EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Things have changed quite a bit since the first time the Cowboys and Giants met on Oct. 16.
Not only did the Giants leave the second meeting in sole possession of first place after edging the Cowboys, 17-10, here on Sunday afternoon, but they did so with a dominating performance from their defensive line.
The Giants have been putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks all season, and the Cowboys were no match for those guys at Giants Stadium, a far different story than the first time around at Texas Stadium when the Cowboys piled up 385 total yards.
That, though, is the last time the Cowboys played with Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams, who went down in the fourth quarter of the 16-13 Cowboys' overtime win after tearing the ACL in his right knee.
Although third-year lineman Torrin Tucker has played admirably in Adams' absence, he still has his rough moments, and so does rookie right tackle Rob Petitti. And the Giants were able to exploit both of the Cowboys' inexperienced tackles Sunday - early and often.
Giants defensive end Michael Strahan registered two sacks, while right end Osi Umenyiora added another sack to his NFC lead, as did third-down rusher Justin Tuck when the Giants lined up Strahan and Umenyiora to the same side.
"We just didn't block them very well," said Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells. "But don't put it all on the two tackles. We just didn't play well at all. We got overpowered up front. I just never thought we could generate anything on offense."
While Petitti admittedly received a lot of help in the first meeting with Strahan, he was forced into more one-on-one battles this time around.
"He's one of the best in the league," Petitti said of Strahan. "It was a tough day. But I think we all had a tough day. We just couldn't get it going up front. I thought the Giants did a really good job of mixing things up and keeping us off-balance."
Before the Cowboys and Giants kicked things off Sunday afternoon, the Fox broadcasters, including former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, made a point to stress the height difference between Giants receivers Plaxico Burress (6-5) and Amani Toomer (6-3) and Cowboys cornerback Aaron Glenn, who stands all of 5-9. Maybe.
But it was clear who made the "biggest" plays in the game, as Glenn outplayed both Burress and Toomer Sunday, single-handedly keeping the Cowboys in the game.
After a Cowboys fumble in the second quarter, Glenn picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to prevent a score. Then, with the Cowboys trialing 17-3 midway through the third quarter, Glenn recorded yet another interception, this time jumping a short pass to Burress and nearly scoring before getting tackled at the Giants 7. The Cowboys scored on a pass to Terry Glenn on the ensuing play.
"You can't worry about that," Glenn said of the height disadvantage. "It's been the case my whole career. You just go out there and fight and compete."
Speaking of fighting, Glenn said he couldn't believe he was flagged for a pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter that wiped out an interception by safety Keith Davis.
"I thought (Burress) had me in a headlock," said Glenn. "I know it's an offensive game. But it's just one of those things. Anytime the situation is close, they're going to give it to the offense."
Glenn started his fourth straight game at right cornerback in place of Anthony Henry, who missed his third game since suffering a groin injury on Oct. 30 against the Cardinals. Henry didn't even make the trip with the Cowboys.
With two interceptions, Glenn now leads the Cowboys this season with four. This was the second time in Glenn's 12-year career he's had a two-interception game.
It's not easy to find many bright spots from an offense producing just 206 total yards. But there was one, and only one, when 162 yards belong to just one player.
Cowboys running back Julius Jones had his most productive game of the season, especially in the passing game, where he had nine catches for 88 yards, both career highs. Add that to 74 more yards rushing, and Jones was just about the only player doing much of anything on offense.
"We had a few things going there in the second half," Jones said. "But it was hard for us to establish anything offensively. They packed it in there on us, and there just wasn't a lot of room."
Parcells has said all season he plans to rotate his backs, but rookie Marion Barber was relegated to third-down duty. He had just two carries for eight yards.
Jones has yet to rush for 100 yards this season, but still leads the Cowboys with 674 yards rushing despite missing three games with a high-ankle sprain.
He's Back, Sort Of
Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton made his much-anticipated return after missing the last five games following ankle surgery.
In fact, the Cowboys felt good enough about Crayton to actually release veteran wide receiver Peerless Price on Saturday, Parcells saying after the game that Price was "no longer in the plans" with Crayton returning.
But Crayton wasn't much of a factor Sunday, not catching a single pass, although he did have two bounce off his hands, and returning only one punt.
Only four players caught passes for the Cowboys, Jones leading with his season-high nine. But the Cowboys didn't have much going on down the field. Terry Glenn had just three catches for 37 yards, while Keyshawn Johnson had only two receptions for 16 yards. Tight end Jason Witten, coming off a career-game against Denver when he caught nine passes for 82 yards, had just one catch for five yards against the Giants.
Rookies Before Vets
Not many times are a team's most productive players relegated to backup status.
However, the Cowboys opted not to start veteran defensive linemen Greg Ellis, the team's sack leader (eight), and La'Roi Glover, and played them mostly on the nickel defense Sunday against the Giants.
Both players had started the previous 11 games, but were on the sideline on the Giants' first play from scrimmage. Rookie defensive end Chris Canty started in place of Ellis, while Jason Ferguson was the first-team nose tackle. First-round pick Marcus Spears also started his fifth game at defensive end.
While Ferguson did finish the game with the Cowboys' only sack, his first of the season, Ellis had only two tackles. Glover was not credited with a single tackle.
To make things worse, Cowboys wide receiver Terry Glenn's two tackles matched the combined total for Ellis and Glover, considered the Cowboys' defensive leaders.
- Although they knocked Eli Manning to the ground several times, the Cowboys recorded only one sack - the first of the season for Jason Ferguson, who now becomes the 14th different player to record at least a half-sack for the Cowboys this year.
- Ellis had his four-game sack streak come to an end Sunday. It was just the third game this year Ellis has not had at least a half-sack.
- Cowboys linebacker Scott Fujita had arguably his best game of the season, recording six solo tackles.
- The Cowboys lost the time of possession for just the second time all season. The Giants held the ball for 31:31, including 10:04 in the fourth quarter. The only other game the Cowboys had the ball less than their opponent occurred in Philadelphia when they had it for only 24:15.
- The Cowboys had three drives of 10 plays or more, but only produced three points. The Cowboys had it for 10 plays to open the game, but moved the ball only 50 yards, 33 of which came on Giants penalties. The Cowboys did get a field goal out of their 10-play, 54-yard drive in the third quarter, but couldn't score on the final drive, despite running 10 plays for 52 yards.
- Bill Parcells said he told cornerback Aaron Glenn to be ready to return kickoffs Sunday against the Giants. Although he didn't use the veteran cornerback, he might next week. Rookie Tyson Thompson averaged just 16.5 yards on his four returns (66 yards), although he had to field a couple of the kicks on one hop because of the swirling wind.
- Terence Newman's 26-yard punt return was not only a career-long, but the Cowboys' longest of the season.
Jason Witten had just one catch for five yards, but now has 50 receptions, becoming the first Cowboys tight end since Jay Novacek (1990-92) to produce consecutive 50-catch seasons. Witten had 87 catches for 980 yards last year . . . Aaron Glenn recorded his first two-interception game since picking off two Pittsburgh passes in 2002, as a member of the Houston Texans . . . Glenn also became the first Cowboys player to have multiple interceptions in a game since Terence Newman picked off three against the Redskins in 2003 . . . With Glenn's two picks, the Cowboys now have 14 interceptions this year, already one better than last year's total of 13 . . . With Ellis and Glover not starting Sunday, only four Cowboys defensive players - Roy Williams, Newman, DeMarcus Ware and Bradie James - have started all 12 games this year . . . After the first six games of the season, Terry Glenn had 582 receiving yards. In he past six, just 222 . . . While Bledsoe's quarterback rating was a season-low 36.9, Manning's was even worse (27.9). Neither quarterback was able to complete 50 percent of their passes, both were picked off twice and Manning's 152 yards passing was six yards more than Bledsoe.