NYG 10 DAL 7


Defense wins championships. This was arguably the biggest Giants win since defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. The Giants Defensive effort was so good that it inspires hope about this season.  We’ll talk more about the hope later.

The NY Giants Defense was fantastic tonight. How many of you thought the Giants were going to win this game? I know that I did not. The reason why is that we all projected the Offense to be anemic and score ~14 points while the Dallas Offense would get their points and win it. Dallas came in with the 5th ranked Offense and the 2nd best Run Offense in the NFL. The Giants D shut them down. Rookie star Ezekiel Elliott gained 107 yards on 24 carries (Dallas total was 25 carries for 108 yds). That was much less than the 156 yards the team was averaging coming into tonight. Where was some of that difference? It was in the LACK of scrambling by Dak Prescott.  Spagnuolo preached pocket contain and the Giants delivered. Coming into this game Prescott averaged 4 scrambles per game for 18 yds. Tonight he had 1 for positive 1 yard. Considering how Prescott has frustrated opposing defenses all season with well-timed escapes for 1st down conversions, that is probably 3 or 4 drives that were stopped because Prescott could not scramble out of the pocket. The Giants made Prescott an ordinary rookie. It started with coverage but it finished with pocket contain and pressure.

Harrison and Vernon did their jobs as the incoming Free Agents on the Defensive Line. The two Defensive stars this evening were Janoris Jenkins and Romeo Okwara.

Romeo Okwara was a revelation. Was JPP just transformed into Wally Pipp? Far be it for me to proclaim a new DE after a single game, but Okwara was great in his first start. He replaced JPP, who had sports hernia surgery and is likely gone for the rest of the year. Or have we seen the last of JPP? JPP could return in a playoff run. Ironically it would be JPP’s replacement that fuels that run. Okwara led the team in tackles with 8, he had a pass defensed, 3 QB hits and a sack. It wasn’t just the stat line, it was the plays he was making. Dallas was going at him and Okwara was killing them. At the end of the game, Okwara kept pocket contain (on a 3 man rush) and then got a QB pressure plus a hit with a late spin move. It was textbook pressure for a Defensive End. If you go too wide Prescott squeezes out and runs. Instead, Okwara contained the edge and then adjusted back in for a near sack, forcing an errant throw. Positionally, it is the kind of play that was a hallmark of Michael Strahan. People do not understand that Strahan (almost) never sacrificed the pocket for sacks. He never gambled with that team currency. This was only one play, but in a 3-man rush (which I abhor, late) Okwara did exactly what he was supposed to do. Good coaching and great execution.

We will have to see if Okwara can build on this performance in coming weeks. We liked him in preseason and camp. It was a little confusing why he did not see more playing time. Collinsworth admitted being confused too, because Okwara sure looked more than capable. All the better.

Janoris Jenkins has been playing great corner all year for the Gmen. It’s always quiet for a corner when things are going well. Each week Jackrabbit is taking the primary X WR, and for all intent and purposes shutting them down. Tonight was no different. Dez Bryant had 1 reception for 10 yards. According to PFF, Jenkins allowed just 2 receptions for ~18 yards the entire evening. There was also a forced fumble and an INT (Bryant fell down) for Jenkins. That is the starting recipe for how to handle Dallas- put a single guy on Bryant and stuff the run. Easier said than done. Yet that is how the Giants did it.

The maturation of Collins is huge. Just last year, he was outmaneuvered when given responsibility on Witten. Tonight, on one play, Witten was thrown to in the flat and Collins shut him down for zero YAC. Witten’s stat line was 4 receptions for 26 yards, which these days is a monumental victory considering how the Giants have been getting torched by the position.

Speaking of YAC, it was Odell Beckham’s YAC on a simple slant that electrified the Giants moribund Offense.  That was a ~6 yard catch and 55 yards after the catch. That was vintage Montana to Rice there. That single play took over the game, allowing the Defense to shut it down the rest of the way. We keep on emphasizing how critical it is to get OBJ the ball in stride. OBJ started talking less and playing more, which is what the Giants needed in this game. After the game was over, I really liked how he deflected praise onto Jenkins and the Defense. That is what I want to see in a professional- a teammate who wants to laud others on his team for its success.

If only Eli could be Joe Montana. No. Eli struggled often in this game. He made some errant throws, and could have easily been picked 3 or more times. Thankfully it was only 1 time. On that pick by Anthony Brown, Eli telegraphed the ball (a la 2007) and Brown stole the ball away from Cruz. Eli is still the bridge to another title but he needs help.

Time for the warts. The Offensive Line is such a killer. Flowers nearly singlehandedly blew up the Giants. He gave up a sack strip fumble turnover that is typically why teams lose in the NFL. The Giants were shut out until the ~40th minute. The hope is not coming from the Offense, which is still woeful most of the time and generated only 10 points. Odell Beckham had a dropped TD. Lewis was wide open for his own TD but Eli could not get the ball to him (and fumbled). The offense was 2-14 on 3rd down- how do you win in the NFL when you are that bad???  The answer…

Have a Defense that holds their opponent to 1-15 on 3rd down.  That was an incredible Giants Defensive effort, and gives fans serious hope. If the Giants D can maintain the pressure by their DL, anything is possible. We noted earlier how the Giants were even managing to get pressure from 3-man rushes. Spags dialed up a lot of pressure and blitzes which did a great job on Prescott. 3 sacks and 8 QB pressures was very good. It can cover up for weakness at LBer, and it can cover up for weakness on Offense. Watching how the Giants DL performed vs an excellent Dallas OL was extremely encouraging. This is how the blueprint for making something happen in January unfolds.

Devon Kennard had a great game. We just got finished saying after last week’s loss to the Steelers how invisible Kennard was this season. Maybe he got that criticism, because something sure awoke in him vs Dallas. Tonight he got his first sack of the season, tied for 2nd most tackles for a game in 2016 and had his first pass defensed (a batted ball on the final drive) in a game all season. This is the kind of impact that the Giants need.

Incredibly, the Giants are 9-4. This win makes the playoffs very very realistic. So many things changed with this win. The confidence of creating a season off of this Defensive effort is everything. I won’t go saying that this was 2007 Giants vs Redskins or 2011 Giants vs Jets. What I will say is that this is a great time of year for the Defense to assert itself for a run. All the Offense has to do is simply pull its head out of its *** and score a few points (uh, more than 10 please) and we can dream. Jenkins, Collins, Vernon, and Harrison… these guys are turning it around. If they can get guys like Kennard and Okwara to consistently add impact plays too, the season can come together.


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