The Cowboys will take on the New York Giants this weekend, marking the second and last time the two will meet this year, at least as far as the regular season goes. In the first meeting between the two, in Week 1 which also happened to be the first NFL game this year, the Cowboys were able to prove all the analysts and pundits wrong. They pulled off the upset win, against the crowd, on the home turf of the defending champs. They not only managed to win 24-17, but they played domination football on many fronts. They basically shut down the Giants receivers, keeping the starting two at just 10 receptions for 96 yards and 0 touchdowns. Those two were Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, great receivers who are used to putting up 96 yard performances by themselves regularly. Dallas also managed to keep the run game in check, keeping Ahmad Bradshaw to 78 yards, although he did find the endzone. The offense played great as well, providing Romo with clean pockets often, and giving the running corps some good space to work with.
Ever since the Cowboys have been playing some pretty low quality football. After the convincing win, they followed up with an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks, in which they lost 27-7. They made up for the loss with a win against Tampa Bay the following week, but played an ugly game in the process, and should have played much better. The week after, in which the Cowboys went from rock solid, to terrible, back up to mediocre, they played the Bears. They were blown out at home, and many though that the Baltimore game was going to be the turning point if the Boys could pull off a win. They didn't, losing 31-29, but played a good game, coming mere yards from a game winning field goal. Many thought Dallas may have finally figured it out again, as the offensive line and running backs played to the week 1 form. It was not the case, as Dallas barely eked out a win against Carolina, another team they should have beat comfortably. But the mediocre play was not the only bad news from that game; Star linebacker, and (in my opinion) the best player on the Cowboys roster suffered turf toe. It seemed minor at first, but later MRI's showed that Lee had played his last game of the 2012 season.
Many fans were optimistic about the matchup against the Giants, visualizing another win. With Lee gone however, many of those hopes diminished, along with hopes that Dallas could make the playoffs, let alone finish above .500. I also felt this way, then began pondering on the other players. We still have the leagues second ranked pass game. We still have best pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Bruce Carter is no Sean Lee, but possesses that game changing linebacker speed and athleticism. Also consider that Dallas has played well against the two best teams they've played this season: The Giants and the Ravens. I was thinking about not writing this preview, imagining the Boys' getting blown out without their starting running back, center, or linebacker, but I've been feeling a bit better. Call me crazy, but I still think Dallas has a fighting chance in this game. Here's my preview for Cowboys vs Giants:
Bruce Carter vs Giants Run Game: This is Carters chance to show Dallas that he was worth what they have invested into him. He has great speed and is sure tackler. Look for this battle to break even, as Carter is stumped a couple times and allows big runs, but makes up for it with key stops for short or no gains.
DeMarcus Ware vs LT: DeMarcus Ware will be hunting again. He has had goo success so far with 6.5 sacks in 6 games. This time, he wants is as bad as ever and he shows it: Ruining the New York O Lines day, with plenty of pressures and another 3 sacks to go along.
Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr vs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks: This is the personal rematch the Giants starting receivers have been waiting for. They did not have a good showing last time, with Nicks getting limited to just 38 yards against a rookie, and Cruz dropping 3 passes. This time, Nicks blows up and shows Claiborne what he can be, racking up 6 catches for 70 yards in clutch situations. Cruz however, still doesn't figure it out against Carr and is limited again, but does manage to find the endzone.
Cowboys O Line vs Giants D Line: The Giants D line was embarrassed last time, getting almost grounded out by a backup center, a first time left tackle, two free agents playing with Dallas for the first time, and the league leader in false starts. This time, they are out for revenge. Jason Pierre Paul doesn't contribute, as he is shut out by Smith, but Tuck and the rest of his gang feast on Romo and bring him down 4 times throughout the game, with 2 of those credited to Tuck.
Cowboys Game Plan: The Cowboys have to know they cannot rely on their run game, nor their run defense very much in this game. They are missing starters that are all contributors in that area. They have to make up with that with a passing game. Last time out, it worked great, delivering over 300 yards and 3 scores. The Cowboys should pass often, and use the run sparingly when the Giants least expect it. They have a good receiver in Miles Austin, the worlds greatest security blanket in Witten, and a playmaker-when-focused in Dez Bryant. Felix Jones should also be able to help out on swing routes and short dumps when Romo can't find anyone else open. Romo is also great at making receivers out of non starters, so look for a couple of the younger guys to snag some yards as well. On defense, they have to play lock down against the pass. They have the players to do it. Their run defense will suffer without Lee, and the pass game has to make up for it. They did a great job in week 1, and should repeat that success if they want to win.
Giants Game Plan: The Giants are lucky enough to catch their rivals in a tough spot: desperate for a win, without their starting running back, center, or best player on their team. They have to be able to find a way to get past Jat Ratliff up the middle. If they can do that, they will have lots of success on the ground. The challenge will be Ratliff. he is disruptive and can stuff the run.
On defense, they have to commit to defending the pass. The Cowboys run game may suffer already, so they will have to defend the pass to stop Romo from getting crazy on them.
Quarter by quarter:
Q1 The Cowboys defense denies the Giants any points on their first drive. After a good stop, Romo comes out and nabs a field goal, and the Boys take an early 3-0 lead. The Giants follow up with the firs TD of the game and take a 7-3 lead to end the first quarter.
Q2 The Cowboys are unsuccessful on their next drive. It starts off hot, but immediately fizzles past the 50, as a run gets stuffed, Romo takes his first sack, and a pass is incomplete. The defense delivers again however and returns the ball to the offense. Romo drives them to the goal line before Jones sticks it in for 6. The The Giants quickly take it down, but are stopped in the redzone, and get a field goal to tie the game. With just over 2 minutes left, Romo drives the Boys down again. However, poor clock management misses the TD and Dallas has to sate itself with just 3 points. The Cowboys lead at halftime, 13-10.
Q3 The Cowboys start the 3rd quarter and take it quickly into the redzone again. Fans are getting ready for a 10 point lead, but Romo makes a bad throw and it is picked off by Corey Webster. Manning takes it to midfield, before throwing a pick of his own. He throws it 10 yards down into 1-1 between Carr and Cruz, and Carr makes a play. The Cowboys take it down for a TD to Dez to take a 20-10 lead. The Giants refuse to give in, and with just a few big plays, getting a long TD delivered by the hands of Manning and it is quickly a 3 point game again. Dallas has little time left in the 3rd quarter and it goes into the fourth.
Q4 Romo starts off the 4th quarter with a couple long completions. Then, he overthrows the ball and it is picked off again, this time by Antrel Rolle. The Giants take advantage of this opportunity and take it to the house for another Manning TD to take a 24-20 lead. Romo and Co. come out and a drive fizzles again in the redzone and Dallas gets just a field goal, but cuts the deficit down to 1. Manning comes out looking for an opportunity to make this a whole lot tougher for Dallas, but the defense forces a 3 and out. Dallas finds another field goal with 4 minutes remaining in the game to take a 26-24 lead. Manning starts off with a couple bad incompletions. Then on third down, he throws a pick to Gerald Sensabaugh on the Giants side of the 50. Dallas manages to get a couple first downs. On third down, with about 40 seconds remaining in the game, Dallas runs the ball and fails to get a first. NY uses it's last timeout and Dallas gets another field goal to take a 29-24 lead with only 30 seconds left. Manning comes out to the tune of a couple long completions that are run out of bounds leaving 20 seconds on the clock. Manning then finds another completion in the middle. The Giants call a hurry up and spike the ball with time for one more play, at the Dallas 30. On the last play, Manning is looking, trying to find a receiver. He holds on for a second or so too long, and is wrapped up by Jay Ratliff to put the game away. Dallas comes out with an improbable win at home.
Final Score: Cowboys 29, Giants 24
Romo: 30/45 300 yards, 1TD, 2INT
Jones: 16 rush, 50 yards, 1TD, 5 rec, 40 yards
Witten: 10 rec, 120 yards
Austin: 3 rec, 40 yards
Bryant: 8 rec, 80 yards, 1TD
Other Receivers: 4 rec, 20 yards
Ware: 4 tackles, 3 sacks
Ratliff: 2 tackles, 1 sack
Carr: 4 tackles, 1 INT, returned for 5 yards
Sensabaugh: 6 tackles, 1 INT, returned for 2 yards
Carter: 8 tackles, 1 TFL
Manning: 23/35, 240 yards, 2TD, 2INT
Giants RB's(I'm not sure if Bradshaw is playing in this or not) 21 rush, 120 yards, 1TD
Nicks: 6 rec, 80 yards
Cruz: 3 rec, 40 yards, TD
Bennett: 4 rec, 30 yards, TD
Tuck: 3 tackles, 2 sacks
Webster: 2 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1INT returned for 10 yards.
Rolle: 5 tackles, 1INT, returned for 15 yards