The New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys to start their season with a win for the first time since 2010. We grade their performance on both sides of the ball.
The Giants came up big in Texas on Sunday, outlasting the Dallas Cowboys 20-19 for their first victory at JerryWorld since 2012. They got contributions from new faces, and old. Bad clock management, a familiar theme under Tom Coughlin a year ago, reared its head once again. Only this time, things broke Big Blue’s way. Cowboys’ receiver Terrance Williams stayed in bounds with no time-outs remaining near the end of the game, trying to get Dallas in realistic field goal range. He did, but time expired before Dak Prescott could take the next snap. Notwithstanding, the Giants won this game by making big plays in big moments. Let’s take a look at how each unit performed.
Giants’ Offensive grade: B
The potential was on display. A big play to Odell Beckham set up an early Larry Donnell touchdown. Then Beckham was used as a decoy to set up Sterling Shepard’s first career score at the end the first half. Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen gashed the Cowboys’ defense to chew the clock in the fourth quarter. And Victor Cruz got to salsa for the first time in years, completing his comeback with the game-winning TD. The Giants have a lot to take away from this game, most of it good. Still, there’s room for improvement.
Eli Manning (207 yards, 3 TDs) started the second half off with an ugly interception. There appeared to be some miscommunication with Shepard, who heard it from the coaching staff on the sideline, but I’m not sure what he could’ve done. Cowboys’ cornerback Brandon Carr sat on a curl route and looked like Eli’s intended receiver on the pick. The offense made timely plays down the stretch, but gave the ball back to Dallas too quick, too often. They were smacked in time of possession (37 minutes to 23), a common trend in recent meetings.
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Giants’ Defensive grade: B+
The defense is mostly responsible for losing the time of possession battle. They allowed the Cowboys to convert 58 percent of their third downs (10/17). Prescott, making his first career start, was poised under center. He wasn’t exceptional, but he did move the offense consistently and didn’t commit any turnovers.
Big Blue did a good job stopping Ezekiel Elliot (2.5 ypc), but weren’t as successful against Alfred Morris (5.0 ypc). Landon Collins was targeted often, and didn’t fare well. Collins in coverage is an issue that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo must find a way to address.
The defense did however keep the Giants in the game by forcing Dallas to take field goals over touchdowns. Dallas made them bend for much of the day, but they didn’t break. The only touchdown they surrendered was a direct result of Manning’s second-half interception, which started Dallas deep in Giants’ territory.
Outside of Elliot’s eight-yard TD run on that drive, the Giants bottled him up all day. Elliot had two opportunities, in space, to turn plays wide, and was stopped for short gains on exceptional plays by Darian Thompson and Jonathan Casillas. They also held Dez Bryant to one reception for eight yards. It was Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins, not Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who drew the assignment, according to NJ.com.
"“We had Jackrabbit (Jenkins) travel with him. He competed his tail off today. I’m glad he was in the red, white and blue today.”– Ben McAdoo"
A traveling cornerback? Josh Norman and Jay Gruden, take note.
The Giants will host the New Orleans Saints in their home opener. The two teams did away with the concept of defense last season, combining for the third highest scoring game in NFL history (101 points). The Saints won it, 52-49.
The Giants will need to generate more pressure on Drew Brees than they were able to put on Prescott. The offense must do a much better job sustaining drives as well. Keeping Brees on the sideline is the key to success.