If the Cowboys are going to make any kind of run this season, it needs to start against the Giants on Monday night.
The goal of the Cowboys should be to even their record at 4-4 by the next time these two teams meet on Nov. 14 in New Jersey.
Three weeks ago, the Giants were in the same shape that the Cowboys are now. A loss to the Titans left the Giants with the reality that penalties and turnovers were killing their season. Tom Coughlin stood before the media after that Titans loss and took the heat for the struggles of his squad and vowed there would be changes the following week.
The Giants have since won three straight, while the Cowboys have lost two of their last three. It’s the Giants that are getting the turnovers and committing fewer penalties. The Cowboys on the other hand, have talked about making corrections and changes but still have been unable to get past those issues that have caused them defeat.
In studying the Giants on offense, there are some areas of this offense that really stand out. When they run the ball now, Ahmad Bradshaw not only does it with power but with more speed than Brandon Jacobs. The ball gets to and through the hole quicker than it had in the past.
The Giants’ offensive line is that of “mauler/brawler” types and not that of a sleek, athletic group. The Giants’ front likes to push and lean on you. When they go to extra tight end packages, they bring in tackle Shawn Andrews as an extra blocker. There is nothing pretty about the way they look or play, but they are effective.
In this contest, I will be interested to see how DeMarcus Ware plays against tackle David Diehl. If Diehl has problems, it’s when rushers take him down inside. In watching Diehl, he really fights hard to work outside with his footwork and set. Ware has the ability to take Diehl up the field then counter on him inside.
The Giants will do all they can to keep Manning upright in this game. Backup tight end Bear Pascoe will line up in the backfield and play as the “F” and help in protection if needed. Manning has been sacked 27 times in career games against the Cowboys.
Manning struggles the most with turnovers when he feels pressure. There are times where his decision-making is poor because of the way he handles pressure. There are times when faced with a rush that he is nowhere near as accurate as he needs to be. He will make his receivers work for the ball way too often.
In going back and studying the first game that the Cowboys and Giants played in 2009, Manning used a quick game to his wide receivers and allowed them to break tackles to make plays. It was a solid game plan by the Giants and their receivers showed the ability to make the Cowboys defenders miss and gain positive yards.
Where the Cowboys also have to be alert in this game is when the Giants try to run vertical and hit plays down the field. All three of the Giants’ receivers can get down the field and make plays. Hakeem Nicks is the most dangerous of the group, then Steve Smith.
Nicks is an impressive player because of his size and his ability to cover ground. Nicks has been Manning’s go-to guy. He plays with dependable hands and will take his routes all over the field.
Smith was a Cowboys’ killer in 2009 with 16 catches in two games. He, like Nicks, will go anywhere for the ball and has the ability to take short catches and make them into huge gains due to his 4.44 speed coming out of USC.
Mario Manningham is not the fastest of the three receivers, but he has averaged 16 yards a reception this season.
The Cowboys secondary has struggled with the ball going down the field. To combat that last week, safety Alan Ball was playing 23 yards deep. Terence Newman has been the Cowboys’ most consistent defensive back and along with Mike Jenkins will need a huge day against this talented group.
When these two teams met last December, nickel back Orlando Scandrick played much better than he did in September. Scandrick is going to have a key role in this game because the way that the Giants like to use the three-wide receiver packages.
As important as it is for the Cowboys to focus on the Giants’ running game, how they play against these wide receivers could determine if they win the game on Monday night.
*Last week against the Vikings, the Cowboys faced a defense line that had the ability to take over a game and control the line of scrimmage. This week, they face a Giants defense that might not have the inside power of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams but their outside rushers, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, are just as difficult to handle as Jared Allen or Ray Edwards.
When you study Umenyiora and Tuck, they are both playing at a high level. Umenyiora is back to that attacking style that gave offensive tackles so much trouble over the years. Umenyiora has a wide variety of moves so there will not be one move that Doug Free can sit on.
Against the Lions last week, he carried Jeff Backus up the field on one move, he drove hard inside on another and then he used a spin move free himself from a set. Free will need to be on his toes on Monday night.
The Cowboys as a whole across the line will need to do the same because defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will move Umenyiora and Tuck all over the defense to try and get matchups they could win. When the Giants give the Cowboys one of those looks on defense with Umenyiora and Tuck standing up inside, it will be important for Romo to set the protection and the communication of the offensive line takes over to handle the games the Giants play out of those looks.
Something to note that could be a problem for the Cowboys, with Montrae Holland starting for Kyle Kosier at guard, watch how well, he, Gurode and Davis are able to communicate and handle what is going on inside. The Giants like to use their linebackers and defensive line in games and stunts to create confusion in blocking schemes. If the Cowboys struggle with the communication of these calls, the offense can get exposed and the results can kill a drive or create a turnover.
I would not be the least bit surprised to see Jason Garrett once again roll out the game plan that he used in Minnesota with the quick passing game, the screen packages and selective running plays to keep their rush off Romo.
Where the Giants are better than the Vikings is in the secondary. Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are solid corners, but where the Giants have made the most improvement and upgrade is the addition of Antrel Rolle from Arizona at safety.
Rolle paired with Kenny Phillips has been a good combination. Rolle and Phillips are always around the ball. They do a nice job with the range plays as well.
The Giants really struggled last season with the play of their safeties. When Phillips went on IR after the Dallas game in September, it was just one bad game after another for the defense, but you no longer see that for this defense. If you study the numbers, the Giants are ranked as one of the top defenses in the NFL.
The Cowboys can go toe to toe with them on several offensive areas, but if they continue to not protect the football and suffer untimely penalties, it will not matter how many third downs they convert or how many yards they throw for, it will just become another loss.