Scout's Notebook: Kicking Concerns & More Notes
FRISCO, Texas – As always, I'll have more to say once I've had a chance to watch the tape.
For the time being, there were plenty of quick reactions to this fantastic division game. The Cowboys are 10-6 and have a lot to work on before the Seahawks get to town, but there'll be a lot of things from this game that they can take with them into the playoffs.
Here are my notes:
· Something I always remembered from the great John Madden in all those years that he broadcasted games: one knee equals two feet. I can't say enough about Cole Beasley and his ability to make that play down the field. For the shortest receiver to keep his route alive and finish the way he did was one for the Cowboys history books. Give Dak Prescott credit as well for keeping his eyes down the field. There have been games where I have been critical of him for not seeing the whole field, but right there was a prime example of him doing just that.
· Tremendous job by Chidobe Awuzie of playing with awareness on his opening drive interception. Awuzie could have jumped the underneath route on the outside, but he played with the proper technique and depth in order to put himself in position to come up with the ball. Eli Manning never believed that he was going to be there when he let the ball go, and he paid for that with the turnover.
· I was expecting a sack or two from Randy Gregory going against Nate Solder, but it was DeMarcus Lawrence coming from the opposite side who was able to create the early problems for Eli Manning. I will never understand why these coaches believe they can put a tight end over these elite pass rushers and expect them to hold up one-on-one. Scott Simonson was no match for Lawrence once he got that first step and the edge. Good job by Antwaun Woods of staying active on the play and tracking the ball into his hands. Usually, defensive linemen work on recovering fumbles on the ground and not dealing with them in the air.
· Finally saw some good point-of-attack blocking by Jamize Olawale. On a 3rd-and-short carry for Rod Smith where he spun for nine yards, it was Olawale that was able to throw a block inside that allowed Smith the space he needed. I had been waiting all season to see Olawale throw a block where he actually got some movement instead of catching the defender and going nowhere. Hopefully this will be something that we see more from Olawale in the future.
· I was talking about it all week leading up to this game, but I thought we would have seen more from Tavon Austin. I was hearing whispers of some tinkering from Scott Linehan, scheme-wise, to get Austin back in the flow of things. Austin did have a nice catch and run on a third down where he showed an explosive burst on a drag underneath where Prescott was able to hit him on the move for a first down. I'll say this now: if Linehan has a wrinkle or two for the playoffs, it will likely be in the form of Tavon Austin lining up all over the formation and receiving some more touches.
· Such a well-executed seam route by Blake Jarwin for his first of three touchdowns on the day. I had been waiting for a tight end to pull that off since Jason Witten last stepped on the field. It appeared that the Giants rolled into their two-deep look with both safeties dropping wide. With the middle of the field open, Jarwin was able to take full advantage by tucking himself to the inside. He could have allowed himself to drift wide and into the safety but he didn't. Jarwin felt the width while Prescott observed it. It was the perfect call for the situation, with a big-time finish from Jarwin.
· What a clutch catch by Michael Gallup with the offense facing a 2nd-and-long to pick up a huge chunk of yards to make for a manageable third down -- which Cole Beasley was able to convert on the next snap. Gallup has really come into his own, especially when it has come to running those inside routes. Gallup has been fearless extending his hands and adjusting to those balls that Prescott tends to leave to high. Gallup still needs some work on his release off the line for balance, but you can't say enough about his willingness to do whatever it takes to finish a play.
· I was asked by a fan on Twitter if I were concerned about the deep passes that the Giants were completing on the defense. As troubling as those completions might have looked, I didn't feel like Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie or Anthony Brown were in terrible position to defend them. Two of those were unbelievable, one-handed receptions that were 50-50 balls at best. If the Giants receivers had been running past the secondary all afternoon, I could see the concern -- but I just felt it was well-positioned throws which these Giants receivers were able to pull down. All you can do is tip your cap to them as well played.
· To steal a Jason Garrett line: I'll need to watch the tape to see how Adam Redmond played filling in for Xavier Su'a-Filo, who was injured on one of the Dak Prescott sacks. My initial reaction was that Redmond was able to hold his own in the game. Redmond is a center by trade, but the previous two occasions that he's had to play, he's lined up at guard. This is where I need to give some credit to the front office for identifying the depth which plays along this offense line. Not many clubs have the depth that the Cowboys currently have, but it was one of the main reasons they were able to win this game today. Even a guy like Connor Williams, who was a former starter, played a big role in the victory.
· Are you surprised that Jason Garrett went for it on fourth down from his own end of the field, clinging to a four-point lead? I was. What a gutsy call, and what a gutsy throw by Dak Prescott to Cole Beasley on the slant to pick up the necessary yardage and then some. The call appeared to catch the Giants off guard when you see how much space Beasley had to work with once he broke to the inside. Prescott put the ball in a perfect spot where Beasley didn't have to do much but catch it and work up the field. Three plays later, Prescott found Blake Jarwin for his second touchdown of the game to extend the Cowboys' lead to 21-10.
· After the Michael Gallup two-point conversion, a ridiculous taunting penalty by Antwaun Woods basically gave the ball to the Giants at midfield. The game rested in the hands of a mixed bag of starters and backups to keep the Giants out of field goal range. All the Giants needed to do was get one first down and maybe another three to four yards to allow their Pro Bowl kicker, Aldrick Rosas, a shot at the victory. The Giants ran four plays and did not gain a single yard. Anthony Brown saved the game by tracking Cody Latimer across the field and -- just at the right moment -- getting his off-hand in the way to preserve the victory. Latimer had made play after play in this game, but when the Giants needed him the most, Brown was there to shut the door. A really impressive finish by a defense that wasn't at full strength.
· With the playoffs just around the corner, I have said it before and I'll say it again: I am concerned about Brett Mahar. I understand how well he has kicked at times during the season with the incredibly long field goals -- but those short misses should not go unnoticed. I don't know if you saw this, but on the final extra point, the ball kissed the upright and somehow managed to get home. Think about that: if you had this incredible comeback, only to have the game be tied due to a 33-yard missed extra point? It's probably a subject that no one wants to talk about now -- but please be warned.