Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Giants: Cowboys game

Before I get into the details of analyzing the Giants-Cowboys game, which I will do with a post later in the week, I want to take a broader, big picture view of the two teams. Coming into the game, in fact coming into the season, the Cowboys had a reputation as being extraordinarily talented, with play makers all over the field, with a potentially dominating defense, with one of the best DL-men/pass rushers in the game in DeMarcus Ware and an all world QB able to make the big plays in crunch time in Tony Romo. Most of the NFL prognosticators forecast that at 1-4, with their backs up against the wall, desperate for a win to save their season (thought that was the jive last week when they were 1-3 facing the Vikings) their prodigious talent would finally come out. The only reason they were 1-4, of course was because of lack of discipline, too many penalties and an occasional ill-timed turnover. If they could just stop shooting themselves in the foot, the logic went, they would crush the Giants, turn their season around and get on a run that would take them to a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Of course, if you followed this blog, you know that I disagreed with these experts and that the Cowboys talent was overrated.

After watching the game this past Monday night, I have to admit my mistake. I said that the Cowboys talent was overrated, but I was wrong. It is not just overrated, it is waaaaaaaay f-ing overrated. The Cowboys have a few excellent skill position players on the offensive side of the ball - Miles Austin is a very good WR, Dez Bryant is positively other-worldly, and Jason Witten is a very good TE. But except for those 3 players, the rest of their offense is about average and their OL is well below average. In fact, there is not a single OL-man on the Cowboys that would start on the Giants (even over our favorite weak link LT Diehl). The Giants OL is much better than the Cowboys at each spot on the line, when you compare them man-to-man and even better than that when you add in the coaching, the cohesiveness and the intangibles of playing together. Of course, at the most important position on the offense, there is no contest at all: Eli is one of the top 5 or 6 QBs in the league and Romo is a guy who can play, who can make an occasional eye-catching, wow-inducing play because he can scramble in the pocket, but is nowhere near the QB Eli is.

On the defensive side of the ball, the disparity between the Cowboys and the Giants is even more pronounced. Cowboys have a great player in DeMarcus Ware, but if you compare him to the Giants best pass rusher, Osi, Ware might get the nod, but Osi is having a better season this year. Osi isn't even the Giants best DL-man; Tuck is a better player than Ware. Everywhere else on the defense, it isn't even close. Cowboys have Ratliff as NT, but I would take Cofield or Canty over him and in total, the Giants DL is probably the best in football and far superior to the Cowboys. At the LB position, The Cowboys have average players and the Giants LBs, thought to be a weakness coming into the season are playing outstanding football. (Ask Romo if he thinks Boley is a good player.) In the secondary, the disparity is greatest, IMO. The Cowboys CBs Newman and Jenkins are very overrated; both have a pro bowl on their resume, but that is more a function of the spotlight that shines on them from playing on America's team. The truth is neither would play much on the Giants - all 3 CBs that the Giants have are better than either of them. At the S position - the Cowboys 2 safeties would not even make the team - forget about getting any playing time. Did you see how Nicks abused the Cowboys safeties when he got into a 1-on-1 matchup with them. Even the announcers said - that is a mismatch, they have no chance against Nicks. That would not be the case with the Giants safeties. Rolle and Phillips both have played some CB in college and all three have excellent coverage skills. Deon Grant has been excellent and the flexibility they give Fewell in aligning the defense is one important reason for the defnsive success so far.

More than that - which dope constructed the Cowboys roster? (That's a rhetorical question; Jerry Jones is owner and GM.) The Cowboys have only 3 CBs on the roster. They have 5 players at the S position, 2 of whom never get on the field to play defense and are only on the team for ST play. What happens to the Cowboys if one CB gets a minor injury and misses a few games. Or worse - what happens if he twists an ankle, gets hit hard, gets tired, and needs to sit for a few series or a few plays in the middle of the game. We already know that their safeties have no cover skills, so what do they do if the opposing team goes to a 3 or 4 WR alignment. How do they play nickel.... who lines up to cover the extra WR (or 2). The answer is - nobody, which is why Gilbride had the Giants come out throwing, a sensible plan to attack a team with a bad secondary. The OL had its best game of the season to handle the Cowboys DL and if you can do that, the Cowboys defense is going to crumble; the Giants offense completely dominated the Cowboys weak secondary and ran for 200 yards as well.

We all know the famous Parcells-ism, "you are what your record says you are". What Bill meant was - don't give me excuses about what could have happened in a game, what might have happened, etc. Nothing happens in the game capriciously: nothing occurs simply by chance or by the stars aligning properly but is caused directly by one team or the other and sometimes by both. Having said that and accepted the "you are what your record says you are" as gospel truth, it is still possible to say that over the course of a short stretch of games, a few breaks, a few bad calls, a few lucky bounces and maybe a few good or bad coaching decisions can make a team's record a game or 2 better than what their talent could or should attain. That might mean that a 5-2 team should (or could) really be 6-1 or 4-3. But when you're 1-5 like the Cowboys, you've earned it. Cowboys are not an ultra-talented team that has had some bad breaks and bad coaching. Their roster is overrated. They stink.

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