By Brad Carroll
After suffering a 31-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, the New York Giants already find themselves in big trouble in the NFC East title race. The Giants dropped to 3-4 after the road loss and now trail the Cowboys by three games and the Philadelphia Eagles by 2.5 for the division lead.
While that is already a huge deficit to make up this season, the bigger issue for the Giants heading into the bye week is whether or not they are a playoff-caliber team. After winning three straight games, the Giants have reverted back to the team that lost its first two, when they were considered one of the worst teams in football. The Giants have been beaten in back-to-back weeks by the two teams ahead of them in the NFC East, first getting shut out by the Eagles and then losing by double-digits to the Cowboys.
The Giants didn't get blown out by the Cowboys, however, as they bounced back nicely from the humiliating defeat to the Eagles one week prior. The Giants had the lead late in the second quarter and were within a touchdown in the final minute. But they didn't get nearly enough production from the offense, couldn't slow down running back DeMarco Murray, and the defense couldn't stop Dallas late to get the ball back with a chance to tie.
So, the Giants head to the bye week under .500. Here were our keys to a Giants victory and how they actually played out on the field.
Stepping Up For Injured Stars
Why It Was Key: Without injured stars Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, Eli Manning is going to have to step up his own game to give the Giants a chance to pull the upset. But the Giants need to find some new playmakers on offense in a hurry to win.
How It Played Out: In the passing game, the Giants got nice games from Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr., but Preston Parker caught just two passes for 19 yards and Kevin Ogletree wasn't even targeted with a pass in the game. Randle did have six catches for 74 yards and Beckham Jr. caught four passes for 34 yards and two touchdowns, so the Giants did get production from the big two in the receiving game. Manning completed 21-of-33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Still, there wasn't enough big plays from the passing game to make up for the loss of Cruz in this game. The Giants didn't get nearly enough from the running game, as Andre Williams rushed 18 times for just 51 yards, a 2.8 yard per carry average. Peyton Hillis added 29 yards on six carries. The Giants eclipsed 100 yards, but the offense just isn't the same without Jennings on the field. The running game is key to a winning Giants season, and they just didn't do enough against Dallas to win.
Slowing Down DeMarco
Why It Was Key: The Giants must find a way to come up with a big game against DeMarco Murray and the Dallas rushing attack. If Murray has another big day, the Giants likely lose their second straight game and will fall three games back in the NFC East race.
How It Played Out: There has been no stopping Murray this season. Murray broke Jim Brown's NFL record by eclipsing 100 yards for the seventh straight game to open the season, rushing for 128 against the Giants. He scored a touchdown with 9:11 to go to put the Cowboys up 28-14. The Giants allowed 156 yards on 23 carries overall, a 5.1 yard per carry average. The Giants have had trouble stopping the run all season and they couldn't change that against the Cowboys.
Bring Out The Old Romo
Why It Was Key: The Giants need to win the turnover battle, and it starts by bringing the heat against Tony Romo and forcing him into mistakes. The Giants need to force that issue by bringing the pressure, which means a big game by Jason Pierre-Paul. Then the Giants could get a huge upset victory.
How It Played Out: The Giants did have some success against Romo when they brought pressure, hitting the Dallas quarterback four times and sacking him twice. Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks in the game, beating Tyron Smith, one of the best tackles in football, in the process. Prince Amukamara had a huge interception against Romo, returning the pick 38 yards, setting up a touchdown to give the Giants a 14-7 lead. But in the end, Romo did more than enough to beat the Giants. He completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Romo hit Dez Bryant nine times for 151 yards and connected with backup tight end Gavin Escobar for two touchdowns. The Giants ended up losing the turnover battle, 2-1, and suffered a huge defeat in the NFC East.