Eight months ago tonight Eli Manning threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns as the Giants routed the Dallas Cowboys, 31-14, to clinch the NFC East title. Just three weeks earlier, Manning had passed for 400 yards and two scores in a Giants' comeback victory in Cowboys Stadium.
Given those gaudy passing statistics, it's no surprise the Cowboys imported two new cornerbacks who will start against the Giants when the teams meet Wednesday night in the NFL regular season opener.
At left corner is veteran Brandon Carr, who played in all 64 regular season games in four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before leaving as a free agent. The right corner is manned by rookie Morris Claiborne, whom Dallas selected with the sixth overall selection after trading up in this year's draft.
Carr and Claiborne replace Terence Newman (now with Cincinnati) and Mike Jenkins, who began practicing last week after coming off the physically unable to perform list. The Cowboys also have a new starting safety in Barry Church, who was previously a backup. Gerald Sensabaugh remains the free safety.
Their presence of three new starters in the secondary creates some mystery on a team the Giants otherwise know very well and a challenge for wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
"Obviously, they've added some new guys in the secondary and two new starting cornerbacks and safeties, so they've got some new people in there playing," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We'll have to see what their approach is and obviously we're going to have a plan. We have an idea of what we think they might do and as the game goes, we'll see what their plan is and adjust, probably."
Nicks and Cruz both had big games last season against the Cowboys. In Dallas, Nicks caught eight passes for 163 yards and added five receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown in the season-ending rematch. Cruz had six catches for 74 yards in the first meeting and six for 178, including a 74-yard touchdown, in the second.
Both receivers are eager to see how Dallas will defense them on Wednesday.
"I see a lot of different coverages," Cruz said. "They're doing a lot of different things, taking a little bit more risks with the two new corners that they have now, so it will be an interesting test for us – for myself, Hakeem, all of the receivers just being able to decipher what coverages that they're in and making our routes according to what they're in.
"We'll see how it goes. We know they like to play physical and they're jamming up a lot and we have to use our ability to get off the jam and stuff like that. It should be a good test for us."
Cruz is eager to see if Dallas will continue to take those risks in a game of such magnitude.
"I think they'll continue," he said. "I think they have a lot of faith in their two corners and their safeties, so I think they'll take a little bit more risk, but we'll see. On film, it was a couple risks here and there, but a lot of vanilla stuff. Granted, because it was the preseason, they were just trying to see who can play, who can't and they took it from there."
While Cruz noticed a different scheme, Nicks sees only the new personnel.
"It's different guys," Nicks said. "They're still doing the same things on film. Watching things they did preseason, watching stuff from last year as well … we've just got to see what they're going to have for us when we get out there."
Nicks was asked if he thought the Cowboys altered their secondary as a reaction to the Giants' success.
"They made changes because they feel like they need to make changes," he said. "You can't necessarily say that they made the changes for us. They feel that they had to better their team, so they went out and tried to better their team. We're just going to play our game according to our game plan and do what we have to do when we're out there.
"They're talented guys. They got a young guy in there that's pretty talented, the rookie. They got Brandon Carr from Kansas City, he's pretty good as well. It's just going to be a great battle. We look forward to it."