EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Tom Coughlin's first commandment of football is "Thou Shall Take Care of the Ball." The Giants violated that directive Sunday night and it cost them a chance to beat the Dallas Cowboys in their season opener.
The 36-31 loss in AT&T Stadium demonstrated yet again why Coughlin continually emphasizes the importance of avoiding turnovers. The Giants coughed up the ball six times. Those miscues led to 24 Cowboys points, including two defensive touchdowns, the last a game-clinching 49-yard interception return by Brandon Carr with 1:50 left when the Giants had a chance to pull out a victory.
The six turnovers were an NFL high on kickoff weekend and tied the Giants' highest total in the 10-year Coughlin era. After the game, one of the coach's many anti-turnover quotes was, "You can't win turning the football over."
Not only is that common sense, it is overwhelmingly proven statistically. What follows are the records of both the Giants and teams throughout the NFL when they commit three-plus, four-plus, five-plus or six-plus turnovers since 2004, Coughlin's first season with the Giants. Thanks to the Elias Sports Bureau for providing some of these numbers.
- The Giants were one of seven teams to commit a turnover on their opening possession of the season. The others were Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Oakland and Pittsburgh. The Texans were the only one of those seven teams to win.
- The Giants committed turnovers on each of their first three possessions for the first time since Dec. 12, 2004 at Baltimore when Derrick Ward fumbled the opening kickoff, Tiki Barber fumbled and Eli Manning threw an interception.
- In addition to the Giants' three first-quarter turnovers, Dallas had one. It was the first time two teams combined for four turnovers in the first quarter of a Giants game since Oct. 15, 2006 at Atlanta. The Giants won that game, 27-14.
- Manning threw for 450 yards in Dallas, the second-highest total of his career. The only quarterback to pass for more yards on Kickoff Weekend was Peyton Manning, who totaled 462 yards in Denver's victory over Baltimore. The Manning brothers will share the field Sunday when the Giants and Broncos meet in MetLife Stadium. The game will be the first in NFL history in which the opposing starting quarterbacks will have each thrown for at least 400 yards in the previous week. The Mannings were two of the six quarterbacks to pass for at least 350 yards, the most-ever on Kickoff Weekend.
- Manning rushed for eight yards in Dallas to raise his career total to 403 yards. That is the highest total among current Giants. The Giants are the only NFL team that does not have a career 500-yard rusher on its active roster.
- Manning threw four touchdown passes in Dallas. Perhaps he should have stopped at three. The Giants are 4-4 in games in which he throws for four touchdowns, but 17-4 when he passes for three scores.
- On the Giants' final drive Sunday night, Manning's right arm was locked down by defensive end Kyle Wilber. That forced Manning to switch hands and throw a left-handed pass to Victor Cruz that fell incomplete. Manning has completed two his five career left-handed passes.
He first threw a pass left-handed on Sept. 14, 2008 in St. Louis, where he completed a two-yard throw to Brandon Jacobs while being wrapped up by defensive end James Hall. On Sept. 26, 2010, his southpaw toss to Kevin Boss in the end zone was intercepted by Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty. Later that season, on Nov. 21 in Philadelphia, Manning, tied up by the Philadelphia rush, flipped a sidearm left-handed pass to Ahmad Bradshaw for a two-yard gain in the third quarter. On Oct. 30, 2011, Manning faced a heavy rush from the Miami Dolphins when he threw a short left-handed pass to D.J. Ware that fell incomplete.
- Victor Cruz caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Manning in Dallas. Since the start of the 2011 season, Cruz has seven touchdown receptions of 70 or more yards. That is more than double the total of any other player over that span (Atlanta's Julio Jones and Miami's Mike Wallace are tied for second with three apiece).
- Cruz (118), Hakeem Nicks (114) and Rueben Randle (101) were the first trio in Giants history with more than 100 receiving yards in the same game. The last time a team had three 100-yard receivers in the same game occurred, ironically, on the Giants' previous trip to Dallas. But it was the Cowboys who had the productive threesome on Oct. 28, 2012 in Jason Witten (167 yards), Miles Austin (133) and Dez Bryant (110).
- Cruz's 100-yard game was the 13th of his career, tying him with Del Shofner for third on the Giants' all-time list. Amani Toomer is first with 22, followed by Homer Jones with 17.
The Giants gained 147 more yards than Dallas (478-331) but owned the ball for about 14 fewer minutes (22:50-37:10), the first time they put together that strange statistical combination since the NFL began recording time of possession in 1977.
- The Giants' 428 net passing yards were the second-highest total by a Coughlin-coached team in his 18-season, 292-game (including postseason) career. Last Sept. 16, the Giants threw for 510 yards in a victory over Tampa Bay.
- Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 36 passes (in 49 attempts), tying the third-highest total ever against the Giants. Romo owns three of the four highest single-game completion totals vs. the Giants:
- Peyton Manning last week joined Giants Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle as the only players in history to throw seven touchdown passes without an interception in a game. Tittle accomplished the feat on Oct. 28, 1962. Here is a comparison of the two performances: