FRISCO, Texas – It's never as fun to clean up the game tape after a loss. But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will tell you it's assuredly just as important.
There's obviously not going to be a lot to like from the offense in a game where this team scored seven points. But there are positives we can pick up – and there's obviously a lot to like about the way the defense played in holding New York to just 10 points.
Most important of all is that this serves as an opportunity for the Cowboys – and for us – to take a look at what went wrong and determine how it can get fixed going forward.
So here we go:
- I thought it was a really nice job by Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins on the twist stunt to get Crawford home for a sack. Collins got such penetration on John Jerry that it carried him into Bobby Hart, where he had no chance of adjusting back inside – so Crawford had a clear run at Eli Manning. The Cowboys' coverage was outstanding as well with Brandon Carr carrying Odell Beckham Jr out of the slot and Byron Jones locking down Will Tye. Manning had absolutely no chance of getting that pass off.
- Of the many positive traits of Dak Prescott, ball handling might be his best one. On the touchdown pass to Terrance Williams, his fake to Ezekiel Elliott and his execution of the fake is what allowed that play to have the success that it did. Prescott and Elliott were not only able to draw the Giants' front seven the opposite direction, but it also forced safety Andrew Adams to take three hard steps down in the box. That was all Williams needed to get by him for Prescott to put it on him for the touchdown.
- The Cowboys caught a huge break when the ball flew out of Eli Manning's hand on some blitz pressure from Sean Lee. Manning was loading up to get the ball to Roger Lewis, who was lined up in the slot to Manning's left. Lewis ran through the zone coverages of Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown, and he managed to split the two defenders. He likely would have had a touchdown if Manning could have gotten him the ball. It appears that, based on the way the defense was playing the coverage, Scandrick was responsible for the flat and Brown was to carry Lewis up the field. But it was clear that there was an issue that the Giants were unable to take advantage of.
- There's never anything wrong with throwing the ball to Dez Bryant on the slant – especially on third down. In a testament to the Cowboys' offensive struggles, what has typically been such a successful route led to the first of Dak Prescott's interceptions. What surprised me about the route was how hard Bryant tried to sell Janoris Jenkins on the out. I have always felt like Bryant, because of his size, didn't need to stick it to the outside -- because once he got inside, there was no cornerback in the league that was going to be able to get through him to get to the ball. By selling the route as hard as he did, it caused him to get off balance on the slippery field and he couldn't get back to the inside. Later in the game, they ran the same play – ultimately leading to a fumble. Bryant made no sell to the outside, and Jenkins had no chance in coverage.
- Benson Mayowa played one of his best games of the season against the Giants -- both run and pass. His sack on Eli Manning was just an explosive play on his part to capture the corner and finish. Ereck Flowers wasn't able to get his hands on Mayowa until he was already past him, and when he did, he shoved Mayowa right into Manning. What was interesting on the play was it was one of the only times in the game where Brandon Carr was not on Odell Beckham Jr. Carr took Sterling Shepard on the outside, while Scandrick carried Beckham Jr. from the slot. Mayowa was on Manning so quick that he had no choice but to try and escape -- but he could not get away from him.
- Earlier, I described the nice design of the touchdown pass to Terrance Williams from Dak Prescott. The offense had another creative play where they used Cole Beasley as a pick to try and work Williams across the field on a drag. Beasley lined up inside of Williams and carried his route on an angle toward the sideline, in Williams' direction, coming inside. Beasley hesitated just enough, which made Eli Apple have to jump around him. Williams, hustled and had separation, and he managed to get both hands on the ball, about helmet height, with space in front of him. What should have been a catch and a first down turns into a missed opportunity. On the next play, Prescott was sacked, which took them out of field goal range.
- A few days back, I was asked about how Barry Church playing with a cast on his arm would affect his game. My reply was that it would only bother him if he tried to body catch the ball like we've seen from Terrance Williams. Church had a chance to make two game-changing turnovers in this game, but he was unable to come up with either. I understand the first that he missed while trying to track the ball, but the other one was heartbreaking. He couldn't have played the route on Odell Beckham Jr. any better than he did. In typical Eli Manning fashion, he never saw Church sitting underneath and just threw the ball toward the sidelines. Instead of trying to flip his hands to get them in position like a receiver, Church tried to body catch the ball and it appeared that he pulled it off -- but as he was going to the ground the ball moved to his casted forearm, allowing the ball to slip out of his grasp. If Church could have secured that ball for the offense on the Giants' 30-yard line, they had a chance for some short field points. Instead, three plays later, the Giants punt the ball to the 9-yard line.
- The Giants were caught in a difficult situation in the third quarter, where it was too long for a field goal and punting didn't make much sense. Ben McAdoo decided to keep his offense on the field. Rod Marinelli made a similar defensive call against the Redskins in Week 2 where he took his Mike linebacker and buzzed him into the flat to take away the slant. In Washington it worked with Justin Durant knocking the ball away. This time Marinelli used Anthony Hitchens instead of Durant. On the snap, it was clear that Manning wanted to throw the slant inside to Sterling Shepard, with Scandrick in coverage. Hitchens, reading Manning, started to work to his left as Shepard came behind him right at the hash. If Hitchens had somehow managed to take two less steps, the ball would have hit him between the 5 and 9 on his jersey. Shepard caught the ball to the right of a leaping Hitchens for a 14-yard gain and a first down. The Giants would only gain two more yards in the drive and kick what would be the game winning points.
- Jason Garrett said it was communication problems that led to the negative Ezekiel Elliott run on 3rd-and-11. In watching the play, it appears that Ronald Leary didn't get the call just by judging his technique. When Prescott made the check, his back was to Leary and Tyron Smith. Leary was the only one along the offensive line that didn't block for the toss coming left. What is interesting about the play, was that if Leary did get Devon Kennard, the play had a chance to hit. Witten had the corner secure, Beasley got a block inside, Butler had Apple blocked with Smith in space looking to clean up. There are five white shirts blocking four blue shirts with Elliott carrying the ball. It might have appeared to be a strange call at the time, but with proper communication it would have made sense.
- Nice job of reading the route all the way by Anthony Brown on his interception while covering Victor Cruz. Brown felt Cruz drop his weight coming off the line and instead of driving straight through him, Brown was able to circle around, cutting in front of Cruz and then extend his hands like he was the intended receiver. Cruz had no way to defend the play and Brown was able to secure the ball before going to the ground.
- The Cowboys had some success running the "crack toss" with Ezekiel Elliott on the edge in this game. They were able to run it on 2nd-and-10 to pick up 13 yards. Lucky Whitehead is normally the receiver that handles that role in the scheme, but Vince Mayle took his place while Whitehead sat out. What I like about Mayle in those situations is that he is a bigger body on the outside and he gives you a little more power on the edge. Whitehead gives you everything he has, but he is really two bricks shy of setting the edge and allowing those blockers to get around him to clean up in space.
- Thanks to all the fans in #CowboysNation that took the opportunity to wish me a happy birthday. Means a lot that you took the time to do so.