By Curt Macysyn
Give this New York Giants (9-4) team credit. Few thought that a win against the high-flying Dallas Cowboys (11-2) was possible, and when star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had season-ending surgery this week, more folks jumped off the bandwagon. Big Blue persevered, however, and they came out with a 10-7 victory over the ‘Boys at a raucous MetLife Stadium. The Giants defense gave Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott all they could handle, and there was just enough Odell Beckham to secure the win.
The Giants will not achieve many victories with an offensive effort like this one. Perhaps the frozen conditions at the Meadowlands in New Jersey were partly to blame, but the G-Men were stuck in neutral for most of the contest. Some of the numbers are downright ugly. Even in victory the finger was pointed squarely at quarterback Eli Manning, despite the fact that he completed 61 percent (17 for 28) of his passes, while his opponent, Dak Prescott, was only 17 for 37 (46 percent) on the evening. Manning did turn the ball over three time (two fumbles, 1 interception), and he was generally the recipient of lackluster blocking by the offensive line.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers was once again the main culprit of the jail break, but John Jerry and Marshall Newhouse also missed key blocks. Hopefully, Pro Bowl guard Justin Pugh can return next week to buttress this glaring weakness.
Odell Beckham caught four passes for 94 yards, but folks will remember his 61-yard catch-and-carry as another snapshot in his ever-growing highlight reel.
The running back tandem of Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins was serviceable—both had 15 carries for 45 rushing yards. Running back Shane Vereen’s return lasted one play, a 10-yard catch out of the backfield that resulted in a concussion. Vereen did not return to the game.
After losing Pierre-Paul to sports hernia surgery this week, it was gut check time for the rest of the unit. The G-Men passed that test with flying colors. As a unit, they made life miserable for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott was harried all evening and ended up throwing two interceptions. The rookie quarterback came into the game having thrown two interceptions all season. Prescott passed for a paltry 165 yards in the air, with 31 yards coming on a first quarter touchdown to Terrence Williams.
Elliott did end up with 107 rushing yards, and he certainly earned every one of them. His longest gain was just 15 yards, and the Ohio State rookie was punished on almost every carry. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins stepped up in a big way, as he made Dez Bryant’s life miserable. Bryant had one catch that he promptly fumbled away. Rookie Romeo Okwara replaced Pierre-Paul in the lineup and ended up with seven total tackles and a quarterback sack. Linebacker Devon Kennard had his best game of the season with five tackles and a QB sack.
Let this statistic sink in: Dallas was 1-for-14 in converting on third down. Third down stops win ball games.
Special Teams: B+
With the Dallas offense stuck in mud, it was up to the Giants special teams to make sure that no cheap scores were had by the Cowboys. Mission accomplished, although Dallas did leave return specialist Lucky Whitehead home for violating team rules. The Cowboys’ Cole Beasley handled punt return duties with three yards on three punt returns, although that stat was helped by penalties.
Brad Wing had a busy and productive night with nine punts (43.6 yards per punt), with five punts inside the 20-yard line. His final punt was a thing of beauty as Wing hesitated so that gunner Dwayne Harris could get downfield to down the ball at the 4-yard line. It was first and 96-yards for the Cowboys at that point. Robbie Gould kicked an important 39-yard field goal that got the Giants on the board in the third quarter. Gould’s tally set the stage for the Beckham heroics, later in the third.
Coaching Staff: B+
People might focus on the play-calling by head coach Ben McAdoo, but what’s the point? Part of play-calling requires execution by the players to be successful. The offensive line is not very skilled, and Ereck Flowers has been a turnstile at left tackle. McAdoo stuck with the running game to the frustration of the fans, but he also has the team on the cusp of a playoff berth. You cannot argue with the team’s record.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has put his new toys to work this season, and he decided to pressure the Cowboys’ rookie quarterback. The defensive unit also punished Elliott, so the rookie phenom could not control the game. His longest run was just 15 yards.
Up Next: Detroit Lions (9-4)
The NFC North-leading Detroit Lions come to MetLife Stadium next Sunday in another tough contest for New York. The Lions barely got by the Chicago Bears 20-17 in Motown on Sunday. Detroit quarterback Mathew Stafford suffered a dislocated middle finger on his throwing hand, which also has torn ligaments. He is expected to play with a glove on Sunday. Head coach Jim Caldwell has his team playing well on both sides of the football.