NFC East: 2012 Week 6 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Giants 26, 49ers 3

October, 14, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO –- Tom Coughlin said nobody gave the New York Giants a chance to win. But they left Candlestick with another victory over the favored San Francisco 49ers, 26-3 on Sunday.

What it means: The Giants wanted to see how they measured up to an NFC contender. When it was over, the Giants reminded everyone who the defending Super Bowl champions are and how good this team can be when it is motivated and healthy.

The Giants made a statement by dominating the Niners on their own turf. The defense came up with its best performance of the season, suffocating the Niners' offense. Eli Manning and the offensive line were sensational. The Giants moved the offense against perhaps the best defense in the NFL.

More importantly, this is the kind of win that can propel the Giants to a solid winning streak. The Giants have won two straight and will roll into two critical division games with a ton of momentum.

The ball hawk: The Giants got the sacks they wanted, but they also collected something even better –- three rare interceptions of Alex Smith.

Smith came into this game having thrown just one interception on the season. But Prince Amukamara picked off a pass in the first half and Antrel Rolle intercepted Smith twice in the third quarter, helping to set up two Giants field goals.

Rolle said last year that he often was not put in position to be the ball hawk that he wants to be. He certainly harassed Smith on Sunday.

No Vernon: Vernon Davis scored three touchdowns against the Giants in two games last season. On Sunday, he was invisible when the game was on the line. He made just two catches for 13 yards in the first three quarters.

O-line: The Giants' offensive line felt as if it had something to prove after giving up six sacks and 12 official quarterback hits to the Niners defense in the NFC title game. This time, Manning's jersey was kept clean and Ahmad Bradshaw broke the 100-yard barrier for the second straight Sunday, this time against an elite run defense.

Salsa time: After all the back and forth about the salsa with Carlos Rogers last week, Rogers had to watch Victor Cruz do it at his expense in the first half.

Cruz caught a Manning bullet over the middle in the back of the end zone and delivered his patented salsa celebration. Rogers initially said he might mimic the salsa again if he made a play. But after finding out that Cruz dedicated the salsa to his late grandmother, Rogers said he wouldn't do it.

Diehl comes off bench: David Diehl was active for the first time since Sept. 16 when he injured his MCL against Tampa Bay.

He came in as the extra blocker. The Giants opted to keep Sean Locklear at right tackle and Will Beatty at left tackle with the offensive line doing well. Diehl had started all 142 regular-season games he played in for the Giants.

Special-teams miscues: The Giants had a field goal blocked near the end of the first half, but the Niners helped the Giants' cause with two missed field goals. David Akers missed from 43 and 52 yards.

What's next: The Giants get their first taste of Robert Griffin III next Sunday at home. At 0-2 in the division, the Giants need an NFC East victory.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 31, Cowboys 29

October, 14, 2012

BALTIMORE -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' heartbreaking 31-29 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

What it means: The Cowboys did a lot of good things in this game, especially on offense. But a rash of penalties (13 of them, for a total of 82 yards) and the defense's inability to get a stop on critical Ravens drives late in the second and fourth quarters did them in. They had a chance all day to pull the upset at one of the toughest places in the league in which to play, but they are not a good enough team to overcome the kinds of mistakes they made. They are now 2-3 for the season. There are no moral victories in the NFL.

Injuries: Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne returned to the game in the second half after leaving in the first with a knee injury, so that was good. But running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 91 yards in the first half, couldn't shake off a foot injury and had only one second-half carry. Felix Jones, who looked good replacing him, also left the game for a time with an injury and left the running back duties to Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar. Jones came back on the final drive. The Cowboys also were without linebacker Anthony Spencer for the second straight game, since he has a pectoral muscle injury. Spencer's absence almost certainly impeded the Cowboys' ability to stop Ray Rice when they needed to the most.

The big play: After Dallas cut the Baltimore lead to 17-13 with an early third-quarter field goal, Baltimore's Jacoby Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown. The return tied an NFL record for the longest ever and built the Ravens' lead to 24-13. The play was well blocked, but it was a complete breakdown by the Cowboys' coverage unit, which never laid a finger on Jones.

Credit where it's due: The criticism here and in many other places of the Cowboys' offensive line this year has been justified, but Sunday's game showed marked improvement in strength and toughness across the line. They still got too sloppy with the penalties, but they were able to physically pound the Ravens' defensive front all day, pushing forward to make holes for the backs and even protecting Tony Romo better than they normally do (with some glaring exceptions, yes, but Rome wasn't built in a day). The Cowboys' line must continue to improve if the offense is going to have any chance of being effective this year, and Sunday was an encouraging sign that improvement is possible. Dallas rushed for 227 yards -- the most ever allowed by the Ravens in a game in their history -- and possessed the ball for a stunning 40:03 of the game's 60 minutes.

The quarterback: Romo's one interception was a damaging one, but it's tough to criticize the game he played Sunday. Especially after he led the Cowboys on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes to cut the lead to two. Romo's two-point conversion pass hit Dez Bryant in the hands, but Bryant could not catch the ball, and even though they recovered the onside kick and moved into long field goal range with a pass interference penalty in the final seconds, Dan Bailey's 51-yard attempt missed wide left.

What's next: The Cowboys travel to Carolina to play the Panthers at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. Fans of Andre Brown and the Giants know that this means the Dallas run game will have a chance for another big day.