There were lots of worries to take out of this game. First, it's not surprising that the Giants lost the game - when you give up an INT for TD, you almost never win the game. The first Cowboys game, where Giants had 5 turnovers and gave up a punt return for a TD is an extraordinarily unlikely set of circumstances for the team that gives up those plays to win the game. This game fell more in to line with the norm. The pick-6 itself appears to have been Nicks fault, not a bad read or bad throw from Eli. Nicks cut off his slant route and Eli put it right in the breadbasket of the CB. There are some times where sight adjustments and/or audibles are possible and the WR can adjust his route, but this was not one of those times. I always thought that the WR should be able to make some signal to the QB so he can, in effect, call an audible too. The CB had inside coverage, there was no other DB behind Nicks and it looked like an easy play would have been for Nicks to take a step inside and run a fade to the back of the end zone for an easy TD. Didn't happen.
The real worry to me was how many big plays the Giants defense gave up. There were 5 or 6 plays greater than 30 yards. It seemed like the Cowboys strategy was to completely shun the mid-level passing game. They were not in favor of of running long 10 or 12 play traditional TD drives. They were either very conservative in their play calls, running the ball or using screens and WR hitches, or threw the ball deep down the field, with little in between. When they went deep, it was either off of play action passes and/or using max protect. They were in effect saying - we will be conservative and not turn the ball over on medium distance passes. They have great skill position players and they were trusting them to make a play on the ball even if they do not beat the DB. Dez Bryant is exactly that kind of player and he made one or two plays when the coverage on him was perfect. Cowboys also felt that if they throw an INT, let it be on a deep pass, where it is almost like a punt. Good strategy and it worked.
The play that bothered me the most was the 3rd and 20 completion for first down to Roy Williams. He didn't do anything clever or tricky. He just ran straight up the sideline and was wide open for a 25 yard pass.
On Bryant's first long completion both the CB Thomas and the S on that side, Rolle, read perfectly that Bryant was running a go route. They turned their hips immediately, came out of their backpedal and started sprinting down field, which is the proper technique. Bryant simply outran both of them, even with the 15 yard head start that Rolle had from the S position. Bryant is a scary player and I am sick that the Giants will have to face him twice a year for the next 10 years. If I were the Cowboys I would throw 30 passes per game towards him and hope that he makes some plays on the ball even if he is covered.
So one question that we can be worried about with this awful Giants defensive performance is: was the high quality play of the Giants DL in the first 8 games masking the fact that the DB-field is not as good as we think it is. I think that is not the case - there is enough of a body of work from this secondary to know that they have good players back there. Phillips had a bad game at S and the CBs were beaten badly, but we have seen quality play from them in the past. Still, it is a valid question to ask.
The second question we can be worried about from this defense is in the true quality of the DL to get after the passer. Did the Giants DL do well when it was facing below par OLs, but is not able to generate a pass rush at all when the opposing OL is good. I was surprised how little Fewell blitzed this past week, and there was no pressure at all on Kitna. Obviously, even a great DL is slowed down a bit when they face a great OL, but there was noooooo pass rush at all on Kitna.
With all that, with the defensive breakdowns and with the turnovers and the pick-6, the Giants, but for a play here or there could have won this game. The bogus holding call on Boothe nullifying the great TD pass to Nicks, the false start from the 2 that nullified Jacobs TD run and preceded the pick-6 and finally the drop by Nicks on the 2nd and 20 on a perfectly thrown ball by Eli, which would have gone for a TD or at least 20-30 more yards were all simple plays that killed the Giants chances.
It was interesting that the Cowboys played a lot less man-to-man and a lot more zone coverage against the Giants WRs this week. They showed that they can not cover the Giants man-to-man in the first game and they were smart to play more zone. Giants moved the ball through the air and hurt themselves with their own mistakes, but that's the theory of zones. Keep your man in front of you, make the offense go down the field on long, slow, tedious drives and expect that they will make a mistake or your defense will make a play or two somewhere along the drive in order to stop them.