Protecting the football was one of the Giants360 Keys to Victory last week, and throwing 5 interceptions qualifies as an unmitigated failure in that regard. Despite the cornucopia of turnovers provided, San Francisco only managed a 6 point victory, giving a ray of hope to Giants fans, who are staring a six game losing streak in the face as the Dallas Cowboys come to town for a Sunday night showdown at Metlife Stadium. The NFL’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, powered by arguably the best offensive line in the league faces the Giants 32nd ranked rushing defense. These games are almost always close, and if the Giants hope to steal a victory, here’s what they need to do:
- Stop DeMarco Murray. In the first meeting on October 19th, Murray ran for 128 yards on 28 carries and scored once. Overall, Dallas gained 156 yards on the ground and ran the ball 35 times versus 25 passing plays. If the Giants want to stop the Cowboys, it starts with selling out against the run and shutting down Murray. It’s a tall order, but one a pumped up defense can fill.
- Ground and Pound. Rashad Jennings missed the first meeting, but will play today and has a game under his belt to shake off the rust of missing four with a sprained MCL. The Giants have reconfigured their offensive line in an attempt to get Jennings better blocking with the retuning Geoff Schwartz at right tackle for the injured Justin Pugh, and veteran Adam Snyder taking over for struggling rookie Weston Richburg at left guard. Controlling the ball and the clock will keep the Dallas offense off the field and is the most effective way to stop Murray.
- Protect the Football. Five interceptions against Dallas will result in a blowout. San Francisco took the Giants lightly and are nearly as talented at the surprising Cowboys. Manning needs to make better decisions with the ball when pressured and either take the sack or throw the ball away. A punt is better than a turnover and a field goal attempt beats a red zone turnover 100% of the time. Last week was a mulligan for Manning, but another game like that and his long term viability will come into question. Larry Donnell will be looking to atone for his two fumbles in the October 19th game, the first of which turned the game in the Cowboys favor.
- Protect Eli Manning. Pressure played a role in 2 of the 5 interceptions. Charles Brown was incompetent at best as a pass blocker substituting for the injured Pugh and was appropriately benched. A rusty Schwartz figures to provide a lift and Snyder some veteran savvy on the left side of the line against a Cowboys team that has registered 9 sacks in the past 3 games (two of which were losses). If Manning has time, he should be able to find receivers open and Odell Beckham had two touchdowns in four catches against Dallas in October.
- Pressure Tony Romo. The practice squad, tackling fodder, and walking wounded that are passing for a back seven on the Giants will have their hands full with Dez Bryant, Terence Williams, and Jason Witten. The Giants best hope for containing the potent Dallas passing game is to pressure the fragile Tony Romo into making mistakes. He’s been well protected by the second coming of the great wall of Dallas, but has shown vulnerability when blitzed and will make critical mistakes when under pressure. If given time to pass, Bryant is likely to repeat his 9-151-1 stat line from the earlier meeting.
Last week, the potent Forty-Niners running game painted a bleak picture for the Giants, and the motivated team would have won easily if not for Manning’s regression to his 2013 form. This rivalry always brings out the best in both teams, regardless of record, so expect a hard hitting, tight affair with the team making the fewest errors winning. The Giants are capable of playing error free football, but have rarely done so in 2014. If they do so tomorrow, stop the run, and control the clock, Dallas will have indigestion going into their Thanksgiving day game with the Philadelphia Eagles.