made a couple of tough catches and, overall, caught 3 passes for 55 yards. Eli just missed him on a TD pass late in the game, but that wasn’t on Hixon. Eli just missed the throw. With Nicks still trying to come back from his foot injury, these two guys could be big keys to success in the early going, and they responded well.
I actually thought Eli had a solid game (21-32, 213 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs) despite the fact that his receivers dropped a lot of passes (more on that in the What Went Wrong section) and his offensive line let him get hassled all game (also more on this coming up). The Giants also were on the wrong end of a huge missed defensive holding call early in the second half that led to them having to settle for a field goal and not a TD. That would have given the Giants an extra four points, which could have been huge considering the fact that this game came down to the last couple of minutes. The replacement refs didn’t quite cost the Giants the game, but it’s clear that they’re replacements. I think the head ref was a former high school teacher of some kind, for crying out loud.
What Went Wrong
Things went wrong pretty much right away for the G-Men. The biggest culprits, in my book, were the O-line and the secondary. The O-line didn’t really block anybody much all night. I know Ahmad Bradshaw‘s numbers ended up looking OK (17 carries, 78 yards and a TD), but the Giants really couldn’t get the running game going at all in this one. The line also let Eli get sacked 3 times, and he was pretty much bothered and rushed the entire night. It’s tough to pick apart the defense when you aren’t given time to do it. The Giants’ O-line struggled early last year as well. When they finally got it together, the Giants were unstoppable. Remember the Super Bowl run? It wasn’t just the D-line that carried them through that.
As I eluded to earlier, the Giants secondary was pretty brutal in this one too. Some guy named Kevin Ogletree (the Cowboys’ third receiver) had 8 catches for 114 yards and 2 TDs. The Cowboys ran a lot of slant plays, which is a pretty solid strategy against the Giants because the D-line doesn’t give you much time to run anything else, and the Giants had no idea how to stop them. They also seemed not to adjust to the Cowboys’ obvious strategy either, because Tony Romo, who had one of the better games I’ve seen him play) got away with it all game long. Corey Webster did not have a good game. He’s supposed to be the number one guy (especially since Prince Amukamara refuses to be healthy), and he didn’t play that way at all. The two plays that best described how the Giants’ D played in this game were a 34 yard TD pass by Romo to Miles Austin on a 1st and 30 (30!) in the second half. Two Giants receivers converged on Austin as he was about to make the catch. They totally missed him and took themselves out of the play and Austin waltzed his way into the end zone all alone.
There were a couple of other notables too. First of all Cruz forgot his hands in the locker room in this game. The third year veteran and breakout super star of 2011 caught 6 passes for 58 yards, but had three huge drops in key situations that really cost the Giants. Hakeem Nicks, meanwhile, is definitely still shaking off the rust and the injury that kept him out for most of the pre-season. Rookie David Wilson fumbled on his second touch, which basically scared Tom Coughlin and kept the coach from letting Wilson touch the ball ever again. Overall, it was a sloppy game. The Giants got called for a lot of penalties, had a lot of drops and didn’t do the things that helped them make their Super Bowl run last season.
The Giants play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week two which, while it won’t be an easy game by any means, I think they can win. The Buccs have some exciting players, but they really took a step backwards last season after their impressive campaign in 2010. You can look no further than QB Josh Freeman as an example of what went wrong. Freeman threw for 3,451 yards in 2010 with 25 TDs and just 6 INTs. Last year, he really regressed. He still had the yards (3,592), but he threw only 16 TDs and had a whopping 22 INTs.
The Giants aren’t far from where they need to be by any means. They just need to make some adjustments on defense, and the offensive line needs to play like they towards the end of last season. The G-Men have the talent they need to be successful, they just need to shake off the rust and get it together a little bit. I’m convinced that, if the D had stepped up, stopped the Cowboys late in the game and gotten Eli the ball back with about two minutes to go, that game would have ended up in OT, with a possible Giants win. They’re close… so close.
Featured image courtesy of: egotastic
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