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Film review: Cowboys vs. Giants (defense)

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Below is the film review for the defense from the Giants game.

NT – We have to talk about Tank Johnson first even though I traditionally discuss the starters first. For a first game back after a long layoff, I thought he played pretty well. He did have a couple of bad plays on run defense where he got blown out of the middle or ran himself out of the play. Some of that may be technique, he was too high on the double-teams and wasn’t getting low to the ground using a knee to hold the spot. He also got a hands to the face penalty. But he did have a sack on an athletic move where he rushed upfield, saw Eli Manning running forward in the pocket, pivoted and spun off his man to make the sack. That was nice. He also had another pass rush where he collapsed the middle and forced Manning outside. But it wasn’t just Tank on the bad run defense, Jay Ratliff got blown out of the middle on a couple of runs, too. He also turned a 3rd and 1 into a first down by jumping offsides. Credit a good, physical Giants offensive line. Ratliff did have some positive contributions like a QB pressure and he sniffed out a screen and batted the pass down in the backfield.

DEChris Canty continued his hot streak that started a few games ago and is truly becoming a disruptive force on defense. He got a sack – granted, the coverage helped on that one – but he also blew up a run in the backfield, had 5 tackles by playing good run defense and had a another QB pressure. I couldn’t find as much for Marcus Spears, early in the game he was blown out on a couple of running plays and only made one good tackle against the run and one good penetration. That was about it. Jason Hatcher was non-productive and Stephen Bowen had one good QB pressure.

OLBDeMarcus Ware tallied another sack and a few QB pressures, but he was very impressive on run defense. Whether holding up at the point of attack or running guys down from the backside, Ware can do it all. He also dropped into coverage on occasion and almost got his hands on a pick, the ball was just a couple of inches too high. But here’s the kind of player DeMarcus Ware is; the Giants had a 3rd and goal on the 21-yard line – the result of penalties – and threw a crossing pattern to Sinorice Moss. DeMarcus Ware was rushing the passer and being blocked, he saw Manning release the ball and he reversed direction, ran about 15 yards back towards the player and made a diving tackle on Moss. That’s a football player. Greg Ellis had an up and down game for me. On the pass rush, he racked up another sack and he hit Manning’s arm on a pass that sent it off course and into Ken Hamlin’s hands. He had a couple of nice plays against the run but on three different plays he got blown off the edge and the Giants picked up some major yards. He also left Roy hanging once in pass coverage on Shockey by not covering the underneath of a double-team. So he was good, but some of his run defense was suspect. Anthony Spencer pitched in a sack on a play where Manning rolled to his side, but the best thing about it was the closing speed Spencer showed in getting to Manning. Once Spencer gets free he’s very quick to the QB. He also had a good showing on special teams.

ILBBradie James had a ton of tackles but he didn’t dominate the interior like he usually does. Some of the tackles were made 5 yards or so past the line of scrimmage and he picked up a personal foul. This isn’t to say he played bad, he didn’t; he got good pressure on a blitz forcing an incompletion and he made a few great tackles in the backfield plus a lot of other tackles before Jacobs got to the secondary. But the Giants blocking up front for the run was pretty solid. Akin Ayodele didn’t contribute much in this game. He had trouble getting off of some blocks but he did make a good deflection on a pass breakup. Kevin Burnett was very active in this game as the Cowboys used their nickel/dime formations a lot when New York was behind. He got beat in coverage a few times, but he made a lot of tackles in the run game and he made a superior tackle on Jeremy Shockey 1-yard before the first-down marker on a 3rd and 8 play. He added a QB pressure on a blitz to round out his game. Of course, we have to ding him for the stupid taunting penalty before halftime.

CB – The corners had very good games. Most of the Giants damage in the passing game came against the strong safety or the linebackers. Terence Newman gave up a lot of cushion and some short passes to Plaxico Burress early in the game, but closed that down as the game progressed. He had a couple of pass breakups and he got pressure on a CB blitz that forced an incompletion. Anthony Henry and Jacques Reeves were rarely in the picture which probably means they had good coverage. Reeves was very solid in tackling receivers after the catch and Henry had a big pass breakup at the end of the game. A really solid effort from this trio.

S – Before you bury Roy Williams, he wasn’t that bad. OK, I know Shockey beat him in coverage quite a few times, once for a TD – Roy had pretty good coverage but Manning made a good throw - but on most of the other catches Roy made solid tackles immediately after the catch. It was in the run defense that Roy really excelled. He was shooting the gaps and making solid tackles all over the field. He was really closing down on the ball carriers. Brandon Jacobs might have run wild without the efforts of Roy. Ken Hamlin got another INT and has the Cowboys secondary playing solid defense. He also separated the ball from Shockey on a big hit to cause an incompletion. We rarely give up the big play anymore and a lot of that has to do with Hamlin running the secondary. Pat Watkins got an INT to end the game but that was about the only time I saw him.

Shockey’s long completion to set up the FG at the end of the first half was the result of some confusion between Roy, Hamlin and Reeves. It was hard to tell exactly where the breakdown occurred.