By Curt Macysyn
The New York Giants were looking to get the 2015 NFL season off to a positive start, as they met their arch-rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on Sunday Night Football. Since their Super Bowl XLVI championship after the 2011 season, Big Blue has become post-season spectators for the past three NFL playoffs, a trend that New York is looking to reverse. Late into the fourth quarter, the G-men seemingly had the game under control, as they led the Cowboys by ten points with only eight minutes left. But Tony Romo led Dallas back with two touchdown passes in the final five minutes, and Big Blue went down to defeat, 27-26, in Big D.
The offense was effective, at times, against the Cowboys’ defense, but failed to get into the end zone when they could have sealed the victory. Eli Manning was only 20-36 for a mere 193 yards through the air. In his defense, Manning was not helped by Preston Parker’s three dropped passes, and he did not throw an interception either. Featured back, Rashad Jennings, ripped off a couple of nice runs, including a 27-yard scamper. Andre Williams got six carries with a net result of only 14 yards (2.3 yards per carry). Moving forward, Williams cannot continue to take touches away from versatile Shane Vereen, who had three carries for 14 yards (4.7 yards per carry).
Odell Beckham was the primary target of the Cowboys’ defense all evening, and he finished with just five catches for 44 yards. No other receiver provided much help for the offense, as Rueben Randle (23 receiving yards) and Parker (26 receiving yards) did not alleviate pressure off of either Manning or Beckham. The offensive line still looks like a work in progress, instead of a strong foundation that supports the offense.
Keep in mind that the Cowboys were missing three important defenders in middle linebacker Rolando McClain (suspension), defensive end Greg Hardy (suspension), and cornerback Orlando Scandrick (knee injury).
Evaluating the defense for this game is difficult at best. After all, the defense was responsible for one touchdown on its own, when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie scooped up a Cole Beasley fumble and returned it 57 yards to put the Giants ahead in the second quarter. Later in the game, a Trumaine McBride interception, off a Brandon Meriweather deflection, was returned to the one-yard line. From there, Rashad Jennings bulled into the end zone to put New York ahead by 10 points with eight minutes left.
On the other hand, the defense gave up 436 total yards to the Cowboys, who passed for 356 yards in their victory. Once again, tight end Jason Witten stuck a dagger in the hearts of Giants’ fans with eight receptions for 60 yards and the game-winning touchdown. The Giants’ linebackers had no answers for the Cowboys’ running backs catching the ball out of the backfield, as Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden combined for 12 catches on the evening. Dunbar, in particular, was lethal with eight catches overall, and he had two grabs for 40 yards on the final drive. Tony Romo completed 80 percent of his passes.
The Giants’ cornerbacks, Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, held their own against the Cowboys’ wideouts. It also helped that Dez Bryant suffered with dehydration first and then a foot injury, but the front four did not get close to taking down Tony Romo. It has been reported that Bryant suffered a broken foot in the game and could miss 4-6 weeks of action. Spanuolo has his work cut out for him, as he will try to manufacture a pass rush, while maintaining some semblance of intermediate pass coverage.
Special Teams: C
The punt coverage team did a nice job, holding Cole Bealey to one return for minus three yards. Newly acquired Brad Wing had four punts for a 44.8 yard average, including three punts inside the 20. The Cowboys kept Giants’ return specialist Dwayne Harris under wraps, with no kickoff return yards, and an anemic three yards on two returns, including one ill-advised east-west return.
The kickoff coverage gave up a 30-yard return to Lance Dunbar, and a poorly executed squib kick allowed a 20-yard Tyler Patmon return that paved the way for the game-winning touchdown. The Cowboys started their final drive on the Giants’ 28-yard line, and that kickoff took minimal time off of the clock.
Poor clock management doomed the Giants in the end. Instead of calling a running play on 3rd and goal with less than two minutes remaining, the Giants tried a bootleg pass that was sniffed out by the Cowboys. Manning had to throw the ball away, and Dallas was left with plenty of time (1:34) to move the ball downfield for the winning Jason Witten touchdown catch. Another curious decision was the one that had Josh Brown squib kick the ball to Tyler Patmon, instead of booting it out of the end zone. Patmon returned the kickoff 20 yards, and the Cowboys started their drive on the Giants’ 28-yard line.
The Giants dropped to 0-8 against the Cowboys on opening day, and Tom Coughlin has lost his last five season openers. The Cowboys visit Met Life Stadium on October 25 for the rematch. Next week (Sept. 20), the G-men host the Atlanta Falcons in a 1:00 p.m. contest at the Meadowlands. The Falcons play a Monday night tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Georgia Dome, so the G-men will have one more day of rest than Atlanta before next week’s game.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.