Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, as settling for field goals on two early trips into the red zone ultimately sealed Big Blue’s fate in a 24-21 loss to the Cowboys.
Sure, the weather was a factor in this one, but Tony Romo didn’t look like he had too much trouble throwing the ball on that final drive. It’s no excuse.
The penalties on both sides of the ball for the Giants were absolutely brutal (11 for 81 yards), but from an offensive standpoint, key penalties turned third-and-short situations into difficult third-and-longs. We know how the Giants have fared all season in third-and-long situations. Big Blue was just 3-of-12 on third down in the loss.
At least the running game was a bright spot. Andre Brown set a new career-high with 127 yards on 21 carries, for an average of 6.0 yards per carry. Brandon Jacobs added 75 yards on nine carries for an average of 8.3 yards per carry. From where this team was running the ball in the beginning of the season, that’s a huge improvement.
Brown really ran angry in this one. He showed great patience in allowing the holes to open and picking up huge chunks of yardage. He was especially effective on first-down plays, consistently picking up five or six yards.
Eli Manning actually wasn’t too terrible in this one, besides still searching for chemistry with some of the younger receivers. He threw for two touchdowns, but there were too many short passes that just didn’t materialize, leading to a pedestrian 5.8 yards per pass average.
Big Blue received a very unlucky break on the Victor Cruz fumble that turned into a Jeff Heath defensive touchdown. You can’t fault Cruz for trying to fight for some extra yards, but it wound up costing a touchdown. There was some controversy on whether that play should have been ruled dead, but it looked like the referees made the right call there.
Cruz only caught two balls the entire game, which marks his lowest number of receptions in a game in over a year. Rueben Randle made a few big catches and ran well after the catch. But still, five combined catches from these two in the absence of Hakeem Nicks (abdomen) certainly was not enough for this team to win, despite the swirling winds.
Again though, regardless of the nice comeback in the fourth quarter and the defensive lapses on that final Cowboys’ drive, it was the red zone inefficiency on back-to-back offensive drives in the second quarter that did this team in.
On the first one, Brandon Myers was stuffed for one yard after a short catch, and then Brown was stopped at the line. On the third-down play, Brown caught a pass out of the backfield but was stopped short, leading to a Josh Brown field goal. Honestly, we can chalk that up to a good defensive stand from the Cowboys. It happens.
But on the next drive after Jacobs ripped off a 37-yard run down to the four-yard-line, Brown lost six on first down. Manning then threw the ball out of the back of the endzone on second down.
In what looked like an obvious passing situation from the 10-yard-line, Kevin Gilbride instead opted to give the ball to Brown on a draw play. Brown of course ran hard like he did all game and picked up five yards, but it was well short of the goal line. Why wasn’t a pass play called in that situation?
Yes, the running game had been working very well on that drive. But on third-and-goal from the 10, you call a draw? That’s inexcusable.
The draw play can be effective in a shorter yardage situation, just like on the two-point conversion. Dallas brought the blitz, but the pulling guard James Brewer, who was inserted into the game after Jim Cordle went down with a knee injury, paved the way for Brown to tie the game. Too bad it wound up being irrelevant.
It was at least nice to see the normally non-existent Myers find the end zone. That was a huge catch on fourth down and an even better heads-up play by Myers to scamper into the endzone, knowing he wasn’t touched.
Well, barring a miracle, this loss likely seals the Giants’ fate. Stranger things have happened, but in addition to winning the five remaining games – which is no easy task – Big Blue would need a ton of help, since the team will have none of the key tiebreakers on their side.
That’s what happens when you drop the first six games of the season. Even a four-game winning streak could be rendered totally useless.
It’s back to the drawing board this week in anticipation of next week’s game against the Washington Redskins.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.