It was supposed to be some sort of crowning night. The Super Bowl champions always win their season opener, at least the last eight have. The New York Giants started slow, and couldn’t pick up the pace, both on defense and on offense, leaving a lot of questions after a 17-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Arrogance? Over confidence? The Giants seemed to be a bit unprepared for the new and improved, still far from perfect Dallas Cowboys. The same sets to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks simply didn’t work as well, usually falling into double coverage between the safety and the cornerback, with Brandon Carr and Maurice Claiborne having successful debuts in the Cowboys secondary. Even when Cruz did get open, Cruz had three dropped passes, two of them being wide open, which is always a momentum killer for a team struggling to get one last night.
The Giants tried to establish a running game, but Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t have such a great debut as the feature back for the Giants, finishing with 78 yards in 17 carries, but hardly any of them effective. Rookie David Wilson out of Virginia Tech showed that his fumbling problem from college didn’t disappear, losing the ball in the first quarter and pretty much ending his night at that point.
The Giants inability to stop the run of the Dallas Cowboys’ passing pattern from late in the second quarter onwards was their biggest problem on defense. Despite their offensive line problems all through the preseason, the Cowboys managed to keep Tony Romo relatively safe, sacked only twice for a loss of 17 yards, and eventually taking the pass rushers out of the game by successfully deploying DeMarco Murray in his return game, going for 131 yards.
The Giants defense couldn’t handle the Ogletree – Bryant combo, putting too much focus on a very limited Jason Witten and a Miles Austin that simply served as decoy. No longer with a three safety set, the Giants simply couldn’t really react well to the Cowboys’ nice draw plays which eventually set up very effective play action plays by Tony Romo, having one of the best games of his career.
On the other side, it was Eli Manning without anything spectacular. The protection wasn’t great, and he was sacked three times, which is a rarity for Manning who is one of the more elusive quarterbacks in the NFL, this time not moving fast enough to avoid DeMarcus Ware. His passing was good, but he was hurried way too often, throwing to the sidelines 3-4 or four times during the Giants’ drives, failing to convert on third down 8 out of 12 times.
He finished with 21-32, throwing for 213 yards and a touchdown. No interceptions, but also no magic. Maybe it wasn’t a big enough game, or maybe the Giants are off to a slow start, gearing up for a big finish like last season. Still, the easiest explanation might be that the offense needs a little bit of shaking up, while the defense needs to find ways and create plays without it all being on the shoulders of the defensive line.