EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Rob Ryan promised Eli Manning wouldn't have another 400-yard passing day, and he was right. But, the fact is the Giants quarterback could've if he wanted it.
On this day, 346 yards was good enough for Manning. Paired with three touchdowns, it was perfect justification for Manning as a Pro Bowler, though it'd be fair to say he wouldn't have the trip to Hawaii booked were it not for the help of a porous Cowboys secondary this year.
Sunday's 31-14 loss to the Giants was as bad a day as the defensive backs have had all year. After being torched by Hakeem Nicks in the Week 14 matchup with New York, this time it was breakout star Victor Cruz who killed the Cowboys, catching six passes for 178 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown. That score, the first points on the board, came on a crossing route against man coverage, Cruz beating cornerback Terence Newman across the field, picking up a block, and then outrunning Newman and safety Gerald Sensabaugh to the end zone.
The touchdown, 10 minutes into the game, was three plays after New York's backup tight end, Bear Pascoe, had made Newman look foolish by hurdling him, then picking up the extra yardage needed to convert a third-and-nine. In what was a difficult game, Newman would duck his head once more later on, allowing a Giants ball carrier to leap over him yet again.
"We always try to encourage everybody, not just Terence," Jenkins said. "Terence is the encourager. He's the guy that's been here the longest. Terence knows what he needs to do to keep his head up. There ain't much I can tell Terence that he hasn't told us before."
Newman wasn't the only one with problems. The Giants built their 21-0 halftime lead with the help of a pass interference penalty against cornerback Alan Ball, and a missed tackle in the backfield by safety Abe Elam, giving New York's Ahmad Bradshaw room for a 5-yard run into the end zone.
After the Cowboys fought back to within seven points in the fourth quarter, the Giants answered with a deep ball to Cruz, who made a leaping catch over Orlando Scandrick. The 44-yard gain on third-and-seven set up a field goal to boost the lead back to 10 points. The Giants went up 17 on their next possession, Manning hitting Nicks for a gain of 36 and a four-yard touchdown.
Not only against the Giants, but also in losses to Arizona and Philadelphia which doomed the stretch run of this season, secondary breakdowns were a problem, suggesting the need for personnel changes in the defensive backfield.
"This isn't the time to evaluate any individual player's future," coach Jason Garrett said. "We'll go back and evaluate this game and make the corrections we need to make, and then we'll go back and start looking at the entire season. We'll look at personnel, we'll look at scheme, we'll look at how we coach, how we put plans together; we'll look at everything, and hopefully make the necessary adjustments to get better here in 2012."
While the Cowboys were late in being introduced to Ryan's defense due to the offseason lockout, Jenkins said that's not a valid excuse.
"It's not Rob, it's us. We're the ones who are playing," Jenkins said. "We had the right gameplan, we just didn't put forth the effort, enough effort. They came out, and they just were the better team."