Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants Win a Classic in Dallas – Grades
It was as great a game as you’ll ever see (overstatement). It was one of the most brilliant displays of quarterbacking brilliance as has ever been witnessed (dramatic overstatement). It was as important a regular season win as there can be (enormous overstat- No. That one seems just about right). 37-34 Giants. Insane.
Coming off of last week’s hard-fought loss to the Packers one question loomed over the Giants. Would that effort spur them on to a win in Dallas, or be the last gasp of a slowly sinking team who’s season will quickly end? The Giants would have to answer that question against the Cowboys in a battle that would go a long way in determining the front runner in the NFC East race. A loss would end their season, a win would extend their run until next week, when their impending loss to the Redskins will end their season (hopefully not, I just need to be mentally prepared for what would be a very Giant-like loss).
Sunday’s game opened in impressive fashion with two punts. Did I say impressive? I meant feeble. Speaking of feeble, the Cowboys’ second offensive possession began deep in their own territory and ended with the monster that is Jason Pierre-Paul getting a hand on Romo before the much maligned quarterback stumbled into and fell down in the end zone. Safety, and the beginning of a long night for whomever stood in the way of JPP (That’s foreshadowing, people. Thank you middle school english). 2-0 Giants. The G-men would then take the free kick and cash in with a Lawrence Tynes field goal. 5-0. 5-0?! I don’t know who the starting pitcher was for the Cowboys but Jason Garrett needed to make a call to the bullpen. The Cowboys would answer thanks to big runs by Felix Jones – DeMarco Murry was lost for the game due to an ankle injury – and the horrific secondary play of the Giants that we’ve come to know and love so much. 5-7.
Not to be under-done, however, the Cowboy defense would take the field and show why they deserve the crown of “Worst Secondary in the League.” Penalties, Manning completions, and big Jacobs runs – who was starting in lieu of Ahmad Bradshaw due to rules violations – the Giants drove down and scored. Brandon Jacobs run, 12-7. “Oh Hell no! No way that D is worse than us!” said the Giants defense in response…or so it seemed, I’m just inferring here. Regardless of whether or not they said it, they showed it on Dallas’ ensuing possession. Romo lead the Boys down the field and with a pass to Laurent Robinson put his team back on top 12-14.
Following a stalled Giants drive the Cowboys retook possession deep in their own territory and deep inside the two minute warning. Enter Jason Pierre-Paul. On a Felix Jones run JPP came across the formation to force a fumble which was recovered by the G-Men. Another brilliant play by the second year player, but not his last (MORE FORESHADOWING). Larry Tynes would capitalize, 15-14 Giants. Sadly though, the half couldn’t end there, there was still time left on the clock for the Giants defense to look terrible in. The Cowboys drove right down the field for the FG. 15-17 Cowboys at half.
All kidding aside I think you had to be somewhat encouraged by that half of football – and, of course, quietly frustrated. The Giants offense was playing well, but missing too many opportunities. They took several field goals from inside the Cowboys’ ten, chances you just can’t let go. Still, you got the sense that Manning and that offense would be fine – particularly if receivers actually started catching balls. Defensively, the Giants hadn’t played terribly. I mean, they’d played pretty poorly, but not terribly. They would certainly need to play better if the team was to get the win (or so I thought), and that would have to start with the defensive line.
The second half opened in encouraging fashion for the G-men. They went three and out offensively and allowed the Cowboys to drive down the field for a field goal. Did I say encouraging? That may have been one of those dramatic overstatements that I talked about earlier. 15-20. Anyway, it was now Eli Manning’s turn to put his team back on top – and by that I mean it was the Cowboy defense’s turn to show the world that they would not be denied – They ARE the worst secondary in the league! Manning found Manningham so wide open that not even Tyler Palko could have missed the throw. Manningham waltzed into the end zone, though he probably could have crawled. 22-20.
Two punts later the Cowboys had the ball back and the Giants defensive backs once again reclaimed the title of “Least Outstanding Secondary.” Prince Amukamara was beaten like the fat guy in his first night at Shawshank for a big gain and the Cowboys capitalized on the next play. Romo to Austin. 22-27. A couple of drops and a pinball interception on the next Giants drive set the Cowboys up once again to drive home that “Least Outstanding Secondary” thing. Romo found a historically wide open Dez Bryant for the touchdown. Seriously, the last time a receiver was that open was…well, okay, when Manningham was that open, but he was still REALLY open. Regardless 22-34, and all was lost.
But then the magic happened. I’ve said it so many times before it gets annoying to write, but I’ll say it again: Eli Manning is one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the league. With under six minutes on the clock the “aw shucks” boy from Ole Miss lead his team down the field and with a touchdown pass to Ballard brought them to within one score. It was a terrific drive for Manning, who moved in the pocket and made pinpoint throws to get his team into the red zone. 3:14 left to play, and the defense needed to make a stop. Now I know what you’re saying. ”The defense needs to make a play? We’re screwed, right?” Well, yes. On third down Romo dropped back to pass and lofted a ball to a wide open Miles Austin who…watched it land harmlessly on the turf?! Romo had overthrown it by a few yards, costing the Cowboys what would have been a walk in touchdown. Austin had, of course, beaten his defender by a few yards. Sweet relief, Manning would get his chance.
A chance he’d make the most of. Eli drove his boys down the field and just inside of the two minute warning threw a perfect touchdown pass to Manningham who, DROPPED IT?! AGAIN?! MANNIGHAM!!!!!!!!!
AHHHH! Anyway, yeah. He dropped it. This time, it wouldn’t cost the G-men the game (unlike San Francisco). Manning was just playing too damn well. Unless Dallas’ Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was hiding his brother Rex and father Buddy under that sweatshirt – not overly farfetched – there was nothing he could do. Moving in the pocket and making brilliant passes, the quarterback just wouldn’t let his team die. A few more completions, including one to Ballard, had the Giants on the one yard line. Brandon Jacobs would punch it in for the TD. An inside draw to Ware, the same play used last week against the Packers, would convert the two point try. 37-34, a brilliant come back that would just need to be finished off with :46 seconds of good defense…oh crap. Did I say defense? Oy. Romo, of course, lead his team into field goal range for their rookie kicker with completions to inexplicably open receivers. Luckily for the Giants, however, Jason Garrett had given them the blueprint to beating this Dallas kicking game. Like the Cowboy coach the week before, Coughlin called time out just before Bailey’s kick, which would have been good. His second attempt at the 47 yarder may have been good as well, we’ll never know. Just after leaving the sure foot of Mr. Bailey the ball met the hand of Jason Pierre-Paul and quietly fell to the turf short of the uprights. Field goal blocked, ball game. 37-34 Giants.
Anyone who reads my writing knows that I tend to be a little…adjective happy. Well folks, I’ve searched my thesaurus cover to cover and I simply don’t have the words to describe that win. I mean, I’ll try, but I may not do it justice: That was an incredible win for the Giants. In my years of coherently following football I honestly can’t remember a more thrilling and intense regular season game. It was the type of game that makes you love the Giants and hate them. With six minutes to go in that game I was ready to quit watching football forever. Fifteen minutes later I’m standing in the living room ecstatically fist pumping. Only the Giants.
As for what you take from the game if you’re a Giants fan? Well, tonight’s a night for elation. With six minutes to go the Giants were looking at three largely meaningless games before a lot of people lost their jobs. Not anymore. The Giants erased a twelve point deficit in less than four minutes and blocked a kick to win one of the most entertaining games of the season. You can’t look at that with anything but a smile. Yes, there are things to improve on. Once again the secondary showed that there’s not a single guy in that defensive back corps that understands coverage and can stay with their man. Not one. Next week I think we should put JPP back there and see if he can get it done, he may be the only one. But you know what? They did enough, or more aptly put, they didn’t do too little, and the offense won them the game. The offensive line was brilliant, the running backs fantastic and Eli Manning was, well Eli Manning. Once again he was the best offensive player on the field today and lead his team to a win without the help of receivers who consistently catch passes. It’s not all good. But it’s pretty freaking good! Live up the win Giants fans, bask in its warm glow. Your team just went into their arch-rivals house and completed such an improbable comeback that the only way I can describe it is by calling it “Tebow-esq.” With the season on the line this team refused to shrink and because of it they control their own destiny in the NFC East.
Grades – Defensive Line (other than JPP) – C: Not enough. They got some pressure but they disappeared at times and with this secondary they simply can’t do that. They need to be monsters all game, they weren’t.
Jason Pierre-Paul – A+: Unreal game for the second year man tonight. Forced a safety, forced a huge turnover, blocked a kick, was everywhere. The man is becoming an absolute force in this league. Look out Hawaii.
Line Backers – D: Gashed over the middle via the pass and gashed by the run. Bad.
Defensive Backs – F: Worse. Wide Receivers were so open I’m not sure that the safeties were actually on the field. Started bad, got worse, never got better.
Special Teams – A: Weatherford punted well. Coverage teams covered well. Return game is still bad, but when you block a field goal for the win you get an A in my book.
Offensive Line – B+: This was by far their best performance of the year. They didn’t allow a sack and opened up huge holes for the running backs. Excellent job.
Running Backs – A: By far their best performance of the year as well. Jacobs and Bradshaw both ran ferociously all night. Great, great game.
Wide Receivers – D: CATCH THE BALL!
Eli Manning – A+: I can’t say enough about Eli’s game today. Once again he took this team on his back late and threw them to a win. He moved in the pocket, he was accurate, he found a way. Quarterbacking brilliance.
Check back here midweek for my preview of next week’s Giants-Redskins game. Go Giants.