Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cowboys game review

When it's a night game and when the Giants lose like they did Sunday night against a hated rival like the Cowboys, it takes me a day to decompress before writing something in the heat of the moment that I might otherwise regret the next day. (Sir, please move away from the keyboard.) For this game, it is definitely the case. It was such a disheartening loss; a game that despite giving up the ball on those first 5 turnovers and being down by 17 points at one juncture late in the 3rd quarter and being down 13 points in the 4th quarter, Giants were in a position to win with 2 minutes left in the game. In fact, I expected them to win at that time. Eli was red hot, had the offense moving, having thrown for about 340 yards until that point in the game, 205 of them coming in those first 25 minutes of the second half. It's more than that - the offense looked unstoppable. It's not just that they were moving the ball, it's that every play seemed to work. Eli had to throw accurately, but it just looked too easy - Cowboys were not stopping many plays, they were all working. Then came the last turnover, which was nobody's fault and everybody's fault. The Cowboys DE cut inside quickly and the Giants RT did not pick him up perfectly. Da'Rel Scott didn't read what to do because of the move of the Cowboys defensive player and did not do his assignment perfectly. Eli threw the ball expecting the RB to be in the right spot, but he didn't look to see if he was in the right position and tuned around ready to catch the ball. Having said all that, it was still an incredibly unlucky play for the Giants. Often tipped passes are intercepted when they are popped up in the air. But the passes we are talking about are the ones that are thrown into traffic or NEAR traffic, in the middle of the field or in the area where DBs are hanging out. We are all familiar with the tip drill that every team runs: that is balls thrown down the field and tipped up in the air 15 yards down the field. Stevie Brown made a living off of those plays last year. But this pass was a little dump off to the RB. If the execution was faulty, the most likely result should have been an incomplete pass, since no defender was nearby. It was extremely unlikely for the ball to be tipped up and propelled some 15 yards toward the sideline for an easy INT.

In fact, while I am not excusing the Giants sloppy play and they have nobody to blame but themselves for the turnovers, you have to admit that they were unlucky with some of these. (Definition of unlucky is something that has low probability of occurring.)  Generally, the recovery of fumbles is considered to be purely a random event. Forcing the fumble requires some skill, but recovering it depends on where an oblong ball bounces and where players happen to be situated. There were 5 fumbles, 3 by the Giants and 2 by the Cowboys, as well as one loose ball lying on the ground after the Giants last desperation on side kick. That's 6 balls that should have been randomly available for recovery and the Cowboys got all 6. Add in the tipped ball and unlucky situation on the Da'Rel Scott pass and you have a perfect storm of unlikely events that doomed the Giants. If instead of 6 turnovers, the Giants had only 5, they would have won.

Areas of improvement: OL was spotty, but not as bad as I thought while watching the game live. Pugh and Beatty were both good, but both, especially Pugh, had some misses and have some room for improvement. The thing that is encouraging is that when he handled his man, he completely dominated him and controlled him. Beatty played well and mostly kept Ware at bay. The interior of the OL is the area that needs the most work. They had great trouble making any room, getting any push for the running game. Their pass blocking was average and it did get better as the game went along. The worry is that Cowboys DL is not that good and if the OL can't dominate them, it could be a season long worry.

The highlight for the game is of course the passing game. Eli was great, notwithstanding his 3 picks. Randle continues to impress and Nicks looked as good as he has since the beginning of last year before his injury. Cruz is dangerous when Nicks is on the field attracting attention from the defense and he will be absolutely lethal when Randle and Nicks are both on the field. Giants have to fix Wilson's fumbling issues; they have to solidify and stabilize the interior of the OL and if they do, their offense can be dangerous.

The defense was very good, though certainly not dominant. The strategy was to keep all the Cowboy WRs in front of them and not give up anything deep. They gave a little cushion in front, played a mix of pure zone and man underneath with zone deep and it worked pretty well. The DBs batted away some balls, did not let anything get deep behind them (which was a big problem last year) and most of all tackled really well. There were very little yards after catch for the Cowboys. Romo threw for 260 yards, but the most important statistic that indicates success in the passing game is yards per attempt; Romo's numbers were around 5.3 yards per attempt, which is a very weak number. By contrast, Eli's YPA was 10.5 yards. Cowboys scored 36 points - 13 on turnovers returned for scores (missed 2 point conversion on one of them), and 10 more on short fields produced by other turnovers. So the Giants allowed only 13 legitimate points to the Cowboys and only 330 yards of offense. Not a bad result. The Giants pass rush was not consistent enough, but the hope is that as JPP rounds into form and Damontre Moore comes onto the field, the pass rush will return.

The LBs were OK, and I am not even killing Herzlich for getting beat by Witten. He is a great TE and Herzlich will learn how to handle the little push that he made to get free right before the catch. I don't understand the reluctance to play J Williams. He is the most athletic LB on the team and can cover TEs better than anyone else in that group. Paysinger and Rivers also played well.

So ---- after all that ----- with the ugly turnovers and the OL play that needs improvement, I am less discouraged about the game than I was Sunday night at midnight. I saw enough good things that the Giants can build on to have a good season.

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