By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD – Many of the Giants sounded comfortable with tagging this as “just one of those days” and credited the Dallas Cowboys for making enough big plays to grab a 33-20 upset that ended New York’s five-game winning streak.

This was a total team effort by the Giants – a study in mediocrity that left them with what they deserved against a desperate rival that raised its play enough times to make a difference. In fact, it’s almost unfair to single out any individual for anything positive or negative, but we’ll try to explain our reasons as we sift through a game that was interrupted by a power outage twice in the third quarter. So let’s not waste any more time and get to the Giants’ Game Balls and Gassers.


Offense-WR Mario Manningham. He became Eli Manning’s go-to target, given the absence of Steve Smith (pectoral). The quarterback threw 16 passes at Manningham, completing 10 (ties Manningham’s career high) for 91 yards and a 5-yard third-quarter touchdown that brought the Giants within 26-13. Manningham also produced the team’s longest play from scrimmage – a 44-yard post route on the first play to the Dallas 30 after the Cowboys had taken a 19-3 lead with three minutes left in the half.

Defense-S Deon Grant. The defense did not play well, but Grant’s interception in the end zone kept the Giants alive with 8:37 remaining. QB Jon Kitna rolled right from the Giants’ 37 and tried to find Dez Bryant near the right sideline, but Grant’s theft kept the Cowboys’ lead at 13. It was a potentially big play because, four snaps later, the Giants appeared to get back in the game but Hakeem Nicks’ 48-yard TD catch was nullified by a holding penalty on Kevin Boothe.

Special teams-DT Barry Cofield. He got pressure up the middle and deflected David Buehler’s point-after attempt to keep the score at 6-3 late in the first quarter. The miss lingered throughout the game as the Giants attempted to stay within two touchdowns and keep the outcome in doubt.


Offense-Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. This is not easy to do because we know he was working with Shawn Andrews (making his second NFL start at LT), little-used veteran LG Kevin Boothe and C Rich Seubert (moving from LG) along the offensive line – in short, the Giants’ ninth line combination of the season. But despite the Cowboys’ suspect secondary, it was clear going into the game that the Giants needed to rely on the NFL’s third-ranked rushing attack. Instead, Manning threw 26 first-half passes on 38 snaps as the Giants fell behind 19-6.

The worst call of all came when the Giants HAD to run the ball from the Dallas 2 with 7 ½ minutes left in the first half, but Manning (out of the shotgun) was intercepted by Bryan McCann, who returned it a club-record 101 yards for a TD. Nicks and Coughlin agreed that Nicks did not complete the slant on the left side and allowed McCann to have an easy interception. But the point is a pass NEVER should have been called in that spot, especially when the previous two running plays went for 8 and 5 yards.

Defense-Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. We’ve been praising him all season, but the Cowboys ran a max-protect scheme (and quick-hitters) for much of the game and the Giants’ front four failed to supply the necessary pressure on Kitna, who completed five passes of at least 30 yards on the day. Most puzzling is that Fewell seemed reluctant to dial up his multiple blitz packages, when he should have adjusted and attacked in a variety of ways. The pass rush hardly generated any heat in the first half, yet the Giants continued to rely on their base front throughout the rest of the day and Kitna (13-of-22 for 327 yards and 3 TDs) consistently took advantage of their passive scheme.

Special teams-P Matt Dodge. This day was a step backward for the rookie, who had been improving. He had two touchbacks on his four punts and his others were a 33-yarder (to the Dallas 36) in the first quarter and 32-yard shank (to the Giants 44) in the second quarter – both times, Dodge missed on an opportunity to tilt the field.

NOTE: The receiving corps, already without Smith, may get some bad news today. Ramses Barden, who took snaps in the slot, suffered a sprained ankle and left the stadium with a boot and crutches.