FRISCO, Texas – As hard as it might be watching a tough Cowboys loss, it might be even worse taking a look at the tape.
When the game is over and the intensity has died down, it hurts to go back and look at the missed opportunities and contributing factors to a tough loss. You can be sure it's hard on the players and coaches – which always makes Monday a subdued occasion after a loss.
As always, though, there's so much we can figure out from studying the tape, so that's what I've done – starting Sunday night after the game and working into Monday.
Here are some notes on the good, bad and ugly:
- Ezekiel Elliott didn't get off to the type of start that we all believed he could. For the majority of the day, he struggled against a Giants front that was up to the task of dealing with the Cowboys' running game. What we did see, though, was a flash of what he can do with his eight-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Dak Prescott was under center and was able to bring the ball back to Elliott and give him an opportunity to see the hole. Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free were outstanding at the point of attack, which allowed Elliott all the space he needed. He pressed the ball into the hole, then exploded off his left foot, then his right to get himself into the end zone. It was a well-blocked play but an even better finish by Elliott.
- Nice start to the season for Morris Claiborne and the way he was able to carry things over from the preseason. His play on the Giants opening drive, carrying Odell Beckham Jr. across the field, was text book. Claiborne was able to get his hands on Beckham Jr. off the line, which caused him to stumble coming out of his break. By causing him to stumble, it allowed Claiborne to stay in position on his hip and contest the ball when it arrived -- which resulted in an incompletion on third down.
- In going back and studying why Alfred Morris had success running the ball – six of his seven carries came with Dak Prescott under center. Three of those plays had at least one missed block at the point of attack that he was able to fight through. His best carry was his third one -- where Jason Witten, Doug Free, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick were all able to secure their blocks front side. Morris had a lane all the way to Landon Collins before he was hit. Also note: there was only one time where he played with a fullback in front of him. All the other runs were single-back.
- Eli Manning didn't throw for big numbers yardage-wise, but the one "chunk" play that he made to Odell Beckham Jr. against Orlando Scandrick was huge. What I noticed about the play initially was that Scandrick missed with his hands on Beckham Jr. coming off the line, and once they both got seven yards up the field, it turned into a foot race down the sideline. Manning was looking at Beckham Jr. the entire time, and once he was able to separate -- he knew that he had a chance. The ball was put in a perfect spot, which allowed Beckham Jr. to never have to break stride.
- I counted 11 different times where the Giants had a man over the top of Dez Bryant in double coverage. Five of those plays came when the offense was facing a third down situation.
- The Giants were able to take advantage of rookie Anthony Brown with their own rookie Sterling Shepard right before the half. Brown was in the game for Orlando Scandrick at the time -- which meant that he had to take over the duties of playing in the slot. The Giants were able to execute a wheel route to Shepard off a rub route by Odell Beckham Jr., who was able to just get in Brown's way enough to not draw a penalty -- but allow Shepard to get up the field. Brown did a nice job of rallying back to the ball, but Shepard was just in too good of position and was able to high-point it to make the secure catch.
- I came away impressed with the way Dak Prescott was able to throw the ball while moving to his left. You hear all the time how hard that is for a quarterback to execute, but Prescott makes it appear easy. A great example of this, was his 3rd-and-2 pass to Cole Beasley in the third quarter. Beasley lined up wide left and then walked in motion toward Prescott. With Terrance Williams out front, Beasley managed to sneak behind him beyond the sticks. Prescott, dashing to his left, threw a dart to Beasley in a perfect spot to secure the first down. It was a well-designed play that is difficult to defend.
- There are times where outstanding coverage leads to sacks, and that was the case for Benson Mayowa on Eli Manning. The Cowboys were in their dime package, with both J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church playing on the hashes. The other defensive backs were in man coverage and were all over the Giants' receivers. Where Mayowa had success was that he was able to beat Ereck Flowers up the field and get the corner. When Manning attempted to slide forward, Mayowa was able to retrace his steps and trap him for the sack to get the defense off the field.
- As much as we all want to get on J.J. Wilcox for the way that he plays at times – he was the sole reason the Cowboys offense was able to manage one final drive. If Wilcox doesn't come flying up from the right hash and blast Rashad Jennings a yard before the first down marker on 3rd-and-12, the game ends with the Giants successfully killing the final 3:57 on the clock.
- Before the game, we talked about what a gambler Janoris Jenkins was when it came to playing cornerback. Jenkins took a huge risk dropping coverage on Dez Bryant to pick up Jason Witten coming across the field on the Cowboys' final drive. Prescott, rolling to his right, tried to fit the ball in to Witten, but Jenkins flashed in front of him. The ball was a little high and had some pace on it, but it appeared that Jenkins' decision to make that move was enough to distract Witten as the ball sailed over his head. Just as a side note: if Prescott would have been able to see a little further down the field, Bryant had four yards on Landon Collins up the field.
- Not making excuses for Terrance Williams, but I found it interesting that when he caught the ball – he was completely off balance. Williams landed on his right foot and stumbled. To be honest, it was a nice play on his part not to fall right there at the spot. Once he regained his balance, his body was turned inside toward the field and not toward the sideline. His reaction was to go inside, instead of outside. You can tell that Williams knew he was in trouble and tried to get to the ground as quickly as possible. I have a feeling that the way Williams landed with the ball could have played a role in his decision to stay inbounds.
- Would have been neat to see Dan Bailey get a shot at that long one – I have a feeling that things around The Star would have been a little different today.