Eli Manning is a fourth quarter wiz. Victor Cruz looks like the most unstoppable wide receiver in football. The defensive line carved up the Cowboys’ Offensive Line like Turkey. The New York Giants dominated their two must win games, playoff games in fact, entering the post season hotter than any other team with a 31-14 win.
A team that lost four consecutive games in the middle of the season, adding two to the Washington Redskins, the weakest team in the NFC East, suddenly came together to rip through their biggest rivals on the last 7 days of the season. There was no doubt which of the two teams on the turf at MetLife stadium was there to win, and which one was there hoping not to lose.
The Giants defense sacked Tony Romo six times, and the Giants finish second this season in sacks with four pass rushers or less with 34. The most among playoff teams. Osi Umenyiora led the G-Men with two sacks, but Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka were in Romo’s face all night.
The Cowboys front four? hardly showed up. Were caught offside more times then they got sacks. DeMarcus Ware was completely shut down in the first half, eventually recording 1.5 sacks that didn’t really matter. Eli Manning was impossible to get to, finishing with 346 yards and 3 touchdowns. As usual, Victor Cruz was the main benefactor of Manning’s throwing, grabbing six receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown.
The Cowboys did make noises of a comeback, with Laurent Robinson catching two touchdown passes from Tony Romo in the third and fourth quarters, but then, when they needed another big defensive stop in the fourth, it didn’t come. Fourth quarters, Decembers. Periods of times that haven’t been good to the Dallas Cowboys, for whatever reason you choose to believe in.
Tony Romo needed a lot of time to find rhythm, and he was already 21-0 down by the time the Cowboys’ offense finally got going. He finished with 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Not bad, but not enough to carry a team that missed out on big plays when they could have turned the tides. Two Giants fumbles they should have recovered and simply awful tackling and defensive mistakes in the first half that put them out of the game.
These problems go back all season long. The play calling late in the game against the Lions and the Patriots. The time management mishaps against the Cardinals and the first loss to the Giants. The Cowboys entered December a 7-4 team, but simply kicked the bucket to finish 8-8. Jason Garrett has some cleaning up to do as the Dallas failed to reach the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, despite having their quarterback throw for over 4000 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
For the Giants, everything’s possible. Since getting stung by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2008-2009 Playoffs, they haven’t been to the postseason. Last year, a 10-6 record wasn’t enough, and this year has seen its share of ups and downs for Tom Coughlin’s team. If he keeps them in this state of mind, of excelling in the must win games which brought them to dominate the Jets and the Cowboys at every aspect of the football game, it might not be so crazy to fantasize about the Giants winning the Super Bowl.
They’ve already tangles with the best team in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers, losing 38-35. Back in 2007, the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants 38-35 on the last day of the regular season. We know what happened in the Super Bowl. In this form and state of mind, the Giants can possibly topple Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
For the Cowboys there was plenty of bad luck as the season came to a close. Tony Romo’s injuries, DeMarco Murray going down, leaving Felix Jones, never stellar as the only tailback. But there’s much more to Dallas’ collapse than bad luck.