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Film Review: Breaking down Giants vs. Cowboys

The Giants fell to the Cowboys, 38-17, on Monday night in a game that was much closer than the score might indicate. Critical failures in all three phases cost the Giants a chance to take advantage of several opportunities Dallas presented. Let’s start with the offense:

* The Giants got the ball to start the game at the Cowboys eight-yard line after Antoine Bethea’s interception of a Dak Prescott pass on Dallas’ first play. Saquon Barkley ran for four yards and then picked up just one yard on his second rush. On third down, the Giants allowed safety Jeff Heath to pressure off the edge, and Robert Quinn rushed through the middle on a stunt. Both players had a free run at the quarterback. Jones was hit as he threw and had to get the ball out early before tight end Rhett Ellison could get open in the end zone. The pass was incomplete and the Giants settled for the field goal.

* On the Giants’ second drive, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence won on an inside rush against right tackle Mike Remmers and sacked Jones. On third down, the Cowboys rushed five and Jones got a deep ball off that was incomplete to a well-covered Cody Latimer down the right sideline. Jones was hit by Lawrence shortly after the throw.

* The Cowboys sacked Daniel Jones five times in the game, and they did not allow the Giants rookie quarterback to get comfortable. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Jones was 5 of 9 for 36 yards and two sacks on the 11 Dallas blitzes during the game. On the 20 dropbacks Jones was pressured on, he was 6 of 14 for 23 yards. The Giants offensive line struggled with all the movement the Cowboys use on the defensive line. Tackle Michael Bennett and Lawrence gave the right side and center of the Giants offensive line fits all day. Nate Solder did a nice job against defensive end Robert Quinn.

* The Dallas front shut down Barkley on the ground. He finished with only 28 yards on 14 carries, with a long run of eight yards. Lawrence and Bennett were both active in the backfield, with four tackles for loss between them. Linebacker Sean Lee, who played in place of the injured Vander Esch, looked like his old self with 12 tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defended. Barkley was hesitant on some plays instead of pressing the ball quickly up-field. According to PFF, the Cowboys had eight men in the box on only four of Barkley’s runs.

* Daniel Jones was able to take advantage of the Cowboys attention to Barkley on some read options, including a run for 16 yards to start the Giants third drive. An unbelievable one-handed 16-yard catch by Golden Tate in front of Byron Jones on the left sideline put the ball at the one-yard line. On 3rd and 1, the Cowboys miscommunicated on a rub route and Jones hit Latimer for a touchdown. Rosas missed an extra point for the second consecutive week. The Giants would not get into the end zone again, and finished just 1 for 5 scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

* The Giants advanced the ball to the Cowboys 12-yard line on their next drive with a number of short passes and successful runs. After gaining four yards on first down, Barkley gained only one on second. On third down, the Cowboys played good coverage and Jones had to throw it away with no one open in the end zone. 

* The Giants final offensive possession of the half was costly. After two incomplete passes put the Giants in 3rd and 10, Daniel Jones went deep to Darius Slayton, who was being covered by Chidobe Awuzie down the numbers to his right. Jones threw too far inside, and Slayton didn’t get his head turned around early enough to pick up the ball. Despite Jones looking left to pull the single high safety away from Slayton, Xavier Woods got over to intercept the pass. After a 29-yard return by Woods, Maher kicked a field goal. After leading 12-3 at the two minute warning, the Giants headed into halftime trailing, 13-12. It was a critical series of plays that changed the tenor of the game.

* Cody Latimer set up the Giants first drive of the second half with a 50-yard kickoff return. After one first down, a Slayton false start put the Giants in 2nd and 14. One play later, on a 3rd and 8, linebacker Jaylon Smith looped around the Cowboys two defensive tackles to get to Jones for a sack. There was nothing available down the field before Smith and Robert Quinn took Jones down.

* The Giants next drive ended when Jones fumbled on a 3rd and 6 scramble. He dove for the first down but was hit hard by Woods, who knocked the ball loose. It was recovered by former Giant Darian Thompson. Jones had two hands on the ball, but Woods put his shoulder pad right on the ball when he knocked Jones to the ground.

* The Cowboys seemed to be locked in on the Giants play action passes and bootleg action. On a couple different occasions, their defensive ends ignored the run fakes and quickly got up field and after the quarterback to disrupt the play.

* Latimer returned the ball to midfield on a kickoff after a Cowboys field goal. After converting a 3rd and 10 pass to Bennie Fowler, Jones kept the ball on a read option to gain 14 yards. A taunting penalty on Woods moved the ball to the Cowboys 13-yard line. The Giants failed in the red zone again. On first down, the Cowboys stuffed Tate for no gain on a quick screen pass to the left. On the next play, Barkley gained only three yards on a run up the middle. On third down, Jones looked left and could have forced a very tight window throw to the back corner of the end zone between two defenders to tight end Evan Engram, but wisely thought better of it. Instead, he checked it down to Barkley, who tripped and was immediately tackled by Sean Lee. The Giants settled for another field goal.

* Barkley made one of his special plays to start thenext drive. He took a screen pass and ran untouched until he was tackled at the Cowboys 11-yard line for a 65-yard gain. On first down, Fowler couldn’t secure a catchable pass when he was covered tightly by Lee. On second down, Jones looked over the middle to Engram, but the pass was knocked away by Awuzie. The Giants challenged for defensive pass interference. Replay showed Awuzie arrived and made contact with Engram’s back before the ball arrived, but the call of no interference was upheld. On third down, no one got open before Michael Bennett came around on a tackle-end twist and hit Jones to force an incomplete pass. Rosas kicked a 29-yard field goal.

* A Slayton illegal formation penalty put the Giants in 2nd and 14 on the Giants next drive. Lee read a Barkley screen that turned into a seven-yard loss on second down, forcing the Giants to punt after failing to convert a 3rd and 21.

* Jones drove the Giants into Cowboys territory on the team’s final drive but was sacked three times. On the final sack, defensive end Dorance Armstrong knocked the ball out of Jones’ hand as he cocked his arm to throw. After a scramble for the ball, it was picked up by cornerback Jourdan Lewis and returned for a touchdown.

* According to PFF, the Giants ran 49 of their 68 plays out of 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end). Twelve of their plays featured 12 personnel.

* Slayton was flagged for two pre-snap penalties and wasn’t able to locate Jones’ deep pass that went for an interception. If he had tried to make a play on the ball, it might have prevented the Woods’ pick. He also had a drop on a pass that got on him a little quickly after turning his head.

* The Giants defense got off to a great start. Prescott kept the ball on a RPO, and tried to hit Michael Gallup on a slant, but Bethea was in the passing lane and grabbed the interception. The Giants showed two safeties deep on the play, but Bethea creeped up towards the line of scrimmage right before the snap. Gallup would have been open inside the Giants cover-three zone, but Prescott didn’t see Bethea and threw the interception.

* The Giants struggled with their run defense all night. Elliott finished with 139 yards on 23 carries and feasted on cut-backs, especially on outside zone runs. The Giants backside run defense struggled. According to PFF, 51 of Elliott’s yards came before contact. Linebackers Alec Ogletree, David Mayo and Deone Buccanon combined for just 10 tackles.

* The Giants held the Cowboys to a field goal on their second drive, thanks to a pass rush from Lorenzo Carter that forced Tyron Smith to commit a holding penalty. It took a touchdown by Randall Cobb off the board. Carter finished the game with a quarterback hit and a pair of hurries.

* Grant Haley, who had been the starting nickel all season, did not take a defensive snap. He was replaced by Corey Ballentine, who was on the field for 77% of the Giants defensive plays. According to PFF, he gave up four catches on six targets for only 28 yards.

* On a 1st and 10 at the 3:04 mark in the first quarter, defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and linebacker Markus Golden made a great play on an outside run. Lawrence pressed right tackle La’el Collins into the backfield and Golden knocked perennial All-Pro Zack Martin to the ground to force a three-yard loss. Baker played good defense on a Cooper double move on 3rd and 13 (Leonard Williams also registered a quarterback hit on the play) to force a 54-yard field goal that Brett Maher missed.

* Jabrill Peppers ended the Cowboys first drive of the second quarter with a big hit on Randall Cobb that forced a fumble. Cobb caught a shallow cross and was about to turn upfield when Peppers put his helmet right on the football and popped it out. Bethea came over to scoop up the fumble.

* On the Cowboys next drive, they got their first chunk play of the game. On a 1st and 10, Leonard Williams forced Prescott out of the pocket on a bull-rush against left guard Connor Williams. As Prescott rolled right, tight end Blake Jarwin was coming across the field in the same direction on a shallow cross. Jarwin was wide open on the sideline. It was a short catch, but Jarwin had room to run, and the pursuit and tackling from the secondary was lacking. The result was a 42-yard touchdown that cut the Giants lead to two with under two minutes to play in the first half.

* In three career games against the Giants, Jarwin now has 12 catches for 200 yards and five touchdowns.

* The Giants forced a punt on the Cowboys next drive. One a 3rd and 10, Ballentine came on a corner blitz. Rookie running back Tony Pollard failed to pick it up, and Prescott had to check down to Cobb short of the first down.

* Elliott picked up 19 yards on a run off tackle when Dallas caught the Giants in an inside run blitz on the Cowboys next drive. Cobb couldn’t catch a pass slightly behind him at the three-yard line on the next play. On 3rd and 4, Lorenzo Carter played a Prescott read-option perfectly to force another Cowboys field goal that made it 16-12.

* The Cowboys scored touchdowns on their next two drives. Markus Golden went offside on a critical 3rd and 7 to give the Cowboys a 3rd and 2 that Dallas converted. Prescott missed an open Cooper on an overthrow on a deep post on the next play. Three plays later, Prescott put a pass just beyond the reach of Baker to Gallup, who pirouetted on the sideline and scored a 15-yard touchdown. 

* Dallas’ next drive was extended on a pass interference call on Baker trying to cover Cooper down the left sideline. There was minimal contact but the flag gave Dallas the first down. The Giants had another chance to get off the field on a 3rd and 12 from the 45-yard line with 8:05 remaining in the game. Cooper was free on a deep cross, and Bethea overran the receiver, resulting in the score. 

* The Giants special teams had one of their best kick return days of year behind Cody Latimer. Rosas has now missed an extra point or field goal in three consecutive weeks.

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