In the end, it was all for naught.
The Cowboys defense put up a pretty impressive effort against the Giants, but all those individual performances ring hollow when put into context of yesterday's offensive failures.
For the defense, starters Barry Church and Sean Lee are out for the season, Sean Lissemore and Matt Johnson are sidelined with injuries and Dan Connor left the game early with a stinger. With that injury toll, it's worth taking a look at which players ended up taking the snaps in an ultimately futile effort against the Giants.
Overall, the defense had 60 snaps, 26 less less than the offense - which is a telling stat all by itself.
Jay Ratliff (46 snaps): 5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit
(42 snaps): 4 tackles, 1 QB hit
Kenyon Coleman (24): 5 tackles, 1 Forced Fumble
Tyron Crawford (14 snaps): 1 tackle
(14 snaps): 1 tackle
(14 snaps): 1 tackle
Observations: The Cowboys started their day defensively in a standard 3-4 alignment, which means Coleman, Ratliff and Hatcher got the starts. Ratliff and Hatcher are the workhorses of the defense, both notching about three quarters of the total defensive snaps. Coleman is nominally the starter but gets rotated out quite frequently.
The snap counts here illustrate Ryan's penchant for rotating guys as he continues to move players in and out of his schemes to keep them fresh. It's worth keeping in mind though that these are just the defensive snap counts and don't include the snap counts on special teams. If you add special teams snaps to the the regular defensive snaps, you'd get something like total workload, and this is how the linemen would rank by that metric:
Ratliff (54), Hatcher (42), Crawford (30), Coleman (24), Brent (22), Spears (14).
From a statistical perspective, the line did not have an outstanding game against the Giants. While they collected 17 total tackles, they didn't get a sack and only two QB hits. Yet especially with the defensive line, the stats are only one part of the story. If you find the strength to re-watch the game, pay special attention to Jay Ratliff, who probably had have had one of his best games in recent memory yesterday; he was a constant source disruption up the middle and even had a tackle in pass defense.
(48 snaps): 1 sack, 1 QB Hit, 2 tackles, of which one was a TFL.
(59 Snaps): 5 tackles
(12 snaps): No stats registered on defense
Observations: Ware was still recovering from a chest cold he contracted last week, and when he caught someones cleats to the chest, he was briefly gasping for breath and had to leave the game for a couple of snaps.
Overall, the OLBs did not have a stellar outing as Manning proved to be surprisingly elusive for a guy who cannot actually run. Eli is not a good scrambler, but but he’s a very good shuffler. Sometimes all it takes is two small steps up and two small steps to the side. Eli and Peyton both do this really well.
Victor Butler saw limited action in limited playing time subbing for ware. He didn't record any stats and I don't think I noticed him even once in the game.
In case you're wondering, OLB Kyle Wilber was a healthy scratch for the game.
(60 snaps): 4 tackles (1 TFL)
(23 snaps): 3 tackles
(10 snaps): 2 tackles
Ernie Sims (10 snaps): 2 tackles
Observations: Bruce Carter looked very good yesterday, and I believe it was one of the announcers who recounted that the Cowboys think Carter is already better than Lee was at this point in his progression. I don't know about that, but I do know he looked good out there.
If Sean Lee had been in the game, carter and Lee would have likely had 60 snaps each; instead, Lee's snaps were split between three different linebackers after Dan Connor had to leave the game with a re-aggravated stinger and didn't return. It's hard to say how much the Cowboys missed Lee, and how much better they would have been with him, but for this one game the Cowboys ILB patchwork looked remarkably solid.
Alex Albright, who is listed as an outside linebacker on the official depth chart, but has played ILB in the preseason, did not get any defensive snaps, but played 29 special teams snaps, the most of any Cowboys player.
Brandon Carr (59 snaps): 5 tackles, 1 pass defensed
(52 snaps): 5 tackles, 1 PD, 1 fumble recovery
(26 snaps): 1 PD
(26 snaps): 1 tackle
Observations: Carr and Claiborne both had season-highs with five tackles each. Normally a high tackle number is not a good sign, especially not when ten of the ten eleven tackles were downfield tackles of receivers after a catch. But the corner play helped keep Eli Manning to a 58.4 passer rating, the second lowest rating (J. Freeman, 45.2) the Cowboys defense has allowed so far this year. Too bad it was in a losing effort.
Mike Jenkins was back in action after getting only seven combined defensive snaps against the Ravens and Panthers when he was having trouble with his surgically repaired shoulder.
Gerald Sensabaugh (60 snaps): 1 tackle, 1 pass defended
(57 snaps): 3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD
Eric Frampton (4 snaps): 1 TFL
Observations: McCray's interception applied a little makeup to the Cowboys' grotesque turnover ratio in this game, but ultimately proved just as futile as the rest of the defensive effort.
Eric Frampton only saw 4 defensive snaps but recorded one TFL when he stuffed Ahmad Bradshaw one yard behind the line of scrimmage in the final play of the second quarter. He was a whirlwind on his 22 special teams snaps, notching two tackles on kickoffs and one holding penalty on a kickoff return.
At the end of the day, the defense played a solid game in what proved to be a futile effort.