The New York Giants are once again in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, and the only team in the division with a record above .500.
It wasn't pretty a pretty win and it certainly didn't happen in a way that anyone could have predicted, but it was a win. And a big win at that.
But with how the Giants won, with the special teams and an opportunistic defense leading the way, the information from the snap counts and Pro Football Focus' take are sure to be interesting.
Thanks to long offensive drives by the Cowboys and quick scores on defense and special teams by the Giants, New York only ran 53 offensive plays. That is roughly 15-20 fewer than their average this season. However that could also be a blessing in disguise.
Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle, both of whom have been nursing hamstring injuries, only played 49 and 48 snaps (respectively). Coming off a short week, having a relatively light work load might just help the Giants' top weapons be more effective in this coming week's match against New Orleans Saints.
Don't Blitz Eli Manning
Despite the few opportunities, and no touchdowns, Eli Manning came away with a +2.1 grade from Pro Football Focus. This season Eli Manning has been deadly against the blitz. The Cowboys only blitzed him three times, but Eli made them pay each time to an average completion of 20.7 yards. He only averaged 5.1 yards per attempt when not blitzed. This echos Eli's play from 2011 when he would consistently identify blitzes before the snap and exploit the weaknesses in coverage.
PFF apparently loved the Giants' no-risk approach to the passing game, and remarked on how successful Eli was against Brandon Carr, completing three of four 10 yard + passes to his side of the field for 64 total yards. Eli was also stellar on play-action, completing 100% of those passes.
Big Men Doing Work
More impressive was the Giants interior offensive line. Though Geoff Schwartz was beaten twice for sacks, he, Justin Pugh (+3.8) and Weston Richburg (+4.1) combined to pave the way for the Giants' first 100 yard rushing effort of the season. Of the Giants' 136 yards on the ground, 116 of them (on 17 of 21 carries) came between the tackles. Richburg, in particular, was dominant with a +3.4 grade as a run blocker. The Giants' sophomore center is quickly, if quietly, becoming one of the best in the league.
While Orleans Darkway (+1.2) captured the offensive spotlight Sunday, the Giants came into the game with a very defined rotation for their running backs. Shane Vereen saw 23 snaps (43%), Darkwa saw 14 snaps (26%), and Rashad Jennings had 11 snaps (21 percent).
Andre Williams only received five snaps, two of which were on the Giants' final possession as they forced the Cowboys to burn their timeouts. Tom Coughlin had said that they needed to get Williams more involved in the offense, a statement that drew many a comment from fans. It's worth noting that one of Williams' best game to date was against the St. Louis Rams' dangerous front seven when he rushed 26 times for 110 yards.
Opportunity Knocked, The Giants Answered
The Giants' defense was nothing if not opportunistic, and unfortunately, I mean that literally.
In Prince Amukamara's absence, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stepped up and almost single-handedly won the game for the Giants. DRC played 60 snaps (80% of the defensive total) and came away with a +2.1 grade. While everyone is talking about his pick 6, and rightly so, he was consistently excellent all game long.
Matt Cassel targeted DRC six times, but he only completed two of those passes while DRC came up with two (nearly three) interceptions. Cassel had a 16.7 passer rating when targeting DRC.
Cassel threw interceptions on three consecutive drives. The first and third were to DRC while the the second was made by Brandon Meriweather.
Still No Pass Rush
The debate over the status of Damontre Moore raged when the Giants announced that he would be one of their inactives against Dallas. While some may point to his inability to control himself on the field as detriment, the fact remains that he is far and away the Giants' best pass rusher. On roughly 7 percent of the Giants total defensive snaps -- 36 in weeks 5 and 6 -- Moore tallied three sacks and a safety (wiped out by a questionable penalty by the refs, but that didn't effect Moore's play). Those four sacks account for 40 percent of the Giants' season total.
With Moore benched, Robert Ayers and Devon Kennard on reduced snaps (39 and 27 snaps respectively) coming off hamstring injuries, and Nikita Whitlock (2 snaps) not a good option against Dallas' stout offensive line, George Selvie was the Giants' leading pass rusher. He finished the game with four total pressures, three hits and one hurry.
Run Defense ... Where?
The Giants' run defense has fallen hard and fast from being the elite unit of the first five games.
There are, of course, a multitude of reasons for the Giants' struggles defending the run, but the two biggest personnel changes are the injury to Amukamara (bringing the undersized Jayron Hosley onto the field) and the return of Markus Kuhn.
While Hosley's career has been reborn under Steve Spagnuolo, his lack of size and lackluster tackling have exposed his side of the field in a way that the bigger and much more physically imposing Amukamara never did. Marcus Kuhn (51 snaps) got the second-most snaps among the Giants' defensive tackles. And while he got a half-sack, he also appeared to be the target of most of Dallas' inside runs. Jon Beason got a -4.3 grade on the game, mostly due to a -3.4 run defense grade. That had to at least partially due to Kuhn failing to win his battles at the point of attack and keep the linebackers clean.
But to end on a good note -- and why not? It was a win after all -- George Selvie lead all 4-3 defensive ends with 4 run stops on 20 snaps.