Just seven weeks into the 2010 NFL season, the New York Giants (5-2) have managed to knock out as many quarterbacks as the number of wins they’ve accumulated.
The latest, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Monday night, was the Giants’ fourth K.O. in as many weeks, and it might prove to be their most significant one of the season to date.
This time, the Giants not only took out another quarterback, they likely ended the season of a division rival which many thought during the preseason, might be a Super Bowl contender.
When Giants’ linebacker Michael Boley forced Cowboys’ starting quarterback Tony Romo out of the game with a broken left clavicle early in the second quarter, the term “Big D” suddenly stood for “Done” as much as “Dallas,” and New York started on its way to a dominating 41-35 victory that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.
At 1-5, and without Romo for what is expected to be a minimum of 6-8 weeks (if not for the rest of the season), the NFC East-leading Giants have given the Cowboys good reason to start thinking of next year while tying Atlanta (5-2) for the best record in the conference.
“There’s no question we had a letdown when Romo went out of the ballgame,” Cowboys’ owner Jones said.
That was the understatement of the night, from the man who bought the Cowboys when they went 1-15 in 1989, the last time Dallas started a season this poorly.
In actuality, the Cowboys stretched a 10-7 lead to 20-7 after Romo left, but it was clear that Romo’s departure later deflated his team on both sides of the ball as the Giants took full advantage, scoring the game’s next 31 points, to lead 38-20, before holding on down the stretch.
A balanced offensive attack paced New York, which passed for 297 net yards behind quarterback Eli Manning (25-35, 306 yards), who made up for three interceptions with four touchdown passes, as he again haunted a Cowboys’ defense that entered the game ranked third in the NFL in total yards allowed (281.4 yards per game) and fourth in passing yards allowed (180.6 per game).
Manning, who is responsible for the only two 300-yard passing games allowed by Dallas in the Cowboys’ past 20 games, spread the ball around to six different receivers. His favorite targets were wide receivers Hakeem Nicks (9 catches, 108 yards, 2 TD) and Steve Smith (9 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD), and a third wide receiver, Mario Manningham, added three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
While the Giants’ passing game was in high gear, they outrushed the Cowboys 200-41, led by running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who reached triple digits in rushing yardage for the third time in four games, with 126 yards on 24 carries. Running back Brandon Jacobs added another 12 rushes for 75 yards, and a rushing touchdown despite losing a fumble.
At the outset, the game appeared headed toward a much different outcome after Manning was intercepted on each of the Giants’ first two possessions, which allowed the Cowboys two start each of their first two drives in the New York red zone and take a 10-0 lead less than 6 minutes into the game.
On the next possession however, the Giants got a couple of challenge call breaks to help them get back in the game. First, Manningham appeared to get tackled behind the first down marker on a third down in Giants’ territory. Dallas head coach Wade Phillips challenged the spot, but New York was awarded a first down that it probably didn’t deserve.
Later on the drive, Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin, who leads the NFL with 47 percent of career challenges being overturned, got a call correctly reversed when Nicks dragged his toes inbounds on a third down play to keep the Giants from punting. The drive ended with Nicks catching a 7-yard touchdown pass from Manning, to trim the Cowboys’ lead to 10-7, with 2:58 left in the first quarter.
Romo (5-7, 39 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) was later knocked out the play after Jacobs’ fumble. Backup quarterback Jon Kitna (16-33, 187 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) moved Dallas another 20 yards to the New York 23 yard-line, to set up a 41-yard field goal by kicker David Buehler, to put Dallas up 13-7, with 10:10 left in the first half.
Just 1:17 later, rookie Dez Bryant then completely outran the entire Giants’ coverage team on a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown, to give Dallas a 20-7 lead.
The Giants scored on each of their next five possessions (scoring four touchdowns and a field goal) though, to take control of the game. Meanwhile, the Cowboys failed to score on each of their next eight possessions, before scoring touchdowns on each of their final two possessions.
Although New York didn’t put the game away until Clint Sintim recovered an onside kick with 40 seconds left, the Giants clearly crushed the Cowboys after Bryant’s punt return.
Despite losing the turnover battle 5-2, New York nearly doubled Dallas in total yardage (497-254), had 25 first downs to the Cowboys’ 14 (including 21 of the game’s first 26), and controlled the ball for 37:31 to Dallas’ 22:29. The Giants also converted 5 of 13 first downs while the Cowboys were 0-for-10 on third downs, and through the first three quarters, New York had more than a four-to-one advantage (409-97) in total yardage.
The Giants, who will play the Cowboys again very soon (in three weeks, at home), are off next week before traveling to Seattle on November 7th.
Manning might be sorry to see his team has no more games left this month, as he moved to 19-4 in the month of October, which marks the best record of any NFL quarterback during that month since 1950, based on a minimum of 15 games.
After the game, Coughlin in a locker room post game speech, demonstrated a lot pride for his team, which went a perfect 4-0 in October after a 1-2 September that caused many Giant fans and media members to question if Coughlin was still the right coach for the Giants. All of course, are now silent on that front for the time being, after the Giants’ October resurgence.