‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
See what the Cowboys did to the Buffalo Bills yesterday?
Beware, Giants fans. While next week’s hated rival Philadelphia continues its 2011 implosion and falls further out of the playoff picture, the Cowboys appear very much alive.
Especially Tony Romo.
So why should he bother you folks? They don’t play, after all, until Dec. 11. That’s four games from now, an eternity in the football universe.
Of course, much can happen between now and then. But the fact is, this is significant because the Giants just allowed a career nothing like Alex Smith throw the ball all over the lot on them. It seems the 6-3 NFC East leaders were so worried about stopping Frank Gore, a great running back who barely played Sunday, that they forgot all about the quarterback.
Not only did the pass coverage allow Smith to find eight receivers, some of them wide open, in a 19-of-30, 242-yard passing day. And had it not been for Ted Ginn’s inability to catch one ball that hit him right on the hands, the Giants wouldn’t have had a single turnover against a quarterback who was previously known for making mistakes.
That was yesteryear, of course. Under Jim Harbaugh’s system, Smith has not only been reinstated as a starter, but has become a productive quarterback. But still, the Giants’ coverage was sorely lacking. How else does a tight end like Vernon Davis get so wide open on that 31-yard touchdown catch that put the Niners up 20-13 after their first two-point conversion of the season?
They appeared taken by surprise by the downplaying of the Niners running game. With Gore a non-factor (six carries, zero yards), it was left to his backups to do the heavy lifting. And Kendall Hunter hoisted the most weight with his 17-yard run for the ultimate winning points.
But back to Smith, who even on this day should never be compared to a healthy Romo. No sacks on him. One quarterback hit for Tuck, but no tackles. Jason Pierre-Paul’s streak of at least one sack in the last four games over.
Do that to Romo, or better yet, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees the two games before the Cowboys matchup, and the Giants might be well into their annual second-half spiral well before the Dallas game means anything.
Perhaps through losing, however, the Giants learned something. You can’t always get away with fourth quarter comebacks. That final throw that Justin Smith batted down on Eli Manning probably wouldn’t have produced that drive’s third fourth-down conversion had it gotten through. But it needn’t have come to that, anyway. Had the Giants converted their Red Zone opportunities into touchdowns on their first two drives of the game, it would have been a far different contest.
There is, after all, a big difference between 3-3 and 14-3.
It’s a shame, because Manning started the game a career-high 10-for-10 for 102 yards. And later on, he went on another streak of seven straight passes. But even this era’s Captain Comeback couldn’t pull it off this time.
Romo showed how to do it against the Bills. Step on the gas early, and don’t let up.
The Giants might want to consider that formula over the next few weeks.