It's fun to watch the Cowboys/Giants game again, knowing that Gramatica's kick is going through the uprights every time. But a lot happened before that so here's the review of the game.
I'll be brief looking at Tony Romo, much has already been said about his game. The reason the offense wasn't as fluid as usual was due to Romo being off-target in the first half. He wasn't inaccurate in terms of actually completing passes, although he did misfire badly on a couple, but he wasn't hitting the receivers in stride as much. He made Terry Glenn jump for one, Jason Witten practically had to squat on the ground to catch another. In the first half he just wasn't as smooth as usual, on the first interception he threw the ball high to Glenn. Glenn should've caught it, but Romo could've thrown a better pass. The other interception he just zinged right over Owens' head and into the Giants arms.
So he was a little off to start the game, but it's all about how you finish in the NFL and he finished like a pro. The pass to Witten in the last minute, the one he threw after rolling out to his left and then launched it downfield with that much accuracy, was a thing of beauty. Interesting note on that play, Terrell Owens was open down the middle of the field with only one player behind him. He was more open than Witten and could've possibly scored. Either Romo didn't see him, or he trusts Witten's hands a little bit more. Or he might've seen him but decided that it required him to throw back to the right as he was going left, meaning it was a much more difficult throw.
Romo hung 10 points on the board in the 4th quarter and set us up to win, so there are no real complaints about him. I covered the running game here, earlier today.
The run blocking was fair, but we didn't dominate on the ground like we usually do. Give some credit to the Giants defense, those guys were playing very well up front and they got guys to the point of attack quickly. We did have a few individual breakdowns in blocking by Flozell, Fasano and Kosier among others. Kosier's had sharper games; he actually fell in the hole on a MB3 run at the goal line. Oliver Hoyte had less impact in this game than in the past couple. So while MB3 made some things happen, and he's money going for the endzone, overall it wasn't the crispest execution of their run offense, although the yards per run average was pretty good.
The Cowboys pass blocking was a little more suspect, Romo had to scramble quite a few times. I could see some of what Parcells was saying about Romo being "spooked". He did look a little quick about leaving the pocket on some plays. It was almost like the alarm clock went off in his head, the one that says you've been in the pocket too long, and took off scrambling even when he wasn't under heavy pressure. Other times, he was under heavy pressure. The line did give up the one sack when Flozell got beat forcing Romo forward then Colombo lost Kiwanuka who hit Romo causing a fumble. The Giants got some pressure from stunting their defensive line which confused the blocking and from blitzing, especially the defensive backs. The Dallas offense in both games had a tough time against the Giants defense.
Terrell Owens had another good game, except he had another important drop. The Cowboys ended up kicking a FG instead of possibly having a 1st down and goal-to-go. But he had eight catches for 84 yards and did some nice work running after the catch. Patrick Crayton made a tough catch on the play where it looked like Gibril Wilson was going to pick off the pass and go the other way for a TD. The ball was actually tipped by Wilson's hand on its way through and changed trajectory ever so slightly. Many times receivers can't make the adjustment quick enough to hold onto the ball, Crayton did even though he bobbled it for just a second.
On defense, DeMarcus Ware continues his maturation into and all-around LB. We know he can rush the passer, but his run defense is much better and his ability in coverage is also getting better. He only managed to get a few pressures on Manning, but the Giants were keenly aware of his presence and made sure to give lots of help blocking him. On one play though, they didn't block him because they were running the ball the other way, Ware ran down Tiki from the backside for a loss on the play. The guy is quick. On the other side, Al Singleton played steady, although on the first drive by the Giants he lost contain on a run play and then got beat by Shockey in the passing game, (but so did almost every LB and safety on our roster). But he played pretty consistently against the run and has filled in nicely for Greg Ellis.
On another board, before this game, I was asked about Bobby Carpenter. The short answer was that he needs more strength because he can't take on and get rid of blockers and he also needs to use leverage and explode into blockers instead of standing up high and receiving the blocker. In this game, he looked a little better against the run. He was taking it to the blocker more and using his leverage to push him back, and he worked his way off a block for a nice tackle. His one bad play was on the direct snap to Tiki where he got sealed inside and Tiki had that whole side of the field wide open. But overall, he looked better against the run because he was more aggressive in taking on the blocks.
Akin Ayodele is turning into a star on the defense. He had a quiet first part of the season and many Cowboys fans were worried. I wouldn't worry anymore; over the last month he has really come on because he's getting comfortable playing in the middle of a 3-4 defense. He had 8 tackles - tied for the team lead - and he busted through the line twice to stop Tiki, once inside the 5-yard line. He also got a QB pressure on a blitz and made a nice tackle in coverage on Shockey. Bradie James had 8 tackles and a couple of QB pressures, but he also got a penalty, dropped an INT, and had several big missed tackles. It wasn't his best game.
Marcus Spears and Chris Canty were called out for their play this week by Parcells, especially Spears. Canty actually managed to get a couple of QB pressures this week, but he never got close to sacking Manning. Spears provided nothing in the pass rush, but was OK in defending the run. He did get blocked out of position a few times, but he wasn't terrible. It sounds like Parcells is concerned by the fact they both have just a few sacks and pressures, and very few catalytic plays, as the coach likes to call them. Spears did make one big play in the game, on the 4th and 1 where Brandon Jacobs was caught in the backfield. DeMarcus Ware made a fine play by getting off Whitfield's block and corralling Jacobs, but it was Spears who forced him wide in the first place. Marcus shot through the gap on the line and was a few yards into the Giants backfield, Jason Ferguson also got some penetration and Jacobs had to turn it wide quickly.
The guy who actually did get some pressure from the DE spot was Kenyon Coleman. On two consecutive plays he got pressure and made Manning throw a bad pass and blew up a screen attempt.
In pass coverage, we couldn't keep up with Shockey, he beat a variety of players including James, Singleton, Roy Williams, Kevin Burnett and Keith Davis. So I'll just say that none of our safeties or linebackers could stay with him.
Terence Newman did his usual great job and was again good in run support. Anthony Henry was also good in this game. He got saddled with a bogus pass interference call, and he gave up a TD to Plaxico Burress, but otherwise he played very well, including a pass breakup in the endzone on a ball intended for Shcokey. What killed us on pass defense was the screens and the dump-offs to Tiki and Jacobs. We did a terrible job of recognizing the plays, and then we couldn't tackle them once we did. On the Giants last drive James and Burnett were playing very deep to guard against the big play, but gave up the big plays by not tackling Tiki underneath.
I saved a special place for Aaron Glenn, who continues to amaze. On a 3rd and 7 he made an open-field tackle on Burress on a short pass to hold him from the first down. They tried to run a fade route in the endzone to Burress, but Glenn had perfect position and shut the play down. Then on 3rd down when the Giants were knocking on the door, he jumped a Burress `in' route and almost intercepted the ball. The guy is a smart player who makes plays.
Here are some other nice plays in the game. Sam Hurd did a great job of hustling on the Romo INT that Kiwanuka fumbled and pounced on the loose ball giving Dallas possession back. They scored a TD on the drive. Oliver Hoyte caught another pass; he's on his way to being a true FB. Patrick Crayton got a great block to help spring MB3 on his longest run, and MB3 made a great downfield block for Owens after one of his catches. Jason Hatcher showed some great restraint and smarts when he didn't respond after Whitfield head-butted him. Congrats to the whole offense, they managed to run a very successful screen pass to JJ.
One last thing, the Cowboys offensive coaches set the Giants up all game long to run one play at the end. The Cowboys have been using the empty backfield/5-wide set pretty successfully since Romo took over. A couple of times throughout the game, they had Glenn and Owens on one side, with Crayton, Witten and a RB lined up wide on the other side. They would motion Glenn across the field so he ended up behind the other three. They ran normal pass routes from the formation all game, but then we had a 3rd and 5 in the redzone near the end of the game. They ran the formation but this time they threw a screen pass to Glenn and the guys in front of him threw the blocks springing him for a first down. MB3 punched it in a couple of plays later for our last TD. Nice game planning and execution from the Cowboys.
Finally, hooray for Gramatica. Just get those kickoffs a little deeper.