Sunday, November 24, 2013
Halftime thoughts: In a fight
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The thinking going into this game was that the Dallas Cowboys would pose a tougher test than any team the New York Giants had faced during their four-game winning streak. And to this point, that has been the case. The Cowboys lead the Giants 14-6 at halftime at MetLife Stadium as the Giants have had to settle for field goals twice after moving the ball deep into Dallas territory.
But the Giants will get the ball back to start the second half, and they are by no means out of the game. They have sacked Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo three times and held him to 127 yards on 8-of-15 passing. They also came up with an interception on a ball that caromed off the hands of receiver Dez Bryant in the first quarter. Romo and the Dallas run game looked good on the second-quarter drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten, which gave Dallas a 14-3 lead, but other than that drive the Giants' defense has been able to limit the damage. The Cowboys have 61 rushing yards but only seven carries. The Giants hold the time-of-possession edge, 18:20 to 11:40.
Yet, they are losing, and the reasons are reasons that have plagued the Giants all year. The first is a turnover, as the Cowboys' first score came when cornerback Orlando Scandrick stripped the ball from Victor Cruz's arms and Jeff Heath ran the fumble in for a touchdown. The Giants entered this game with the third-worst turnover differential in the league (minus-11), and it is the chief reason for their disappointing 4-6 record.
The other is the red zone offense, which has bedeviled the Giants all year. Twice so far in the game, the Giants have had first-and-goal inside the Cowboys' 10-yard line, and they haven't been able to score a touchdown. With backup center Jim Cordle out with a knee injury, the interior of the offensive line has been weakened even more, and Eli Manning is facing pressure from the interior of the Dallas defensive line. Jason Hatcher already has his eighth sack of the year. The Giants have 108 yards on 17 carries between Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs, but Manning still isn't putting together those rhythmic drives for which he was so well known earlier in his career. It doesn't help that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is inactive due to an abdominal strain, but Rueben Randle has played well in Nicks' place, and backup receiver Jerrel Jernigan threw a great downfield block to spring Randle for an early first down.
The Giants can win this game, but to do so they'll need to take advantage of a Dallas passing defense that came into the game allowing a league-worst 313 passing yards per game. Forecasts said the wind was supposed to die down around 6 p.m. ET, so it may be easier to throw the ball in the second half. We shall see if that's what Manning needs to get in sync and deliver a fifth victory in a row.