Want to hear a counter-intuitive stat? So far this year teams are 11-18 coming out of the bye week. That's a win percentage of .379. You have to go back more than a decade, (I went as far back as 2003), to find a season where teams had a losing record coming out of the bye. In fact, Dallas is the only team in the NFC East that won the week after it's bye. A crazy stat, fit for the crazy game we saw Sunday night. Here are my five takeaways.
1. Clash of the Titans: Selected one year and six picks apart, Tyron Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul are natural enemies; an offensive left tackle tasked with protecting his quarterback and a defensive end tasked with destroying the quarterback. And for a good stretch of the game it looked like the Jason Pierre-Paul was going to be the victor of this particular battle.
That wouldn't be a huge shock either. As good as Tyron Smith is, two of his three lowest pass protection grades from Pro Football Focus have come against JPP and the Giants, (his worst came against the Houston Texans and J.J. Watt). In their first matchup this year it was obvious that Tyron was struggling against JPP, (and he wasn't helped by an ankle injury). At one point during Sunday night's meeting Pierre-Paul was playing so well Cris Collinsworth began talking about the Hall of Fame.
It was hyperbole, but not by much. In the second quarter JPP seemed to live in the backfield, notching a hit on Romo and recovering a Romo fumble to end the half. The hot streak continued into the third quarter as well, with Pierre-Paul drawing a holding call that negated a big Dez Bryant completion. Then something funny happened. Tyron Smith remembered he was an honest to goodness Tyronasaurus Rex, and he basically stonewalled JPP the rest of the game, highlighted by Dallas's last drive when Tony Romo had enough time in the pocket to knit a holiday sweater.
Up to that point JPP was credited with a QB hit, two tackles and a fumble recovery. After the holding call? Nothing, nada, zilch. The offense turned it around too; after scoring only 10 points on their first six drives up to that point Dallas scored 21 points on the next five drives. In a clash of Titans, it's safe to bet on the Tyronasaurus.
2. The Hobbit - An Unexpected Playmaker: Cole Beasley does a lot for the Dallas offense. But even his most ardent supporters wouldn't exactly call him a play-maker. He's a facilitator, a safety blanket, a chain mover. But against the Giants he was a big play threat.
Beasley had the longest play of the game, his 45-yard catch and run to set up Dallas's second touchdown. Yes, amazingly enough, that was a longer TD than Odell Beckham's touchdown. He also had 21-yard catch and run with 1:59 left in the game; it was Dallas's longest play in the fourth quarter and we would score the go-ahead touchdown three plays later.
He didn't get a lot of chances to shine but he made them count. On the day Beasley was targeted twice and caught both passes; he averaged 33 yards a reception had 59 yards after the catch, and scored a touchdown. To put that into perspective, Beasley had more yards after the catch than any Dallas receiver not named Dez had total.
3. Two Out of Three Ain't Bad: Unless you're the Cowboys defense. Dallas did a fairly decent job on first and second down, but the defense seemed to completely fall apart on the money down, allowing the Giants to convert 73.3% of their 3rd downs. Our own Rabblerousr highlighted the whole sorry showing here.
There's not much to add, but I do want to highlight the Giants first drive where we gave up four of the 11 third down conversions.
3rd and 5: Odell Beckham is in the slot. Dallas blitzes the nickelback, Jeff Heath and Anthony Spencer drop into zone coverage, which Beckham splits for the first.
3rd and 3: Looks like Sterling Moore busts his coverage. Moore is playing the slot, Micah Pellerin the outside, in a basic cover two look. Pellerin is playing the flat, but Moore comes up to cover a running back allowing Rueben Randle to run a post right behind him, (the slot receiver also goes by him occupying the safety deep).
3rd and 1: Fullback runs up the middle, line gets pushed back. This was the most acceptable of the conversions; it stinks that our line got pushed back, but that's going to happen from time to time.
3rd and goal: Zone coverage. Odell Beckham runs a little slant, Bruce Carter bites on a pump fake and never notices Beckham enter his zone, TD.
The first thing that jumps off the screen to me are the names in coverage; Jeff Heath, Anthony Spencer (!!!), Micah Pellerin. The second is the type of coverage; zone. Right now we're incredibly thin at DB, and we're calling up players like Heath and Pellerin that don't have a lot of time playing with each other, something that is important in zone coverages. We need our secondary to get healthy fast, or we can expect a lot more blown coverages and third down conversions.
4. The World Is Not Enough: The final stats look pretty good; two sacks, 3 hits, and 12 hurries. There was one point in the game where Dallas's defense looked like it had figured out the Giant's protection schemes and were living in the backfield. Eli was looking rattled, he started hurrying throws, and he could, (should!), have been called for intentional grounding when he was forced to just chunk the ball due to pressure.
And that was great. The problem was the beginning of the game where it seemed like we weren't even trying to touch Manning and he led the Giants to an early 21-10 lead. The problem was the end of the game, when we seemed to field an entire front seven of "Almost Anthony's". On the Giants final touchdown drive George Selvie aaalmost gets to Eli Manning on the 2nd play, but doesn't. First down. Henry Melton almost gets to Manning for a big loss, but instead just forces an incomplete pass. Jeremy Mincey almost gets to Manning on a 2nd and 5 play on the nine yard line. All of those plays got pressure. None of them made a difference.
I'm a big believer that pressure is actually a better indicator than sacks of future sack success. Statistically it bears out. The problem is, there are exceptions that prove the rule, and so far this season, Dallas has been one of those exceptions. We've gotten good pressure all season. But if we're going to continue to be successful we need that pressure to start becoming more.
(Bonus points if anyone gets the headline reference!)
5. Mr. November: Ultimately the defensive breakdowns didn't matter. The reason? One Tony Romo, Mr. November himself. In his career Tony Romo is an incredible 28-6 in the month of November, and this game was one of his best.
Let's look at some numbers shall we?
69.2% completion percentage
143.2 passer rating.
Tony Romo had himself a pretty good game. And for someone who is not known for his clutchness, (he wrote tongue in cheek...), Romo was masterful on his final drive when he went 6/6 for 66 yards and a touchdown.
And we needed it all. I recently wrote about offensive efficiency, and how a good measure of it is points per drive. On Sunday the Giants averaged 2.55 points per drive, nearly a full point higher than their season average of 1.7. But that was okay because our offense averaged 2.82 points per drive, tied for our third best game of the season. Interestingly enough the game it's tied with is the first Giants game. You don't score that efficiently without great QB play.
Coming into the game JSM8ith wrote that Romo could take the lead role in this game. That article proved prophetic. DeMarco Murray had a good game, averaging right at five yards a carry. But when we needed it most Tony Romo showed why he's the franchise quarterback of America's team.
Well those are my thoughts BTB'ers! What things stood out the most to you in the game?