Giants Defeat Cowboys At Opening of the “Palace in Dallas”

Published on: 21st September, 2009

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Irving, Texas – The whole state of Texas was rocking tonight as the Dallas Cowboys opened their $1.175 billion “Palace in Dallas” tonight when they hosted the division rival New York Giants. The party atmosphere here, which included an NFL record crowd of 105,121 screaming fans turned sad at the end when the Giants won the game, 33-31, on a Lawrence Tynes field goal with just four seconds to go on the game clock.  

Many of the pre-season questions about the Giants were answered while some other questions became evident. The loss of both Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer as the Giants starting wide receivers raised huge questions about the offense’s ability to move the ball through the air this season. Based on tonights’ performances by the youngsters, Mario Manningham and Steve Smith, those questions have now been answered and have Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin, smiling.

Both receivers caught ten passes apiece. Smith for 134 yards and Manningham, 150 yards. They were spectacular tonight and very in-synch with Giants quarterback, Eli Manning.

“We just want to go out there and execute,” said Manningham. “We don’t want to drop any balls. We were just trying to play pitch and catch out there. Just execute and do what we had to do to win the game.”

Coughlin was, for him, positively euphoric when discussing Manningham.

“I thought the tipped ball he caught in the two minute drive was a great example of focus and concentration.,” said Coughlin. “His focus, his concentration, and his ability to stay zoomed in on the ball was very good.”

Manning was once more, masterful with the ball in his hands and his team down, and little time seemingly left on the clock. His performance late in the fourth quarter with the Giants losing, 31-30 continued to build on his reputation for being unflappable in the last minutes of close games (see Super Bowl XLII vs. New England Patriots).

“Well, we just knew we had to go and get in field goal range,” Manning said. “We had enough time, we had timeouts.”

 Manning used the last 3:40 to drive the ball down the field 58 yards on 11 plays. He spread the ball around the field, keeping the Cowboys defense off-balance the entire time. The Giants started that last drive at their own 25 yard line. Manning threw a short pass to tight end Kevin Boss, a pass and catch that Boss took down the field for 17 big yards. Unfortunately, a holding penalty on Rich Seubert nullified the gain and brought the Giants all the way back to their own 15, a mere 85 yards to paydirt. On first and 20, Manning completed a 2 yard pass to Ahmad Bradshaw. On second and 18, he hit Derek Hagan, one of several backup players forced into the lineup tonight on account of injuries to starters for 12 yards. Then came the two minute warning. Two measly minutes and they were still stuck deep in their own territory.

At 3rd and 6, Manning hit Smith, who is getting to be a very clutch receiver and precise route runner, for 11 yards and a first down. The ball was now at the Giants 40 yard line. The Giants went with their no-huddle offense as the clock was ticking down and on 2nd and 10, Manning hit Boss again for 13 yards, down to the Dallas 47 yard line. There was only 1:28 to go in the game but Manning didn’t look like he wanted or needed to rush any aspect of this drive. He looked like he could take a nap, he was that calm. 

Manning got the next play off a full 22 seconds later when he hit Smith again for six yards to the Cowboy 41 yard line. Still not in field goal range for Tynes.

With 41 seconds to go, Manning missed on a pass to Smith, overthrowing him. He then hit Manningham for 8 yards in that fortuitous circumstance in which the pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by Cowboys defensive lineman Jay Ratliff yet somehow landed directly into Manningham’s diving hands at the 33 yard line. The Giants were now in field goal range and to look at Manning operate in the most tense part of the game, you could question if the man was even sweating.

With 39 seconds to go, Manning threw his last pass, a 12 yard completion to Smith who found himself shockingly wide open at the Cowboys 21 yard line.

The Giants called time, Manning snuck for two yards to better position the ball in the center of the field for a field goal attempt. Tynes ran on the field, kicked the ball through  on his second attempt (after Cowboys coach Wade Phillips tried to freeze him with a timeout a half second before his first field goal attempt) and the Giants got on the next plane out of Dallas with their second consecutive win against a division opponent. Last weeks’ opening season win against the Washington Redskins now gives the G-Men early control of the NFL’s Eastern Division.   

Meanwhile, on one of the biggest stages of his career, in front of the biggest crowd ever to watch an NFL game, former President George W. Bush, and some of the most famous Cowboys players from past seasons including Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Bob Lilly, and Michael Irvin, Tony Romo laid a tremendous egg, tonight.

He was 13 of 29 for 127 yards with a touchdown and those three interceptions. The first was returned for a touchdown, the second was a bit of a fluke (it bounced up off Jason Witten’s shoe) and the third a punt-like heave into double coverage. It was his fewest yards in a full game and his passer rating of 29.6 was the second-lowest of his career. It also was a dramatic reversal from the opener, when Romo showed the poise and patience he supposedly worked on all offseason and didn’t have a turnover. Even worse was that it came against a New York secondary that already was missing two starters to injury.

Manning finished 25 of 38 for 330 yards with 22-yard touchdowns to Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. They had to rely on Manning’s arm because Dallas limited Brandon Jacobs to 58 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw to 37.

All was not positive for the Giants, however. The staples of any Coughlin team, as he will tell you has always been the ability to run the ball and to stop the run. Tonight, the Giants could do neither. Was it a question of Dallas’ defensive schemes, in which they put their safety, Ken Hamlin, in the box to become an eighth player to stop the vaunted running game of the Giants while leaving Manning to beat them over the top with the pass against mostly single, man-to-man coverage on Giants receivers?

“I think we came out in the second half and did a better job of running it,” said Coughlin. “We thought we had to rush the ball; we had to take some of the time of possession off of our defensive team and we had to re-establish that part of our game.  We had some runs in the second half that were good. We started right off with that first drive on which we had a couple of really good runs. So we did do a better job in the second half.  But, overall it wasn’t the type of game that we had expected going in there.  And yeah, you have to give credit to the defense but you also have to realize that there is obviously some work to be done in terms of making sure that we anticipate and understand exactly what the other guy is trying to do to stop the things that we have planned.  And then our execution has got to improve.”

In other words, the running game stunk. Or, that’s what I think he said.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense was like swiss cheese tonight against the run. The Cowboys ran wild tonight, gaining 251 yards on the ground, averaging 8.7 yards per carry, an almost unheard-of figure for a Giants team during the Coughlin years. 

“Dallas executed well and we were out of position some,” Coughlin continued. “The results were big runs. The number of runs that they had that were long range runs were both frustrating and disappointing. And we are going to have to address that. There were some people out of position at times. The result was you had some talented runners in the open field. And they took full advantage of those opportunities.

In other words, I think he said the Giants run defense stunk. He was right.  

Be that as it may, the Giants could not be happier with the result of the first two games of this season, wins against two important and talented division rivals. Despite their many injuries and possibly, some personnel flaws in the roster’s makeup, these Giants have early control of their division.

 

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