As I mentioned on my Smooth View Game Preview of this game, the New York Giants relied on and needed three Dallas Cowboys turnovers in order to keep the game close. Both Defense and Special Teams held up their end, dominating those two phases of the game.
- Christine Michael
- Geoff Swaim
- Jordan Mills
- La’el Collins
- Ken Bishop
- Davon Coleman
- Ryan Russell
As projected, Lance Dunbar was the Kick Returner and Cole Beasley was called upon as the Punt Returner. I was slightly shocked that Lucky Whitehead was active. His usage on offense was minimal and his only noticeable play was allowing a blitzing Landon Collins a free shot at Darren McFadden in the backfield after blowing his blocking assignment.
Deciding to only go with three active Defensive Ends was also a surprise as I had seen enough from Ryan Russell to have him backup DeMarcus Lawrence at Left Defensive End. With the injury to Randy Gregory, Russell will have his number called in the upcoming weeks. It will also be interesting to see if a veteran Defensive End is added to the 53.
With the ongoing rumors that a Wide Receiver will indeed be signed to the 53 after the release of Jordan Mills, you have to wonder; will Lucky remain active as the team definitely has the weapons needed if they choose to only keep four Wide Receivers active?
They did not have any issues moving the ball. The precise play of Tony Romo and the effectiveness of the running game, at times it seemed they could have dropped 40+ on the Giants defense. The key to their success was the incredible play by the Offensive Line, which provided Romo with a great pocket the entire game.
Here are a few clips showing that from @DraftCowboys on Twitter.
Another first down after Romo goes through his progressions. https://t.co/3QrcYtxLp0
Tyrone Smith and Doug Free were able to force enough depth on their blocks, allowing Romo to climb the pocket and remain comfortable.
Gavin Escobar, he just catches TDs. https://t.co/jU8IRRoye5
Here Romo had all day, which allowed Escobar to come open.
If not for a poor blocking attempt from Joseph Randle, Romo does not take a hit here.
Absolutely zero pressure all game. Romo finds Witten. https://t.co/I7Du5dnQpt
If Romo gets this much time, he has the patience and arm talent to pick apart any defense. I wish they had played a clean game; we would have seen more from the running game, which looked impressive at times with both Randle and McFadden finding some success.
There were some plays where I felt Randle left some meat on the bone that perhaps McFadden would not have.
Even from his limited attempts, I still see more explosiveness and power from McFadden. Randle’s fumble early in the first quarter should not be ignored either. Not taking away from Randle’s performance after that fact, I just do not feel the Coaching Staff is going to move away from this rotation.
Gaping hole on left side leads to an 8 yard run. https://t.co/2fvipoiNVN
McFadden sees the hole and there’s no hesitation at all, he explodes through it.
Randle follows his blocks. https://t.co/lzbscn3d3u
Randle does a good job here at allowing the blocks to develop, he just looks to be a half step slower than McFadden once he sees the hole. Either way, both do a good job once they get to the hole, managing to navigate their way through it.
Speed will beat angles every time. https://t.co/WNEre43qsz
Great example of the explosion from McFadden, he definitely has “helmet to goal post” explosion, basically meaning he can take it the distance anytime he gets in the open field. What also cannot be ignored is how effective Dunbar was as a receiver both out of the backfield and lining up outside. He definitely adds a new wrinkle to this offense, giving them another effective option out of the slot to go along with Beasley.
Giants Free Safety – who really is a Strong Safety that acts as a Free Safety – Landon Collins made some interesting remarks towards Romo going into the game.
“If he’s going to look for key matchups, he’s going to pick on me. . . . I’m a rookie, but I mean, he comes towards my way, and He Won’t Be Happy .”
Pretty bold words from Collins who is not known for his coverage skills, which were on full display when the Giants were leading 23-13 with just over five minutes left in the game.
Collins gets caught and Witten gets an easy TD. https://t.co/3TOMYAD2Nm
The clip doesn’t show that Witten went in motion with Collins trailing a step behind which allowed this play to be run practically against air.
Sometimes players are better off simply…
Not Talking And Just Playing
In actuality, the Defense really only gave up nine points when you look at the drives put together. They played much better than I could have expected against the pass, with the pass rush knocking Eli Manning off his spot for the majority of the game.
Yet what should not be ignored is the quality of play from the secondary.
Claiborne playing OBJ with some aggressive coverage. https://t.co/xR0emgVqBm
This is practically what Beckham saw all night.
The way they were able to keep him in check was a great sign for the Secondary. It was also great to have a healthy Sean Lee as he led the team in tackles and was all over the field.
Great read and react from Sean Lee. https://t.co/IzFtMt7Wag
Just the ability to diagnosis a play, have the awareness to not over run it, and the technique to make the tackle were all on display here. Sean Lee is definitely back and is making plays that Bruce Carter simply would not be in position for.
The biggest concern surrounding this Defense is how will the pressure look with the absence of Gregory as he made Flowers look terrible with his pass rush.
Gregory vs Flowers https://t.co/i4koG22djw
As I also mentioned in my preview for this game, Flowers simply does not have the foot speed to be anything but an average Pass Blocking Left Tackle. The above clip is practically how it went all night for Flowers until they eventually gave him some help.
The Cowboys offense looks to have become specialized, meaning there are certain players with specific roles. Which after the first game look to be the following.
- Lance Dunbar – Receiving Running Back/Slot Receiver
- James Hanna – Point Of Attack Strictly Blocking Tight End
- Gavin Escobar – Pass Receiving Tight End
- Joseph Randle & Darren McFadden – Traditional Running Backs
Each of these players seem to have very distinct roles and there may not be much deviation from those roles going forward. This does not really make the team predictable as with each package there are enough other options to not give away a play call or whether it will even be run or pass.
Some may have felt the Cowboys passing attack was too vanilla against the Giants, I strongly disagree as I felt Romo got the team in the correct calls to exploit obvious holes in the Giants defense. If a defense will leave Safeties over the top, I have no issue with going underneath and marching the ball down the field.
The turnovers are something that can and should get cleaned up moving forward, even without Dez Bryant this offense has enough weapons and a Quarterback that can distribute the ball around enough to mitigate his loss.
The running game also gives the Cowboys options as that Offensive Line continued to block extremely well even with the loss of Ronald Leary during the game.
Defensively, I was very impressed. There is something to be said for how this unit played.
If they are able to harass opposing Quarterbacks this well going forward, the Secondary will continue to shine. Replacing Gregory will be a difficult task as he was simply a force on Sunday Night.
Without going into much detail over the Giants decisions at the end of the game, it was clear the vastly undermanned team was also let down by their Coaching Staff. Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo simply lost all forms of common sense and Eli was not aware of the situation either.
Once you make those mistakes and give Tony Romo an opportunity to win the game on a final drive, you deserve to lose.
Oh yeah, that final drive. I will just leave you with this masterpiece.