Three keys to victory for the Giants on “Sunday Night Football” in Dallas:
1. Don’t hurt yourself. With the penalties, sacks and other plays for negative yards, the Giants averaged 10.45 yards to go on second down in Week 1. That won’t win many games at home, let alone on the road in primetime against a division rival. Last year, opposing offenses had 119 negative plays against the Cowboys, tied with the Jaguars – the Giants’ opponent last week -- for second-most in the NFL. Those plays went for losses totaling 498 yards, the second-most in the league. The Giants need to clean things up and stay ahead of the sticks.
“When you have new things, new guys, there’s going to be corrections,” quarterback Eli Manning. “There are going to be adjustments you make in the offense, or things we weren’t ready for or we had to talk about. That’s always going to happen. I think the first game is where those things are going to come up. Things that we’ll be better prepared for next time, and talk about, fix things so we’ll be able to take advantage of it going forward.”
2. “Eyes” on Dak. The defensive game plan starts with 2016 rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott, but the Giants need to be cowboys on Sunday night and corral Dak Prescott. The Dallas quarterback is 10-2 when he rushes for a touchdown and 8-2 when he runs at least five times. Elliott can eat, but it will be an even longer night if Prescott is also making things happen with his legs. And it’s not just a matter of his rushing yards, either. Prescott can get outside of the pocket and throw what coach Pat Shurmur calls “60-yard check-downs” at any point in the game. In terms of stopping Elliott, the Cowboys do a little bit of everything to get him the ball, be it stretches with cutbacks, gap schemes with pullers, or big personnel with multiple tight ends. James Bettcher liked the energy and effort that his players gave in Week 1, but they can get better in their fits, which will be key this week.
“I experienced it last year when we played them,” Bettcher said in reference to his time as the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator. “He got out of the pocket twice on us and he hurt us getting out of the pocket. The pass rush is important, but controlled rush is just as important with him. Just like we did last week, we were trying to make him throw from tight levels, make him feel a pocket, close in on him. It’s not about whether you say the word ‘spy’ or ‘don’t spy’ -- some people use that term -- it’s ‘eyes.’ Who has eyes, who is the guy that has eyes on the quarterback as we’re trying to still aggressively rush with four or five, or whatever that might be.”
View the Dallas Cowboys' key personnel ahead of their Week 17 meeting with the New York Giants.
3. Start fast. The Giants don’t need to score 14 points in the first quarter, but they can’t be in another situation where they are scratching and clawing to prevent a safety on their first series either. This ties into the first point about avoiding negative plays, but hey, they also need to make positive ones. Enter the Elis, Saquons, Odells, Evans and Sterlings of the world. The defense is part of this equation, too. Don’t let the AT&T Stadium crowd get into it. And by the end of the game, if they do these things, all you will be able to hear are the Giants fans who made the trip.
“I’m excited to go back to the place where I was drafted,” Barkley said about returning to AT&T Stadium, site of the 2018 NFL Draft. “That was the first time I’ve ever been to Dallas, and last time I was there my name was getting called and I was walking up in front of the stage and seeing a Giants jersey. To be able to go back there and be able to start off and try to get a win in the NFC East, that would definitely be huge.”