By Aaron Weiss
The New York Giants won the game of the year, snapping the Cowboys’ 11 game win streak in a brutal 10-7 slugfest. Let’s break it down and look forward to week 15!
Every single member of the New York Giants’ defense deserves a medal and a pay raise, but here are the 4 defensive dudes that stood out today (plus a few non-defensive extras):
Romeo Okwara – Okwara was the Giant with the most pressure on him going into tonight’s matchup. Okwara, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, was going from having never played more than 50% of defensive snaps in a game to replacing the injured Jason Pierre-Paul, a superstar who had recorded 5.5 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown over the three prior weeks. He’d be regularly facing off against Tyron Smith, who is one of, if not the, best tackles in the game and the rest of the Dallas O-Line, which is the best in football.
And boy, oh boy, did he deliver. He played 60 of 66 snaps, recording a sack, 3 QB hits, one hurry, 2 stops, a pass defended, and 8 tackles (3 solo tackles). He did not provide a weakness for the Cowboys to exploit on a star-studded defensive line. Ezekiel Elliot did run for over 100 yards, but he ran 9 times for 21 yards in the 2nd half. Elliot failed to break a single tackle, the Cowboys failed to enter the red zone, Dak Prescott was pressured on 43% of dropbacks, and on a defense we knew was great, and Dallas knew was great, Romeo Okwara was the weak point, and Dallas could not break him. He is the unquestioned player of the game, and if he plays well down the stretch (and potentially in the playoffs) he could lead to the Giants passing on resigning JPP.
Janoris Jenkins – Jenkins was probably the best corner in all of football this week. JJ recorded 2 tackles, 2 passes defended, a forced fumble and a pick. Prescott had a 0.0 passer rating when throwing to JJ, completing just two passes for 17 yards on 8 attempts, plus he threw the pick, which Jenkins nabbed by cutting off Dez Bryant to make a sweet grab. Dez’s only recorded one catch for 10 yards on a whopping 9 targets, and Janoris made Dez cough up the football on that play. Finally, he also made a crucial play on the Cowboys’ last offensive play, forcing a turnover on downs. This was one of the greatest lockdown corner performances I’ve ever seen.
After questioning the price tag that he came with, he has blown away all expectations. Dez Bryant only has 2 catches for 14 yards and a fumble against Janoris Jenkins in two showings. Jenkins is the only CB this year with 3+ picks, 9+ PDs and less than 500 yards allowed. He was the highest graded player by PFF in this game with a 91.6 rating, the only player to score over 90. He’s also one of PFF’s top ten ranked corners on the year (actually a spot behind teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). Were it not for Okwara being put on the spot, and the fact that JJ has been fantastic all year, Janoris would clearly be the best player on the day.
Olivier Vernon – Coming in as the star DE with JPP sidelined, he still made his presence felt despite being public enemy number 1 in the trenches. He recorded 8 QB pressures, 4 defensive stops, a batted pass, one QB hit, 5 tackles, and an 83.4 PFF rating. A muted performance compared to the others, but still worth recognition.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Another performance that was overlooked behind his teammates, DRC allowed 3 catches in 6 attempts for a measly 15 yards and two passes defended. The entire secondary shut down Dallas’ pass game, led by JJ and DRC.
Dwayne Harris – Dwayne twice downed punts on the three yard line, once at the top of the 2nd quarter, which led to Dallas punting 4 plays later, and once with just over a minute left in the game, forcing Dak to throw four times from his own end zone, trying to put together a game winning drive with no timeouts while down 3, and it led to four incompletions. While Dallas still probably doesn’t win if that punt turns into a touchback, there’s no doubt that downing it at the 3 yard line led to making Dak uncomfortable and helped the Giants to a win.
Kangaroo Jack – There are times that I question whether the successes of this year are truly correlated to Tom Coughlin’s firing, since it coincided with the year that Jerry Reese went bonkers in free agency. As an ardent Coughlin fan there’s a large part of me that believes that had TC been given this defense he could have guided the Giants to the same, if not better result (both in this game and on the year).
But then you find out that (one of) Coach McAdoo’s sources of inspiration for the team this week was a viral video of a man punching a kangaroo in the face, and you realize that this is McAdoo’s team. Love or hate Coughlin, he would never have used a viral video as a source of inspiration, let alone one of a man literally punching a kangaroo in the face. And in this critical division game, where the Giants could lose their 2nd straight and potentially collapse after their 6 game win streak, behavior all too familiar to the TC era, McAdoo’s Giants beat the best team in football after watching a man punch a kangaroo in the face. Godspeed to Tom Coughlin, in all of his coaching and non-coaching adventures of the future. This is Ben McAdoo’s team now.
So this week’s game ball should go to that kangaroo, wherever you are, for taking that hit, and inspiring the New York Giants to make the best team in football look mortal.
Eli Manning – Eli was by no means awful, but he made some mistakes. He went 17/28 for 193 yards, a touchdown, a pick, three sacks and two fumbles. The pick was recovered by Anthony Brown, who made a fantastic diving play, but three of Manning’s incompletions should’ve (or at least could’ve) been picked. Additionally if we eliminate Odell’s 61 yard touchdown which happened on a quick slant, and should never have gone for the touchdown if the receiver isn’t Odell, then Eli would only gone 16/27 with no touchdowns and 132 yards. His performance was entirely uninspiring, and error prone, but it was not god-awful.
Clutch/Mental Errors – The Giants did go 2-2 on fourth down, but they were 2-14 on third down, keeping the Cowboys in the game far longer than they should’ve. They also were 0-1 in the red zone (in terms of touchdowns) and they notched 7 penalties for 50 yards (granted one penalty was intentional to setup a punt, but still, 6-45 isn’t ideal). There isn’t a lot to critique, but there are clearly improvements to be made on the play calling and mental discipline side
Terrance Williams – In a game where Janoris Jenkins shut down Dez, and the Giants D shut down the rest of Dak’s favorite targets (Jason Witten and Cole Beasley), Terrance managed to dent the Giants’ defense with 5 receptions on 6 targets for 76 yards and a TD. While hardly a line worthy of the ugly section, he gets put here due to the godawful blown coverage on his 31 yard touchdown, where he was left uncovered on a play action, behind the Giants’ defense, and walked in for a score. It was the 2nd drive of the game, and this mistake nearly blew the lid on the game, but the Giants’ Defense made sure to take care of business, and the Giants’ offense did just enough to get New York the win. Still, once again the Giants were plagued by the long ball.
Injuries – RB Shane Vereen recorded his first snap after missing nine games with a triceps injury, but left the game in the 2nd quarter with a concussion. Whether he can play next week is unknown. No one else was injured.
NFC East Standings – Washington beat Philadelphia this week, which leaves the gap between the Giants and Washington at a game and a half. Dallas still tops the NFL at 11-2 (although the Patriots are 10-2 going into their matchup tonight), the Giants’ are 2nd in the NFC East at 9-4, Washington is third at 7-5-1, and Philly is last (and basically out of playoff contention) at 5-8.
The Giants could still win the East, if they win out and Dallas loses two of their last three games, or if Dallas loses out and New York wins two of their last three games. Considering Dallas has yet to lose to a team that isn’t the Giants, that doesn’t seem likely. Once again, the Giants retain the 5th seed, staying a game ahead of 6th seed Tampa and a game and a half over Washington.
Next Week – The Giants’ play their last home game facing off against Detroit. Detroit beat Chicago this week 20-17. However, QB Matthew Stafford suffered a PIP joint dislocation and torn ligaments to the middle finger of his throwing hand, which will force him to play the rest of the season with a glove on his throwing hand. Apparently his finger was bent at a 90-degree angle, and he had no control over the top of the digit. He will apparently play through the injury, but it’s unclear how it’ll affect his ability to throw, or take a hit. It’s possible he will be forced to take snaps exclusively from the shotgun or pistol, a la Derek Carr in Oakland. Between that, the Giants great pass rush, and the Lions’ starting RB coming off a wrist injury (assuming he’s back), combined with the Giants’ 6-1 home record (the Lions are 3-3 on the road), I think the Giants grab the win (but like always with them, they’ll make it entertaining).
Prediction – Giants wins 23-20