Manning lost his first six career starts in 2004, but on the final week of the season, he led the Giants to a 28-24 home win over the Dallas Cowboys for his first career victory.
Maybe that win gave Eli a confidence boost, because he’s played historically well against the Cowboys in his career.
Though his overall regular season record against Dallas (9-7) doesn’t blow anyone away, Manning is 5-2 in the last seven meetings. And as we all know, Manning hasn’t lost in three games in the new Cowboys Stadium, which opened prior to the 2009 season.
In total, Manning is 5-4 at home against the Cowboys and 4-3 on the road. He did lead the Giants to a 21-17 playoff win in 2008, in which his quarterback rating was 132.4.
In these 16 games, Manning has averaged 254.0 passing yards and two touchdowns per game. He has a 60.8 completion percentage against Dallas, and his team has averaged 34.0 points per game.
But for Manning, history doesn’t matter as much as the next week’s game. The Giants are looking to avenge an opening night loss to the Cowboys.
“When you have the opportunity to play a team again, you want to go out there and have a better performance, since you lost,” Manning said. “We feel that we can play better than we did the first time. We know they’re talented. If we’re going to move the ball and score points, we’re going to have to earn everything. We’re going to have to make plays and block up their talented front seven. They have a good secondary. They have good players all over the field, and we’ve just got to execute better than we did the last time.”
Dallas seems to go through streaks of having a good or bad defense. This year, the defense has played well, ranking third in pass defense (187.3 yards per game) and fourth in total defense (292.3 yards per game). However, middle linebacker Sean Lee is out for the season with a toe injury.
Though Manning has had three wins in the new Cowboys Stadium, he was quick to deflect the credit to his teammates.
“The team has played well, guys have gotten open, and the offensive line has blocked well,” Manning said of the games in Dallas. “So, we’ve been put in good circumstances and made plays when we needed them. It seems like all of them have been tight games, coming down to last-second field goals or two-minute drives at the end. We’ve made plays when we needed to, and I have a feeling that we’re going to have that same type of game.”
Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett recognizes the importance of this game, but he’s also aware of Manning’s success in his team’s stadium.
“We certainly want to play well at home, but at the same time, we want to play well on the road,” Garrett said. “They’re a division opponent, so there are implications whenever you play within your division. They’re a team that we played a lot of really good games against through the years. They certainly know us, we feel like we know them, like most division rivals do. Regardless of where we play them, we want to play well. Certainly you want to protect your home-field advantage and certainly play well at home, but you want to play well on the road, you want to play well in the parking lot, you want to play well on the moon. Our players hear me say that a lot. It will be a great challenge for us at our place on Sunday against this football team.”
After a tight divisional matchup last weekend against the Redskins, Manning and company are hoping for a game in which they steamroll the Cowboys. However, expect even the injury-riddled Cowboys to show up in a big way at home in this divisional clash.