Of course, the first game I cover for Big Blue View would have to be a heartbreaking defeat that will be remembered for a lifetime. There's not much to add to the general commentary of disappointment that has been shared by the educated and casual fan alike, but I will say this; Oh dear God, why?
Luckily, my job with this article won't be diving too much into the emotional side, because this is the place where keep things strictly numerical. I'm pretty happy about that. I think if I had to go into what I'm feeling I might nkkdnk hdkdnn. Sorry, typo. There were tears all over my keyboard.
The aim here is to give you a round-up of the week's statistics and analytics. This will involve some from the most recent game, and some season-long stats as the year progresses. This week, there is an overwhelming number of details that fall under "The Bad" category, but hopefully (seriously, hopefully) this changes week-to-week.
Dallas rushers were held to 80 yards, which is less than any game the Cowboys played in 2014. It's too soon to tell whether last season's success was due to DeMarco Murray or the offensive line as the new starting running-back of the Philadelphia Eagles managed just nine yards from eight rushing attempts against the Atlanta Falcons. Let's hope 2014's most powerful ground game was a combination of both, and that by separating each element, two division rivals see a dip in production.
The Giants' stellar outing against an offensive line touted as the best in the league was good enough for Football Outsiders to rank their rushing defense as the fifth best in the league, albeit after only one week. F.O. use a lot of metrics that can produce some odd results if you take one game in a vacuum, so this is an article is quite light on them right now, but expect to see much more of them as the year goes on.
Last night was the 17th blown 4th quarter lead of the Coughlin-Eli era (2004-2015). T-5th most. Definitely one of the toughest to swallow.— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 14, 2015
Tom Coughlin averages slightly more than 1.5 blown fourth-quarter leads per season. When I read this, I thought to myself; "There goes Coughlin, throwing away yet another game" (yes, pun intended). I was angry. It feels like this happens every other loss. If the Giants aren't getting blown out, they're losing a close game at the end, right?
Well, I reached out to Kacsmar for some clarification regarding what the averages are for coaches in a given year. By Kacsmar's own calculations it's between two and four blown fourth-quarter leads per year, which actually puts Coughlin's 1.5 as an above average rating. The tweet above contains a typo, and it should read "T-5th best", not "T-5th most".
@AlexSinclairNFL No, it's one of the best marks in the league. Tied for 5th fewest— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) September 16, 2015
So, while it may seem like the Giants are blowing it lately, keep in mind, it could be an awful lot worse. For further reading on Kacsmar's fourth-quarter comeback database, check out his weekly column -- which yes, does go into detail on the decision-making from the Giants-Cowboys game this week.
NYG: Last time NYG had +3 or better turnover differential and lost was Week 11 of the 1987 season, at Washington. (When Eli Manning was 6.) — Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) September 14, 2015
Since the start of the 2010 season, teams with at least a plus-3 turnover differential are an overwhelming 235-11. The Giants' loss on Sunday falls into those 11 games in the minority.
Under Coughlin, the Giants are 4-8 in season openers and haven't won a Week 1 game on the road since 1999 in Tampa Bay, when Jim Fassel was head coach. The team has been prone to stumble out of the gate in recent years, and so far 2015 is following the script.
Eli Manning's longest pass of the night was 19 yards, including yards added by the receiver after the catch. He had one deep attempt (20 yards or more) in Sunday's game, but it was dropped by Preston Parker. Any worries about the deep passing game from the preseason are officially validated now that Week 1 has come and gone.
The defense allowed 27 first downs to the Cowboys offense, and simply could not get off the field. This is largely due to Tony Romo's effective passing attack as he completed 6 of 11 third-down passes, including the game-winner to Jason Witten. The nickel defense clearly needs work.
The Downright Confusing
Linebacker Uani' Unga is sort of a rookie, but technically not one. He was signed to the practice squad last December, so while this may be his first game action, he should actually be classified as a second-year player. Another fun fact; he's actually 27 years old. He left college late because he served a two-year Mormon mission in Guatemala after high-school. So yeah, referring to him as either a young player or a rookie are factually incorrect statements.
Unga had a superb preseason and some may look at his 12 tackles (10 solo) in Sunday night's loss as a continuation of that. After all, it was more than any other Giant this week. However, this is not a metric that is necessarily indicative of a good game. Many players who perform poorly can generate a high number of tackles for a multitude of reasons including targeting, aimed runs and situational personnel. Unga had a rough outing against the Cowboys, anyone watching the game would see that, so there isn't much to take from this, though his interception off a tipped-pass was a positive for the non-rookie non-youngster.
Since Coughlin became coach in 2004, opposing quarterbacks have completed at least 36 passes in a game five times. Would you believe, our old pal Romo is responsible for four of those games, including this weekend's matchup. It's important to note that a high number of completions isn't the same as a high completion rate, even if they do sometimes cross over. A high number of completions can signal a team that was losing and needed to pass a lot to get back into the game. As such, the Giants are 3-2 in games under Coughlin where the opponent has completed 36 or more passes.
After Trumaine McBride intercepted a pass and Rashad Jennings scored from the 1-yard line, the Giants were up by 10 points with just 8:09 left in the ball-game. This put their win-probability -- according to Pro-Football-Reference -- at 96.7 percent. While many point to the final possession as a game-killer, the Cowboys should never have recovered from this point onward. Of course, the win-probability would likely have been somewhere north of 99 percent had they managed the end of the game correctly, but it should not have gotten to that point. The Giants mismanaged both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter and paid dearly for it.