Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cowboys game review II

A few other observations about the game, some courtesy of my friend Ray:

Weatherford had an outstanding game with a net of 46.5 yards punting. He should also get some credit for the Bryant fumble, since he kicked it way over his head, made Bryant chase back for it to try a very difficult catch which he bobbled, never really secured and gave the Giants punt coverage team a chance to get downfield for the strip. Weatherford has been having an outstanding season; in fact he was excellent last year also, but this year he seems to be even better with more length to his punts. Jets genius ST coach Mike Westhoff (blocked punt, blocked FG and onside kick recovery against his unit by Dolphins last week) let him go two years ago and in fact really kicked him to the curb when he did so. He could have said something vanilla or nondescript when asked why they cut him, like we decided to go in a different direction. Instead, he went out of his way to explicitly say that there were performance issues, meaning he was just not a good punter. Since then, Weatherford has been excellent for the Giants and the Jets have had trouble finding a decent, consistent punter.

Some notes and analysis on the Bryant TD/reversal: I did not get a look at the entire field, but it looked like the Giants were not in the normal cover-2 shell that you would expect them to be at that point in the game. I say this because I saw S Sash underneath and Webster was running deep with Bryant. If they were in cover-2, Bryant would have had a S giving help on top. Witten stayed in to block and give max protect, and Giants did not blitz, which explains why Romo had time to throw. Bryant ran a double move on his side, out and up, to the sideline and then deep. With 16 seconds left in the game, it's hard to understand why Webster bit on the fake and let Bryant get behind him, but he did. Coe who was deep in the middle of the field came over to try and deflect the ball, had a clear shot at it but just whiffed on it. With all those things defensively going wrong for the Giants, it was lucky that Bryant has long fingers.

Speaking about defensive coaching - did you notice Coughlin running down the sidleline with about 1:30 left to call a timeout? It seems to me that Coughlin didn't like the defensive play call (it looked like Giants were showing blitz) and he was overruling the DC Fewell. Maybe the Giants just weren't lined up right on defense, but either way, that is DC Fewell's responsibility.

Romo threw 4 picks, but I have to say that not all were his fault. On the first by Stevie Brown, Bryant did not run a good route. The second was a bad decision/throw by Romo and a good play by Webster. The third was a great play by JPP, but Romo should get some blame. On his last pick, it was 4th down, he was being chased by the defense and had to make a low probability throw. If he throws it away, Giants get the ball anyway, so that was not a damaging INT. But the truth is Romo is a gambler and makes throws of high risk. Breaking down a particular throw and absolving him of blame misses the point. He takes chances, throwing some high risk passes and from a simple probability point of view, that results in INTs and some great plays.

This was an enormous swing game for the Giants, but mostly for the Cowboys. If the 'Boys had won they would be only 1 game behind the Giants in the loss column and would hold the tiebreaker of head-to-head sweep against them. Now, instead, the Giants are 2 up in the loss column and even in the head-to-head tiebreaker. With the Giants difficult schedule coming up, they could use the padding to their lead.

A note about schedule: the schedule for all the teams in the NFC East (as it is for every division) has 14 games that are identical for every team in the division and the remaining 2 that vary from team to team based on previous year's standings. Every team in the NFC East plays each other (6 games) and this year plays all 4 teams in the NFC South and the AFC North respectively. There are 2 games that are different for each team and determine whether one team's schedule is harder than the others. Each team in NFC East plays the team in the NFC West and the NFC North that finished in the same spot in the standings as they did last year. Let's call these games the "variable" games. Specifically, Giants play 49ers and Packers because they finished first in their divisions as the Giants did in theirs. The point that I am getting to is that the Cowboys already played their "variable" games against the Bears and the Seahawks and lost both. Similarly, the Eagles played both of their variable games against the Cardinals and Lions and also lost both. The Giants already won one of their variable games against the 49ers and still have the Packers at home. But even if they lose that game, they will be 1-up on the Cowboys and Eagles in those variable games and the rest of the schedule is identical. Giants may have a bunch of tough games in a row, but they have weathered the variable part of their schedule relative to their NFC East opponents.

One more interesting schedule note (thanks again to Ray for this one): Every intradivision game in the NFC East so far this season has involved the Giants. No NFC East played any other NFC East team this year, aside from NYG. This may be a simple quirk in the schedule, but it benefits the Giants. Because those NFC East teams will be playing each other, assuming no single team sweeps, they will all pile up some losses in their games, making the Giants first place position stronger.

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