Monday, December 15, 2008

Cowboys post mortem I

Not yet time to panic, but this beating was worse than the loss to the Eagles, not just because we hate the Cowboys so much. Against the Eagles, the Giants had at least some successful offensive plays and we could rationalize that the Eagles took away the run and the wind took away the pass. But Sunday night, no such rationalizations were available to assuage the hurt and the embarrassment of this loss. To me, it was fairly simple: the OL had its brains beaten in. It got worse in the 2nd half when McKenzie and Seubert left the game, but it wasn't their injuries that made the difference. Cowboys were beating the Giants OL all night long. And they weren't just beating the Giants at one weak spot. Giants got beat by speed rushers from the outside, by missing blocks on the inside and by generally having the pocket collapse at other times. There wasn't even any place for Manning to escape to. I thought that Eli actually played very well and was throwing the ball very well when he had even a moment to throw. But he just couldn't get time to throw. He was sacked 8 times and threw 35 passes, meaning he was sacked on 8 of 43 times that he dropped back. He was hurried and hit another 12 times, by my count, which means that he did not have a clean pocket to throw out of on nearly half his pass attempts.

Cowboys, as everyone knew and as I suggested in my preview post would do two things offensively: play aggressive run defense by keeping an extra S at the line of scrimmage and against the pass, blitz often and play agressive in coverage. But it was actually more than that: they kept their entire team up at the line of scrimmage, playing press coverage nearly all the time on the Giants WRs. They did not respect any WR going deep so they were playing tight man-to-man on every down. In order to defeat that kind of coverage, you have to beat them deep. But when you want to go deep, you need to have your qb hold the ball an extra second or two and the OL was unable to protect the qb long enough to let their WR get down the field. The WRs were not getting any separation at all. Every throw that Eli made was into a narrow window and even when he completed them, the WRs were tackled right away, there were absolutely no YAC yards. Giants never made the adjustments to get the running game going, to run some screens or to deceive the Cowboys defense in some other way. But when the OL is overwhelmed like they were Sunday night, there is not much you can do scheme-wise or in the play calling area to make things work.

Burress being gone was a much more important factor than Jacobs being missing. Ward is not as powerful a runner as Jacobs, but without holes or a good push from the OL, no RB is getting through. The absence of Burress invited the Cowboys to play the press coverage that the Giants WRs could not handle. It looked to me like Hixon was not right, he was not running as hard as he usually does. But for whatever reason, he simply could not separate from Newman.

The bigger effect of the loss of Jacobs was not in the running game but was in pass blocking. Jacobs is a crushing pass blocker and is very capable picking up blitzers, chipping the DE and giving max-protect help assisting the OL.

Diehl had a particularly bad game at LT. He handled Ware in the playoff game last January, but other than that has trouble against Ware. McKenzie got beat also and Boothe was beaten twice for sacks.

It's not time to panic yet. Giants still have time to make adjustments in the running game and passing game and get the ship back on its course. There is no doubt that Burress' absence has hurt this team and will permanently lessen the capability of the offense. But there is enough talent on the offense to be productive. Giants have to play better in the OL, have to throw more screens and more to the TE to open up the passing attack and move the defense off the line of scrimmage. Giants got away from running their traps and counters last night, but when the OL is getting beat up and dominated like it was last night, deception will not help. Next week's game against Carolina is an important game to restore the confidence and offensive rhythm of the team.

A word about the refereeing.

I really don't get it. Giants did get one questionable PI call with Newman 'arm-barring' against Hixon, but there were two other plays where there was a blatant armbar on Hixon and it was not called. Particularly egregious was the PI call that was reversed to offensive PI against Steve Smith. The TV replay showed Smith pushing off, but they did not show the entire play. The Cowboy DB pushed Smith and was holding him. Smith pushed him back so he could have both hands free to catch the ball. What really ticked me off though is that the ref on the sideline initially called defensive PI. That's his call. What did someone else see to convince him to reverse the call when the refs convened? Any other ref that saw something else did not have as good a view and it is outrageous that the call was changed to offensive PI.

I counted twice where Flozell Adams jumped early and should have been called for a false start, because the C Gurode often double-clutches on a shotgun snap. It should be a basic test for referees that if they don't see a 360 lb man move, he can't be a referee.

There was a blatant defensive PI call against Toomer towards the end of the game when the Giants had to settle for a FG. It was not a close call where the ref has to judge whether there was incidental contact or a small bump of insufficient impact to throw a flag. The DB tried to hit Toomer hard in order to jar the ball loose, but he hit him well before the ball arrived.


Yankel the Nachash said...

Don't know why they didn't try some screens, particularly to Bradshaw. That 2nd and 20 draw at the end of the game killed me--they just crushed Romo on first down--he could barely walk--how did they not see that draw coming??
Defense played well (although Dallas dropped two first downs and had two first downs negated by penalty).
Hixon dropped another touchdown--don't know why he only got one hand on the ball.
At some point in the Eagles game the Giants had the look, and as a fan you had the feel, that things were not going to be all right and Gmen are the inferior team on the field. I thought they looked and I certainly felt that way last night from the first snap of the game.

wolfman said...

see my second post on post mortem.

game wasn't as bad as it seemed. we are going to turn it around