By Ernie Palladino
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It may not have been the kind of butt-kicking Jerry Jones predicted — though in fairness, he said that would come at home in Dallas — during the offseason, but he’ll take the Cowboys’ 24-17 win over the Giants.
The question is, how is Tom Coughlin’s team going to take this?
Not that proving the garrulous good old boy from Dallas correct is anything to get truly riled about, but one must wonder if losing yet another cornerback in Michael Coe and watching end-of-chart replacement Justin Tryon have hardly a chance out there in the fourth quarter foretells a bleak future.
It’s only one game, sure. The first, to boot. But the old issues that nearly doomed the Giants’ Super Bowl run in the womb of the regular season cropped up once again. Faulty linebackers in coverage, bad defense in the two-minute period, and second-line players struggling in spots where Coughlin wishes he had a starter playing.
That wasn’t possible as the Cowboys turned a one-touchdown advantage into two with 5:57 remaining in the game. There was Miles Austin leaping next to an out-of-position Tryon on first-and-30, and running it into the end zone to complete a 34-yard completion.
There was Tryon again, getting picked on again on third-and-12 for a first-down catch as the Cowboys ran out the clock.
It wasn’t all Tryon’s fault, though. The defense, wilting in the heat perhaps, allowed three touchdowns and a field goal on the four possessions before their clock-killing drive.
With no timeouts remaining, the Giants were defenseless to stop them. A couple of kneels, and Eli Manning would not have an opportunity to throw another touchdown pass to former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett.
Maybe this is the year the Giants don’t survive. We won’t know that for quite a while, of course. But the defense gave up 433 yards, numbers that looked an awful lot like those of 2011. Injuries up front and in the secondary led to inexperience and fatigue, and neither is a good sign.
It’s too bad. The first half started off rather promisingly. At least the Giants moved the ball. You could almost even forgive rookie running back David Wilson his fumble after watching Michael Boley return an interception to the Dallas 3, to be taken to the 1 because of a horse-collar tackle.
But not really. Red zone problem. Two negative runs and an incomplete forced a field goal.
And then the roof started to fall in.
Rated next-to-last in the league in giving up points during the two-minute period, the defense gave up a go-ahead touchdown with 1:01 left in the half. And it was the linebackers, a group which has never been comfortable in pass coverage, who gave it up as Kevin Ogletree snuck between two of them as Tony Romo scrambled from the 10. Romo hit his receiver in the numbers as Ogletree scooted through the middle and into a wide open end zone.
There was also DeMarcus Ware’s 100th career sack. And a Romo-to-Dez Bryant throw for 38 to set up the touchdown. It wasn’t Tryon on that one. Corey Webster also had a tough night.
It was a tough one all around. This time, Manning could not bring them back. The defense never gave him the chance after that 14-yard completion on third-and-12 that sealed the game.
If that’s going to be the trend of 2012, it’s going to be a challenging year. And this time, Jerry Jones may finally have the last laugh.
He had the first.
Giants fans, what’s your confidence like after the Week 1 loss? Let us know in the comments below…