Dallas Preview

In order to get a better sense of where the Cowboys are, I watched the rewind of the AZ-DAL game from last Sunday.  Everyone has seen the “icing” of the kicker by HC Jason Garrett at the end of regulation.  That move was preceded by the biggest story of the game: the 3rd and 11 reception by Dez Bryant.  The Cowboys are at midfield, Romo rifles the ball into Bryant, who makes a great grab in between two defenders.  The story begins AFTER the reception.  With 27 seconds remaining and the Boys on the edge of FG position, Romo hurries his team up to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball.  If you had one timeout, wouldn’t you use it after the reception?  Instead, 20 seconds of the clock run down, and the Boys only have 7 seconds left. Now here is the insanity- the Cowboys didn’t have one timeout left.  THEY HAD TWO TIMEOUTS!  If this manure maneuver were performed by the Giants Head Coach or their experienced QB, I would want BOTH of their heads.  Everyone was ripping Garrett for being the Princeton dunce on the icing, and that was irrelevant penny ante material compared to blowing 20 seconds of clock with two timeouts in his pocket.  As for Romo, could you imagine Rodgers, Brady, etc… wasting 20 seconds?  Never.  

Why is it important to discuss the 20 seconds of evaporated time in this Cowboys-Giants preview?  Because the Cowboys played a lot of good football last weekend and they underachieved.  They went into AZ territory ~8 times and came away with 13 points.  There was one penalty which brought back a great Dez Bryant punt return.  Delay of game penalties. False starts.  Throw in some good AZ defense and you get the idea.  If things had gone just a little differently, Dallas would have scored plenty more.  So expect them to be much more trouble vs the Giants on Sunday night as long as they are able to execute just a little bit better than last week. 

Dallas has plenty of weapons on defense and offense.  I am having a hard time figuring out which monster scares more, DeMarcus Ware or Dez Bryant.  When Romo is not self-destructing, he’s got a lot to work with.  Murray is a good RB.  Everyone knows Witten at TE, the position where the Giants always enjoy getting roasted.  On Defense, Rob Ryan keeps the opposition off-balance with good schemes.  The Giants OL must keep Eli clean, because the Dallas pass rush can cause havoc.  

Petrus got a lot of props last weekend for helping the run game.  Going up against the likes of Jay Ratliff, I’d say it is a must to have Petrus start.  

Summary:  Dallas played hard last weekend, and the score/result vs Arizona covers up the fact that Dallas is dangerous.  They are like an engine without a transmission.  If they get into any gear at all, the Giants will have their hands full.  When you think about how this Dallas team blew games to NE, NYJ and DET earlier this season on top of the AZ loss, you can understand why the NFC East is where it is.  Andy Reid has an OL coach as a Defensive Coordinator, who puts Nmandi Asomugha in zone coverage.  Garrett chokes the AZ game.  Coughlin the irate steward who watches as his coordinators underachieve.  Washington Snydersville.  It’s the NFC East, the land of blind organizations, and someone’s gotta win this division. 

Dallas Preview

Bloguin has a new football site, The Cowboys Nation.  It is run by Darren Shetler.  We did some Q&A exchange to get ready for Monday night’s matchup.  Remember, the point spread is Dallas by 3.5 so make those predictions.

Darren, for starters, has a pretty good look at why his team underachieves

When I asked Wonder for some questions, he was terse- he had only one question about this game, the first one we asked Darren.  See below for that answer and the 4 others.  Oh, and by the way, click on the link below for the second part, an amusing tribute.

1.  Can the Dallas OL keep Romo upright?

I think you answered in your 5 questions to me that the key matchup this weekend is the Giants DL vs the Dallas OL. The OL I have a feeling is in for a very long game and I think it will come down to more playing calling on Garrett’s part in order to protect his QB. If Garrett can run some draws, which he loves, quick screens and dumps to Witten, it should open the field for Romo and hopefully give him and his OL a little confidence, which can do wonders. Kyle Kosier is not out yet but should he miss this game, this is a big hole for the Cowboys.
 
 
2.  We’ve read your “Blame Game” breakdown.  Can you give our readers a one short answer for where you believe the problems start for this team?

It’s the coaching staff!! I am tired of watching this team commit the same penalties every week and hearing the same excuses in Wade Philip’s post-game interview. Wade Philips for me is a very laid back kind of coach and when a team performs like the Cowboys have been, you need a Coughlin type of guy that is going to explode on them. If it were my choice, I’d steal the Lions coach because last week, he made Coughlin seem laid back.
 
3.  The Dallas running game is not consistent.  Is this why Austin/Williams/Bryant/Witten don’t hurt teams a lot more than they should?

I think the Dallas running game is getting better since Felix Jones has taken on the bigger role. It was very inconsistent in the first few weeks but Garrett seemed to want to rely on the pass more and not give the RB’s a chance to find a rhythm.  Marion Barber’s efficiency last week in short-yardage situations was encouraging for the Cowboys even though we didn’t call on him on 3 and 1 which led to a pick. It isn’t the running game that is holding back Austin/Williams/Bryant/Witten from hurting teams, its the OL that manages to get yellow flags on the big plays to these guys that is.
 
4.  What has happened to Jenkins this season?

All guys go through slumps and right now, Mike Jenkins is in a BIG slump. Jenkins is confident defender and typically plays the corner physically, which makes him prone to pass interefence calls. His game hasn’t changed, I just think teams have picked up on what his game is. Last season, Jenkins had only one pass interference penalty but already has four this season, with some coming at key moments. It would appear that teams are throwing at him because they realize his physical play is going to cost the Cowboys at times. He’s not going to change, he’s actually said that and examples like this, further prove the coaching staff is just not getting these boys in the right direction.
 
5.  Dallas has not lost more than 2 games consecutively in any season since Wade has been head coach.  Is this part of the Dallas malaise, namely that the team is undisciplined and underachieves, until it loses and then has to snap out of it and then play back to its potential, repeating the cycle over and over again?  And if so, does that mean the same team that awoke vs the Texans after 2 losses will reawaken and play its ‘A’ game vs the Giants after 2 losses?

The Cowboys have had a way of playing well when their back is to the wall, when everyone started to doubt them. Last season, they got over their December demons by playing this way and continued that type of play through the first week of the playoffs. That same team showed up week 3 in Houston but to be honest, it also helps which team they are playing after those two losses. With the expection of last year, when they had to play New Orleans in New Orleans after losing 2, the teams they have typically faced after 2 losses haven’t been that great (Tampa in 2008 and and Houston in 2010). For this team, it all comes down to penalties. This team can dominate the opposition and have done some this season but they just keep giving the game away because of the same mistakes. Hopefully, with the doubters out this week, playing an NFC rival and playing on the MNF stage, which Dallas loves to do will result in the team we saw in Houston, finding its way to the stadium on Monday Night.  

Dallas Preview

There are so many crosscurrents in this game. I can see certain things that get us optimistic, yet there are many other things that can be very sobering.

NEGATIVES:
1) 2 vs 6. Romo’s sacks vs Manning’s sacks. Despite a clear advantage of our defensive line, we only have 2 sacks on him… this needs to improve. Some of this is probably a holdover of the Kiwanuka experiment and Strahan’s first game back. But just like in baseball, where good pitching beats good hitting, so does a good offensive line beat a good defensive line. THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. UMENYIORA, STRAHAN, TUCK (and LB/SECONDARY BLITZ) NEEDS TO GET TO ROMO.
2) To say our secondary is banged up is an understatement. Webster is not getting a hurt Galloway today. Webster was one of the main reasons why the Giants got through TB and he will have to be the reason why we get through Dallas. Webster is going to get beat, that is not an issue. The question is how many times. If it is once, that means he is blanketing coverage MOST of the time, and we can live with that and win the game.
3) Against the best teams you need 60 mins. Against the best teams this year (Dallas twice, Packers, Pats) the Giants played with their opponent for 2-3 quarters and folded late. This is a hurdle the Giants have to get over.
4) Terry Glenn? Jerry Jones was talking him up Friday. But there is no way Jones would help the Giants by waking them up to an unforeseen threat… smokescreen? The Giants should and will single him until he can prove more than that.
5) DeMarcus Ware on David Diehl. As mentioned before, Diehl is a wonderful player but he is not an Offensive Tackle. Yes, he can sub there, he can play a game for you when someone else goes down, but today is when he is going to hurt you because he is going to require some help when (not if) Ware beats him.
6) Dallas knows us well enough to know that the key to disrupting Eli is not making him comfortable in the pocket and giving him lots of pressure/less time.

POSITIVES:
1) One of the reasons why bye teams do better against the wild card winner is that they have two weeks to prepare. Since the Giants and Dallas are division rivals who have played each other twice this season (contrast that with the other 3 games this weekend, where only SD and IND have faced each other once), it negates the preparation advantage that the Cowboys would normally have.
2) Bradshaw, Smith and Boss look to make strong contributions today. If it was me I would start Bradshaw because I think he matches up best against the speed of the Dallas defense. Boss will get a record number of receptions today (5+). Smith will continue to help move the sticks.
3) From Bob Papa- put the speed of Gerris Wilkinson on Jason Witten. Wilkinson has steadily improved and he gives the Giants secondary help in this way. If you can slide (double) coverage to Witten because TO is not an overwhelming threat, then use Wilkinson. In a perfect world, this is how the Giants are going to beat the Cowboys.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS
(previously discussed positive themes reiterated):
4) Strahan started the season late and he has fresh legs, playing his best football.
5) Burress is playing better than the midseason injury swoon.
6) See the “Manning pump fake” entry earlier this week for continued ideas of his improvement.
7) Penalties are down this year.
8) ROAD WARRIORS.
9) Special teams have steadily improved as the season has wore on.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
1) Pierce vs Barber. Don’t let this guy be Romo’s version of ‘Brady to Faulk.’ Is Pierce getting healthier?
2) Boss vs Williams
3) Toomer vs Reeves.

STATS:
1) Home (bye) teams are 14-6 the past 5 years. 30% chance for The Giants.
2) Team winning first two games is 11-6 in the third game when they play again in the postseason. 35% chance for the Giants.
3) Moneyline implies ~24% chance for the Giants.

SUMMARY:
If the Giants had a healthy Madison in there vs TO I would feel so much better and bullish the Giants. As the week wore on and Madison became more and more “doubtful,” my optimism waned. There are plenty of variables which are simply not known- how effective are TO and Glenn? Does Bradshaw start? (That won’t happen but if it did I would like the Giants more.) Does Dallas get a lot of pressure on Manning and give us old Eli? Do we get Eli the time for him to be the new pump-fake Eli? Too many questions for me. Last week I called for a Giant win vs TB, this week I cannot be that bold. I do think it is possible, and greater a chance than the oddsmakers give us. I like the confidence of the Giants, but as a reminder, what wildcard winner ever had a lack of confidence after a playoff win? If the Giants do everything right we win a close game. If Dallas does everything right we get killed.

PREDICTION:
Very close game with a respectable shot at winning the game. Dallas 30 Giants 26. GO GIANTS!

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