12-12-2011, 02:05 PM
GIANTS COWBOYS GAME REVIEW: ELI MANNING, JASON PIERRE-PAUL LEAD GIANTS TO TOP OF NFC EAST (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/12/giants-cowboys_game_review_eli.html)

"I had a rare late-morning flight today. Usually, I’m on the first jet out of a
place. I can’t recall why I booked the one I did.

But anyway, the later flight meant I had to do my game review before I left.
Otherwise, it would be later tonight before I got it done. But truth be told, I
also got this thing done early because I couldn’t wait to get back into this
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I feel like John Mara when <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/12/giants_win_37-34_in_last-secon.html">he
says he’d love for an easy game</a> but doesn’t quite mean it. This season, no
matter how it ends, has certainly been eventful. Win or lose, the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) have made it fun to watch their
games. There’s enough bad football going around for me to appreciate a team that
provides solid entertainment.</p>

And to think, we still have three more games to go, including one more
against the Cowboys. …</p>

* * * *</p>


Coach Tom Coughlin. I trust, after he did a great job <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/12/brandon_jacobs_steps_up_to_car.html">benching
Ahmad Bradshaw to maintain his consistency</a> in that regard and called the
perfect timeout, I won’t be hearing the name Bill Cowher in connection with the
Giants today.</p>

DE Jason Pierre-Paul. We’ve covered all of the big stuff --
<a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/12/jason_pierre-paul_continues_to.html">the
two sacks, the safety, the blocked field goal, the stop on second-and-5 along
with Chris Canty</a> -- so I won’t be able to add much more there. There’s one
new thing I can add to best sum up the motor this guy has, and it’s actually a
play on which he missed a tackle. It was the second snap of the game for Dallas
and he was unable to get a hold of RB DeMarco Murray. But the
fact he was even in position to make that play is what’s amazing. He was lined
up at right end and it was a pitch to the defensive left. LB Chase
Blackburn was over the center. Both he and Pierre-Paul were untouched
and neither hesitated from the moment the ball was snapped. Blackburn doesn’t
make the play because Pierre-Paul collided with him. That’s right, Pierre-Paul
beat Blackburn to the point of attack. And this is by no means a knock on
Blackburn; rather, it’s a nod to the hustle, determination and ability of
Pierre-Paul, who doesn’t stop from snap to whistle. He did virtually the same
thing when he came from his spot at right end to strip Cowboys RB Felix
Jones late in the second quarter. He only makes that play because his
right arm is long enough to get around Jones and knock the ball free. So in
short, for all those who criticized the Giants for taking a guy “who does back
flips” instead of C Maurkice Pouncey, I believe that argument
has officially been nullified.</p>

QB Eli Manning. Until this season, he hadn’t led two
touchdown drives in the final five minutes to overcome a two-score deficit. He’s
now done it twice: <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/10/giants_return_to_site_of_super.html">against
the Cardinals in October</a>, when the Giants erased a 10-point deficit to win
by 4, and Sunday night. Manning now has 14 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this
season, tying his brother Peyton and Johnny Unitas in the NFL record books for
most in a season. Among the most impressive throws he made was the 23-yarder to
WR Hakeem Nicks late in the first quarter on a “sail” (or
“flag” or “corner” or “seven”) route on the left sideline over CB Mike
Jenkins and under S Gerald Sensabaugh. Manning slid to
his left (following a tremendous chip by RB Brandon Jacobs on
NT Jay Ratliff) and laid that one in there beautifully while
moving ever so slightly to his left. Great, great throw.</p>

Jacobs. Jenkins was right. He is a “bully.” And Jacobs is right when he says
that’s a compliment. He kept his feet moving on nearly every run, particularly
on a 19-yard rush in the fourth quarter on which he broke two tackles.</p>

Nicks. Last week, WR Victor Cruz said the Giants saw <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/12/giants_face_cowboys_with_hakee.html">opportunities
to take advantage of “the middle” of the Cowboys’ secondary</a>. We saw it right
away with Nicks’ 64-yard catch midway through the first quarter. I don’t
understand what was going on with the Cowboys’ coverage there. Sensabaugh does a
pirouette to the single-receiver side instead of the three-receiver side. He
appears to be playing the deep half, but there’s nobody in the other deep half.
It seemed to be a blown coverage. Either way, Nicks got inside CB Alan
Ball for the bomb to set up K Lawrence Tynes’ first
field goal.</p>

TE Jake Ballard. It was pretty clear the Cowboys’ plan was
to mug him coming off the line. Every time I looked at him live and on the
replay, he had a guy hitting and grabbing him (sometimes illegally) while
getting into his route. He was still able to make the plays when it mattered.
One caveat, and I’ve said this before, is his run blocking needs to improve. He
and TE/FB Bear Pascoe still struggle at times in that
department. Ballard was tossed by LB Anthony Spencer on a
third-and-2 on the opening drive of the third quarter.</p>

FB Henry Hynoski. This is two weeks in a row he’s brought
the wood. I’m sure Cowboys LB Bradie James has a Hynoski-sized
welt on him today because those two met in the hole a bunch of times. Hynoski
won the majority of those matchups. He also had a big block on LB Keith
Brooking on the game-winning touchdown. But don’t ignore what extra TE
Jim Cordle did on Cowboys DE Kenyon Coleman on
that play, either.</p>

Tynes. His career-high for touchbacks coming into the season was eight. He
now has 33 this year. Yeah, it’s the extra 5 yards but the way he’s booming it
out of the end zone makes me wonder why the Giants had him directionally kicking
so much over the past few years.</p>

</p><div class="entry-content">

LG Mitch Petrus. He had a great block on the 2-point
conversion. When asked if he got some cardio work on those final two drives, he
replied, “I sure did, didn’t I? I went to go congratulate Jake after the one
catch and they were like, ‘Man, you’ve got to get back on the line.’ We’re
no-huddle here.”</p>

DT Chris Canty. A timely sack (see below) and a big stop for
no gain to help get the ball back in the fourth quarter (see below also).</p>

Cowboys QB Tony Romo. I’m not the biggest fan, in large part
because he comes up small in the clutch. However, he was great under pressure
Sunday. He deserved better. The overthrown ball to WR Miles
Austin could’ve been better, but Austin could’ve also made that play by
laying out for it. (See below.)</p>

Jones. Big-time performance for him and the Cowboys badly needed it when
Murray got hurt.</p>

Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson. He’s a great route runner when
he can get into those routes. He showed why on two long passes Sunday night,
both of which came against rookie CB Prince Amukamara.</p>

* * * *</p>


WR Mario Manningham. His 47-yard touchdown was about as easy
as it gets. I have no idea what was going on with the Cowboys’ defense there.
Obviously, one of the two blitzing safeties -- Barry Church or
Abram Elam -- should’ve dropped into coverage instead of
blitzing. Somebody missed a call there. As for why Manningham’s in this section,
well, the drop on the near-TD on the game-winning drive was nearly a killer. You
have to make that grab.</p>

Cruz. His two drops and his poor decision to draw an unnecessary roughness
penalty on Manningham’s TD were gasser-worthy. But he saved himself late. By the
way, I know offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said last week
Cruz hasn’t been seeing many double teams. Well, Cruz certainly saw them late in
this game. He had two guys lined up over him or was doubled with the safety up
high for practically all of the Giants’ final two drives.</p>

LB Jacquian Williams. For all of the mental mistakes he’s
made, he’s still playing aggressively. And that’s admirable. Among the plays he
made on Sunday night was a big stick on Cowboys FB Tony
Fiammetta on Dallas’ second drive to fill the hole and make a stop for
a gain of only 1 yard (that was one play before Pierre-Paul’s safety) and made a
nice open-field tackle to stop on a screen pass on the next drive. His night
wasn’t perfect. He over-pursued on one play early and had an illegal-contact
call against him. But he continues to play fast. There was also one play where
he did a good job of getting to the outside on a run. It was an 11-yard gain, so
it sounds kind of funny to praise him for this one but you could tell he knew he
had outside contain and fought to get his head and left arm to the outside. The
run went inside him, where Blackburn was supposed to fill. Blackburn got blocked
to the ground, which is why the play went for 11. But Williams wasn’t sound on a
run fit on an 80-yarder against the Bills earlier this year and hesitated on the
play, so the Giants will surely be encouraged by his rapid decision-making in
this one.</p>

Cowboys LB Sean Lee. His interception negated what was
proving to be a brutal second half for him, tackling-wise. I had him down for
four missed tackles in the final two quarters. Then again, he is playing with a
brace on his left hand, so that’s why I can’t kill him for the missed tackles.
But he did give up Ballard’s touchdown, so I’m taking his game ball back.</p>

Austin. His touchdown reception was on the same play the Saints ran for a
score a few weeks ago. It was a sprint-out to the right and once again CB
Aaron Ross seemed to get a late jump, thus giving the outside
to Austin on an out cut. Austin also came up big on the Cowboys’ final
would-be-tying drive. But the negatives are a potential missed block in a key
spot (see below) and a failure to lay out for the ball Romo threw just out of
his reach on third-and-5 to give the Giants the ball back for the winning score.
He has to dive there, though Romo said after the game Austin told him he lost
the ball in the stadium's lights.</p>

* * * *</p>


Bradshaw. No excuse at this point in his career for him to miss curfew by
enough to be benched. None. But he at least seemed to handle it well.</p>

Amukamara. I was going to give him a free pass but he was being hard on
himself in the postgame locker room. Though he was trying to enjoy the victory,
it was obvious he was upset with his play. On the 74-yard pass in the fourth
quarter, that wasn’t man coverage. Rather, it was a zone in which he dropped
deep, and the Cowboys had a good call on there because they drew the safety
forward. Amukamara said he realized he should’ve adjusted and run with Robinson
there. It’s a tough adjustment to make for a guy playing in only his fourth
game. Also, earlier in the game, he allowed a 40-yard pass to Robinson to set up
a field goal for Dallas that gave the ‘Boys the lead heading into the half. I’ll
have to disagree with Cris Collinsworth, who said Amukamara
“did his job.” Yeah, it’s a Cover-2, but he let Robinson get an outside release
to the sideline, which pretty much makes it impossible for the safety to get to
the ball, especially since Romo did a good job of looking him off. Plus,
Amukamara then sank even though he didn’t have a threat underneath. He has to
know the situation there. Again, this is the kind of stuff you’d expect from a
rookie in his first month of play, but Amukamara wasn’t about to give himself a
pass. More from him coming later today or early Tuesday. Stay tuned.</p>

S Antrel Rolle. What is he doing on that 50-yard touchdown?
He has to stay deep there, no question about it. I don’t know why he looked back
at CB Corey Webster because he was the one clearly in the
wrong. He had the deep half. That’s a crucial mistake that could’ve sunk this
season. Rolle did have a couple of good decisions early in the second half. One
was to not light up a defenseless WR Dez Bryant on a deep ball
that had been overthrown (good non-call by the officials) and the other was when
he impeded Robinson on a quick slant a few plays later to force an incompletion
on a third-and-3. Had Rolle made contact, it would’ve been a penalty. But he
didn’t, so that’s a nice play that forced a field goal instead of a touchdown.
Credit to Collinsworth for calling it “amateur-*** coverage.” As I’ve said in
the past, Collinsworth pulls no punches.</p>

Cowboys P Mat McBriar. It didn’t really hit me until I saw
this morning just how bad his 33-yard punt was. That gave the Giants the ball a
few yards closer to the game-winning touchdown.</p>

Dallas LB DeMarcus Ware. I can’t even give him a free pass
because he had two extremely untimely offside penalties -- one on each of the
Giants’ two final touchdown drives. The second negated what would’ve been a
12-yard loss on a bad snap by C Kevin Boothe. So instead of
second-and-22 at the 49, it was first-and-5 at the 32. Big, big difference. So a
night on which Ware harassed Manning, (I counted five pressures for him) ended
in a couple of huge mental mistakes.</p>

‘Boys CB Frank Walker. This guy drove the Giants nuts by
getting flagged when he played for them. He was called for holding to negate
what would’ve been another left-handed incompletion for Manning. What should’ve
been third-and-10 at the 24 was rather first-and-10 at the 19.</p>

Sensabaugh and Cowboys CBs Terence Newman and Ball. Do these
guys every have good games against the Giants? Because I’m having trouble
remembering any right now. Newman’s dropped interception in the first quarter to
negate an easy pick six was awful.</p>

* * * *</p>


I don’t know that we paid enough attention to Nicks’ 24-yard grab and
everything that went into it. First of all, Manning rolls away from pressure
from Spencer. Then, he gets more from Ratliff but still manages to throw a great
ball off one foot. At that point, Nicks makes the grab and is able to control it
extremely quickly. He had to because he needed to get both feet down quickly.
And with those mitts, that ball didn’t move a millimeter from the time it hit
his hands. Great catch.</p>

Apparently, the officials thought it was even better. Even though Nicks
stepped out at the 10-yard line, they spotted it at the 8. Those were two big
yards because Ballard barely broke the plane for his touchdown to cut the lead
back to one score.</p>

* * * *</p>


My other candidate for this play was going to be the stop for no gain by
Pierre-Paul and Canty on second-and-5 before the failed deep ball to Austin that
gave the Giants the ball back. Looking at that play again, it seemed Austin
might have missed his assignment. He started to crack back on Pierre-Paul but
then peeled off and went for Rolle. That allowed Pierre-Paul to get 2 yards of
penetration. Had Austin blocked Pierre-Paul, Fiammetta would’ve met Rolle
instead. Again, that’s just a guess on my part because I don’t know how the play
is drawn up. But if Austin did as told, that’s bad design.</p>

* * * *</p>


If you didn’t like the call on the draw play to Ware on third-and-goal from
the 4 in the first quarter, I’d say you should direct your ire at the blocking,
not the decision by Manning to check to the play. The overhead view showed that
was the right call; it just wasn’t blocked well. Ware simply beat his buddy LT
David Diehl and Petrus didn’t seem to have a grasp for which
defender to block. Petrus let Brooking get to the ball carrier unimpeded.</p>

You couldn’t really tell from the NBC replays, but there was a replay of the
Cowboys’ first touchdown on the monster screen in the stadium that showed Dallas
G Montrae Holland got his hands on Williams’ face mask as he
was blocking him. The officials, who had just called illegal hands to the face
on LB Mathias Kiwanuka one play prior, missed that one.</p>

Somebody needs to explain to me why the Giants ran a play with 1 second left
before the 2-minute warning in the first half. It was a 4-yard completion to the
right side and would’ve had the clock running with under 2 minutes to play. The
Giants were at the Cowboys’ 43-yard line, so they had tons of time to score. But
by snapping the ball, they stopped the clock instead of letting it run a bit or
forcing the Cowboys to call a timeout before a third-and-4 that failed. Dallas
wound up getting the ball back with 1:38 to play. (Pierre-Paul stripped Jones,
so the Cowboys didn’t get to do much with the ball.) NBC got a shot of Coughlin
right before the play and he seemed like he wanted things to hurry up. In that
case, they have to chill and understand the clock is their friend.</p>

This officiating crew did an okay job. Just okay. The one call with which I’d
take exception was the pass-interference on Webster late in the third quarter.
But Dallas didn’t score on that drive, so no harm, no foul. However …</p>

… they missed what could’ve been a crucial one. On Jones’ 6-yard catch on
Dallas’ final drive, his knee is down. In bounds. Well before the ball hits out
of bounds. That clock should’ve been running. There were 24 seconds left and, by
the time Dallas lined up, there would’ve been a lot fewer. But Romo had plenty
of time to huddle up and hit Austin for 23 yards. Head linesman Tom
Stabile was right there and he missed the call. Had this game ended
differently, we’d be talking about that play all day today.</p>

* * * *</p>


You couldn’t see from any of the NBC replays but TE Jason
Witten was wide open on a deep cross early in the third quarter. Romo
seemed like he started to see him just as Canty was getting a hold of him. That
would have been a huge play if Canty hadn’t sacked Romo. The Cowboys settled for
a field goal on that drive to extend their lead to 5.</p>

LB Michael Boley made a real nice play to stop Austin for
only 5 yards on an end around in the third quarter. While backpedaling, Boley
maintained outside leverage on C Kevin Kowalski and forced
Austin to stumble by refusing to give up either the inside or outside. It wasn’t
a big factor in the game, just a very impressive play.</p>

Al Michaels kills me when he tries to talk cool: “a deuce”
instead of two or “totes” instead of carries. It’s as annoying as when he used
to give the wink-wink when a late garbage-time score helped a team cover or
pushed the total to the over. Sometimes he needs to be told when to back it down
and just call the game.</p>

Michaels said of the 15-yard catch by Manningham on fourth-and-3, “If the
Giants win, we’ll look back on that as a key play.” Who would’ve imagined that
catch, which came with just over 8 minutes to play, wouldn’t have factored into
the outcome at all? That’s because, three plays later, Manning was intercepted
after his screen pass to Ware was tipped.</p>

The Giants finally ran a successful fake on the wide-receiver screen to Ware.
It went for 17 yards after Ball bit up on the pump to Ware. Nicks ran the wheel
route there. That play set up the third-and-5 on what wound up being
Manningham’s touchdown. Again, I have no idea what happened on the coverage on
Dallas’ end on the Manningham TD.</p>

Blackburn’s second game <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2011/12/chase_blackburn_makes_impact_i.html">wasn’t
nearly as productive as his first</a>. He got caught up in the wash way too

The Cowboys rushed only two on a pair of plays on the Giants’ game-winning
drive. Those plays were completions for 8 and 18 yards. Manning delivered great
balls on both of them because the extra men in coverage clogged the secondary

And finally, this was something <a href="https://twitter.com/MikeGarafolo">I
noted on Twitter during the game</a> but it needs to be reiterated because it
illustrates Pierre-Paul’s impact. Of the seven drives by the Cowboys that
followed their opening series, they scored on four of them. The three drives
that didn’t end in points ended with a play by Pierre-Paul: the safety, the
forced fumble and the sack on third-and-9 in the third quarter. That’s
incredible to see a defensive end have an impact on a game like

12-12-2011, 02:40 PM
Thank you for a great review and insight into the game. I also hated the call against Williams for pass interferance, when he was standing still and just put up his hands to stop the TE from running into him.</P>

These young LB's of ours, while making some mistakes are going to be fine. It's called OJT, and we'll be stronger for it.</P>