IRVING, Texas– A handful of my biggest impressions from my breakdown of the Cowboys' dramatic win against the Giants on Sunday night.
- It's always different for me to watch a game on television, like I did last night, rather than sitting in my press box seat at the stadium. I now understand why people that watch the game at home feel the way they do about certain players or situations that take place during the game.
As poorly as the viewing audience believed Tyron Smith played against Jason Pierre-Paul, the coach's tape told a totally different story. It was like a heavy weight fight between two of the better players in this league when it comes to rushing the passer and protecting the quarterback.
Neither player was willing to give the other an inch. Pierre-Paul has faced Smith enough now to understand what works against him and what techniques have no shot. Where Pierre-Paul had pressured Smith before is setting him up with outside pressure, then blasting hard to the inside.
When Smith first came into the league, it was this type of rush that gave him the most trouble, and Pierre-Paul was able to get him on that very same move two times. One of those resulted in a holding call that wiped out a nice gain to Dez Bryant.
On the other side of the coin, Smith knows that Pierre-Paul likes to start his rush hard to the outside shoulder of the tackle in an attempt to grab that corner. There were several snaps where Smith exploded to the outside and was on Pierre-Paul before he had a chance to grab that edge. In the running game, the tape showed that Pierre-Paul was able to make two tackles in the game, but one of those tackles came off a heck of a play when Jason Witten was blocking him on a counter-flip and he was able to extend on Witten and get off the block.
Where Smith was at his absolute best was on the final drive where he completely slammed the door on Pierre-Paul. With the Giants needing a stop to win the game, he was nowhere near Tony Romo at any point in the series.
- I thought it was a mixed bag for the Cowboys linebackers in this game against the Giants. The good side of it was the play of Rolando McClain and how he continues to be a physical force in defending the run with his attacking style.
[embeddedad0]What people do not understand about McClain is that, for a player that plays with such force, he's incredibly smart in reading scheme and being exactly where he needs to be when the ball is snapped. He has this rare trait of reacting to the ball quickly while taking a path that allows him to avoid blockers along the way. On the majority of the Giants' running plays, he was beating guards Adam Snyder and John Jerry to the spot.
After an outstanding game against the Jaguars where Anthony Hitchens had raised the bar to such a high level, his game against the Giants was just average. There were too many snaps where his reactions were off and he didn't get off the blocks quickly enough. He played with an uneasiness in the game, which is something we have not seen before when given the opportunities that he has had to play.
I thought Bruce Carter was very up and down in this game, as well. He didn't play as many snaps as McClain and Hitchens because of their work in the nickel, but there were plays where he was far too aggressive in his reads and put himself in positions where he was outside of the play and it affected the way the defense played. What we all know about Carter is when he is on he can be a stud, but when he is off he can be very ordinary and Sunday night that was the case.
- Football is strange in how breaks come and go during the course of a game. With the Giants holding a 21-17 lead late in the third quarter they found themselves with a 1st-and-10 on the Cowboys 18-yard line and driving for more points.
Odell Beckham Jr. lined up to the far left side of the formation with Preston Parker inside in the slot. Orlando Scandrick lined up over Beckham, while Sterling Moore moved inside on Parker. At the snap of the ball Parker ran an out, while Beckham ran a "Sluggo," which is a slant and go --which got Scandrick to hesitate for just a second.
Moore saw the developments on the outside and began to sink back to try to help Scandrick on the play. With a burst, Beckham moved past both defenders and was simply waiting on Manning to get him the ball up the field. The problem was that Manning, for one of the few times on the night, threw the ball surprisingly out of the reach of the streaking Beckham, and this Cowboys defense avoided a sure Giants touchdown.
On the very next play, the Giants lined up in the exact same formation but went to play action. This drew Bruce Carter and Anthony Hitchens up into the line while Parker ran an inside route on Moore -- who dropped wide in zone coverage. With no linebackers in the middle of the field and both Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in Cover 2 on the hashes, all Manning had to do was put a strike on Parker at the eight-yard line and he most likely walks into the end zone.
Instead, Manning whipped the ball at Parker, who was late adjusting to the high pass, and it clanged off his left hand and into the waiting arms of Church. In a matter of two plays, the Giants went from a potential 11-point lead going into the fourth quarter to being down by four.
In a game of big plays this turnover, in my opinion, was what turned the game around for the Cowboys.