Big Blue Breakdown: Week 12 Recap

Well, there’s not much that can be said about the Giants’ playoff chances after this week’s loss. They’re now 4-7, while the division-leading Cowboys and Eagles are both 6-5. It would take a three-game swing in five weeks for the Giants to claim the division and the chances of that happening are pretty slim. However, all is not lost. The Giants actually looked pretty good against the best team they’ve played in a while; at the very least, we know Big Blue’s win streak wasn’t a complete fluke. There were definitely quite a few things the team did wrong which ended up costing them, but those things shouldn’t overshadow some strong performances from the day. Once again, let’s take a look at this week’s positives and negatives and speculate on how the rest of the season might play out.

Terrell Thomas (#24) and a usually-strong secondary played poorly against Dallas (Tom Fox/Dallas News)

Terrell Thomas (#24) and a usually-strong secondary played poorly against Dallas (Tom Fox/Dallas News)

The Rundown:

- Giants lose to Cowboys, 24-21

- Hakeem Nicks sits out with abdominal injury

- Jim Cordle sent to IR; OL Stephen Goodin promoted from practice squad

- Tom Coughlin unaware of trash talk before Cowboys-Giants game

The Negatives: 

It’s disappointing to know that the Giants were so close to victory over the Cowboys and yet were done in by some of the same players that ignited the team’s win streak. The secondary, which has been on fire these past few weeks, gave up several avoidable big plays even with the pass rush playing well. Antrel Rolle and Terrell Thomas blew coverage on Jason Witten, allowing him to score a touchdown. Later, the pair as well as three other Giants could not cover a stationary Witten in the end zone to prevent another score. Rolle, who has been dominant the past few weeks, played very poorly against the Cowboys and gave up key plays to Dez Bryant, Witten, and Cole Beasley.

Not only did the secondary’s best players put forth a mediocre effort, the run defense also regressed quite a bit. They allowed Lance Dunbar and Demarco Murray to combine for 106 yards on just 17 attempts after shutting down the likes of Adrian Peterson and Lesean McCoy in prior weeks. That stable ground game allowed the Cowboys to consistently pick up first downs and control the clock, and went a long way in securing victory for Dallas.

On offense, the Giants were once again unable to put together a solid passing attack. Eli Manning completed 16 passes on 30 attempts for only 174 yards, although he did throw two touchdowns. The pass protection was once again mediocre, but this time the receivers were much more to blame for the trouble. Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Victor Cruz were targeted 18 times but only caught 7 passes due to a multitude of drops and miscommunications. Cruz, who had a fumble which was returned for a touchdown, followed up his eight-catch, 110-yard game against Green Bay with only two catches for 24 yards this week.

As one final negative, the play-calling was terrible. If any more evidence was needed to prove that Kevin Gilbride should be on the hot seat, it was this game. Twice the Giants kicked field goals from inside the Cowboys’ 10 rather than going for it on 4th down, even when they faced deficits of seven and 11 points. One of those kicks came after a handoff to Andre Brown on a 3rd-and-10, which (surprise, surprise) didn’t even come close to getting the first down. Gilbride may be great at designing plays, but he couldn’t call them if his life depended on it.

The Positives:

Alright, enough with the negatives. Let’s talk about what the Giants did right. Without a doubt, Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs were the team’s top performers. They combined for 202 yards on 30 touches and though the blocking can get some credit for that, the duo was delivering hits and running through defenders on every play. That kind of rushing attack was something not seen in New York for several years and one that was eagerly accepted by Giants fans. David Wilson who?

There was a Brandon Myers sighting in this game as he scored his first touchdown since week 1. After an acrobatic catch on 3rd down to pick up the first, Myers realized that no Cowboys had touched him and ran to the end zone for the score. Louis Murphy, who caused an interception last week, was only targeted once but he made a great catch for the touchdown from four yards out.

On defense, Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas managed to make some good stops against the run. The two have really evolved as run defenders, and it’s a shame Amukamara wasn’t really given the chance to compete against Dez Bryant in coverage. Despite Antrel Rolle’s shortcomings later int he game he also made a heads-up play early on, intercepting a pass that was tipped out of Bryant’s hands. Rounding out the positives by the secondary is Will Hill’s forced fumble (also on Bryant) which unfortunately rolled out of bounds but gave the Cowboys horrible field-position.

Finally, the pass rush got to Tony Romo four times, including two contributions from the relatively quiet Cullen Jenkins. Things seem like they are starting to click on the defensive line, and that’s encouraging to know as the Giants start to face tougher competition. Steve Weatherford has also been destroying the ball on his punts recently. He averaged almost 52 yards-per-punt on five punts, including a whopping 68-yarder. His efforts during the game earned him a “random” drug test from the league the next day. More performances like the pass rush’s and Weatherford’s will really help the Giants defense rebound from giving up the most points it has since week 6 against the Bears.

Rueben Randle (#82) attempts to catch a pass against the Cowboys (Bill Koustron/AP Photo)

Rueben Randle (#82) attempts to catch a pass against the Cowboys (Bill Koustron/AP Photo)

Conclusion:

Due to the NFC East’s poor overall performance this year, it still isn’t clear whether the 4-7 Giants are really out of the division race or still hanging on by a thread. One more loss will surely do them in, but until then it is up to the team to keep playing the best football they can and seeing how things play out. It’s disheartening to see areas like the run defense suddenly collapse, but with an easier opponent in the Redskins to rebound against next week there’s no reason to give up on Big Blue yet. If they could turn a six-game losing streak into a four-game winning streak, who knows what they can do after a loss like this.

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Geoffrey Morton

An avid New York Giants fan with a passion for sports writing who is proud to be a part of Pro Football Networks!
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