I publicly stated that I would be online, telling people to not read too much into the Giants game, after we won. That I would remind people that the Giants' o-line was missing two starters, that Cruz had bad wheels, that JPP had a bad back. The cowboys would be fired up about defending their field. It was expected to win. Can't really take much from it.
While two of those three qualifiers may yet be true (Cruz certainly seemed fine), I was wrong. There's a lot to take from this game, which was, contrary to what many are saying and the score and late rally would have you believe, an absolute ass-kicking from beginning to end.
I was initially cautious and measured following the game, giving few opinions and just kind of enjoying the moment. Then, last night, I fired up my iPad and watched the game rewind. All-22 wasn't there yet, but I don't think I need to watch it. I was shocked at how dominant (Broaddus, please note spelling, if you are reading) Dallas, and particularly the Dallas Defense was.
Folks, that team got it's head handed to them and deep down they know it. They may talk-- Rolle has already publicly promised a different result next game. It doesn't matter. It's not dependent on them anymore.
Years ago, my father said of a brutal loss in Philadelphia that Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys would never fear that team again. A couple of months later I got to watch, from the Texas Stadium seats, the Dallas Cowboys literally run right over the Eagles on their way to a super bowl. But dad had predicted that game, and Dallas's resilience in adversity, signaled a sea change for the team. He was right.
This was a similar bell weather game.
Much has been made of the many obvious positives:
- The offensive line looked better than it has in years.
- Frederick, in particular, already looks like a seasoned vet
- The defensive line was ridiculously good, and we are missing half the starters -- a strength just as Jerry said it was
- Turnovers were absolutely taken, not just gifted
- Romo played within himself and pretty error free, enjoying the bus ride (mostly)
- Murray ran for positive yardage almost every time he touched the ball and averaged 4.3 ypc
- Witten scored twice in the red zone
- The Special Teams found a new tackling weapon in Dwayne Harris and were lights out all game
- Penalties were WAY down. Only 5. Only 2 of those pre-snap. And two Witten flags were absolutely bogus
- 0 Delay of game issues, although there was the one play the defense was caught off guard. The team ran much more smoothly
- Dallas led from 10:07 in the 2nd qtr onward. That's the final FORTY MINUTES of the game. They also led about 10 minutes of the first qtr before the Giants tied. That's almost 50 minutes of playing with the lead. Last season at home, all 8 games combined, they had about 33 minutes of playing with a lead, and almost all of that came against Tampa Bay
- Most importantly, think of everything that was wrong from last year... notice anything? pretty much the entire list is up above... except one
THE PASS DEFENSE.
Here come the "yaButts". 450 YDS PASSING!!!! 10.7 YPA!!!! 102.3 PASSER RATING!!! THE SKY IS FALLING!!! THE PASS DEFENSE IS WORSE THAN LAST YEAR!!! WE JUST GOT LUCKY WITH TURNOVERS OR THEY WOULD HAVE MOPPED THE FLOOR WITH US!!!
He he he... time to get "real" folks. You want realistic? I'll give you realist. This defense smothered the New York Giants. Embarassingly so. This was a slaughterfest... and presuming Eli Manning is a top QB, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are excellent WRs while Reuben Randle has a future in the NFL, and that David Wilson and Da'rell Scott don't deserve to be drummed out of the league, it was executed against a pretty decent NFL offense.
You already know about the 50 rushing yards given up. Did you know that two plays accounted for over half of them? And one those was against a prevent so deep that Barry Church, sprinting full speed forward to make the tackle, still met the RB 16 yds downfield? in other words, he was about 30yds deep before that. Take out the one run against a prevent defense and New York had 13 rushes for 34 yds, 2.6 ypc and two fumbles. That's stout.
But the pass defense. Oh my, the Pass defense.
When Dallas went up by 17, with 4:55 to go in the 3rd qtr (40:05 into the game), the coaches took their foot off the gas. The players didn't, mind you-- they still contested and fought for every ball, but the Safeties were backed totally out of the play allowing huge cushions underneath which were exploited by Manning and his WRs against our LBs in the middle zones. You can argue all day long that it was the wrong decision, but that is a playcall issue, not an execution issue or a capability issue.
Up till that point Eli Manning was 7/13, 185 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT. For the first half he was 5/11, 165 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT.
those numbers are bad, but, hey, it's still passer ratings in the 80s. What do you mean they were dominated, Dirk? That's *almost* respectable! We didn't kill them at all!
Well, now we have to look at what really happened. The Hakeem Nicks 57 yd play was legit, with our LBs biting on a play action leaving a big gap for Nicks to run right into. See Bob Sturm's Blog for details (and you should anyway, Bob is excellent reading). Allow me to say, here, that this was Allen's worst play of the night. He has a chance to stop this play for a moderate to large gain (~18-20yds) but takes a bad angle and gets run right by. But that one play accounts for a full THIRD of Eli's first half yardage and nearly a third of his 40 minute point yardage.
Nonetheless, that play *is* on the Dallas Defense. Cruz's 1st TD, however, is not. I don't mean that it shouldn't count or that there was some reason to remove it from the game, but the defense was literally caught flat footed by a late playcall (on the coaches, not the players) and there was very nearly no defense to beat. Manning astutely got the ball snapped and Victor Cruz ran right past a surprised Will Allen and Mo Claiborne for 70 yds and 6 points (though J J Wilcox *nearly* saved the TD). Now, for what the Giants really did to the Dallas defense, this play doesn't happen. It's a statistical flier of the most egregious sort. Take that one play away and Eli manning's stat lines look like this:
1st Half - 4/10, 95yd, 0 TD, 2 INT 35.4 passer rating
40:05 mark - 6/12. 115yd, 0 TD, 2 INT 44.1 passer rating
That's what Eli *really* looked like passing the ball against us, and remember, that still includes the Hakeem Nicks 57 yd play. Take that play out and it gets really bad. 3/9, 38yds, 0 Td, 2 INT 7.8 (!!) passer rating for the first half minus the two big plays.By the way, those are gross yardage totals-- there were two sacks in there as well to make the numbers even worse.
We. Shredded. Them.
But I can still hear the complaints: we let them get too close! they came back to within a score!
Yes they did... and you know how we responded? we got out of prevent and played real defense again. What do you think happened? Here are the Plays for those two drives. All of them:
Inc short right for Da'rell Scott
Inc short right for Hakeem Nicks
Sacked by Jason Hatcher
(after a Dallas Punt)
Pass Short middle to Da'rell Scott 5 yds
Inc short middle for Da'rell Scott
Pass Deep Middle for Reuben Randle for 26yds
Pass short right for Da'rell Scott intercepted by Brandon Carr returned 49 yds for a TD.
When we went back to normal defense instead of prevent Eli "Mr. 4th qtr comeback" Manning was 2/6 for 31 yds and a sack, 0 TD, 1 INT. Passer rating? 11.8
We literally shut them down at will. We took a top flight receiving corps, being thrown to by the poster boy for Clutch QBing and we destroyed them whenever we felt like it. This while two pro bowl defensive linemen watched in street clothes from the sideline, one of whom returned to practice (albeit in limited participation) today.
I fully intended to write a post calling for cool heads. Calling for calm. Calling for us to remember that the Giants were wounded and just not going to have the horses to stand up this game. Then I watched how hard our defense slapped them in the face time and time again. This defense is a force to be reckoned with. I sincerely hope that other teams look at the gaudy stat line and think they are going to waltz in here and light us up because we "once again have a suspect secondary". The shock and awe will be fun to watch.
There isn't enough kool aid in the world...