Who did the job and who did not in Sunday’s 20-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys by the New York Giants? Let’s answer that question in our traditional “Kudos & Wet Willies” style.
Kudos to ...
Defense as a whole — The Giants were on their heels throughout the first half, with the Cowboys putting together drives on 15, 15 and 11 plays. Dallas, though, only got field goals from all three of those possessions with the Giants getting stops when they had to. In the second half, the Giants created more pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott, and came up with two stops in the final 6:13 to secure the victory.
Offensive line — Yep, they sure do stink. The much-maligned line wasn’t perfect, but for the most part gave Eli Manning plenty of time to find his plethora of receivers. More impressively, the Giants ran the ball with authority. Going exclusively with straight ahead runs using a variety of combo blocks with linemen pulling across the formation the Giants ran 24 times for 113 yards (4.7 yards per carry). John Jerry, historically a weak run blocker, got out in front of a few successful runs. Marshall Newhouse? Best news was I don’t remember hearing the right tackle’s name during the entire broadcast, which means he did his job.
Victor Cruz — Of course Cruz has to be here. How could anyone have written the script any better for Cruz in his first regular-season game in 700 days? Not only did he get to salsa, he did it on a game-tying fourth-quarter touchdown catch. He had a 23-yard reception to set up another second-half touchdown. Cruz might not star every week, but he certainly showed Sunday that he has enough savvy and athleticism to be an impact player.
Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — I have to list the Giants’ cornerbacks together after Dez Bryant caught just one pass for a measly 8 yards, but let’s discuss them separately.
Jenkins, perhaps surprisingly, shadowed Bryant most of the day. He had one face mask penalty, but otherwise had an excellent Giants’ debut. He blanketed both Bryant and Terrance Williams on deep balls.
Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t cover Bryant a lot, but did end up with the Cowboy star on a pair of incomplete deep balls, knocking one away with an excellent leaping play. He also influenced Williams on the final play of the game, staying to his outside and fooling Williams into the mistake of turning upfield and staying inbounds. The clock ran out before Dallas could spike the ball and try a game-winning field goal.
Nat Berhe and Darian Thompson — The duo split time at free safety. Berhe started, played 35 snaps and the Giants’ “heat-seeking missile” sought to destroy everything he came in contact with. I don’t know if Berhe’s crush everything that moves style will allow longevity in the NFL, but it sure is a lot of fun to watch. He ended up with five tackles. Thompson, coming back from a shoulder issue, played 42 snaps and had three tackles, attacking the line of scrimmage relentlessly against the run.
Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul — The Giants need their defensive end book ends to be impact players, and Sunday they certainly were. Vernon didn’t necessarily do it with the pass rush. He did it by standing his ground against all-world left tackle Tyron Smith, defending the run and securing the edge when Dallas tried his side. As for Pierre-Paul, no big splash plays but six tackles and two hits on Prescott. He made his presence felt.
Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen — Both Giants’ running backs had excellent games. Jennings ran with both power and patience, often waiting for blocks to develop and then hitting holes with authority. He ran 18 times for 75 yards, including seven carries for 40 yards on the Giants’ final possession as they tried to run out the clock. Vereen had six carries for 38 yards (6.3 yards per carry) and three catches for 23 yards.
Jonathan Casillas — The Giants’ defensive captain had a team-high 10 defensive tackles, adding another tackle on special teams. None was bigger than a brilliant open-field tackle on Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott on third-and-goal from the Giants’ 6-yard line on the first series of the game. That forced a field goal and set a tone for a bend-but-not-break first half for the Giant defense.
Wet Willies to ...
Randy Bullock — Not only did he miss an extra point, but he shanked it like a high school kid. Missing extra points (two in four tries) is what got him cut by the Houston Texans last season. Bullock, subbing for the suspended Josh Brown in Week 1, is probably not going to be a Giants by the end of the day as Brown returns from his league-imposed suspension.
Kwillies to ...
Sterling Shepard — The rookie wide receiver had a brilliant 9-yard touchdown catch and finished with three catches for 43 yards. He also, though, seemed to not be on the same page with Manning on the second-half interception by Brandon Carr of Dallas. At the least, he wasn’t where the quarterback thought he would be. He also had an alignment penalty.