The Giants start the 2016 season with an electrifying 20-19 win in Dallas, as the Giants dominate the run on both sides of the ball and a bend but don’t break performance from the defense halts the much talked about rookie tandem of Prescott and Elliott.
With no Tony Romo, the Cowboys looked to command the clock early by running the ball with 1st round pick, running back Ezekiel Elliott. The first series for the Cowboys lasted 8 minutes 25 seconds and a mammoth 15 plays, but the Giants defense impressed and Dallas had to settle for just 3.
The Giants offense didn’t get off to the best of starts as Vereen drops an easy catch on 2nd and 7, leading to a tough 3rd down which the Giants were unable to convert as Manning tries to find his favourite target, Odell Beckham Jr.
The Cowboys stutter to a 6-0 lead as the Giants once again halt them on 3rd down. Excellent downfield coverage on Dez Bryant from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie set the standard for the whole game as Bryant only managed 1 reception for 8 yards.
The Giants ensuing drive results in a touchdown, set up by a 45 yard reception by Beckham from a beautifully thrown pass by Manning. Larry Donnell finishes the drive on a well executed seam route, allowing Manning to find him at the back of the endzone. 7-6 Giants.
The Cowboys were once again unable to capitalise on a long drive as they couldn’t convert on a 3rd and long, leading to another field goal from Dan Bailey. Signs of pressure on Prescott were seen on this drive, as the rookie QB misfired a couple of throws. Dez Bryant had a touchdown catch on the drive, but it was reversed as replays showed Landon Collins was able to get a hand in on Bryant and force the ball to the ground, excellent coverage from the 2nd year safety.
Running the ball was a focal point of the Giants offense and delays and draws worked wonderfully all night. As the half came to a close, the Giants moved the ball effortlessly down field with Jennings and Vereen, but a 23 yard pass to Victor Cruz moved the Giants into the green zone. Rookie WR Sterling Shepard took full advantage of a slightly under thrown pass from Manning as he hauls in his first career touchdown, showing great hands and awareness to keep hold of the football under pressure from two defenders. The missed PAT from Randy Bullock gave the Giants a 13-9 leading going into the half.
Eli Manning threw his first pick of the season, on a throw intended for Sterling Shepard early on in the 3rd. Pressure on Manning leads to poor decision making from the veteran as he tries to find Shepard on a curl route. On closer look, Shepard seemed to give up on the play and didn’t try to come back for the ball, something which Ben McAdoo describes after the game as ‘A rookie mistake, it won’t happen again”.
The Cowboys take full advantage of the pick and also of some poor tackling from the Giants on a 3rd and 2, which could’ve seen the Cowboys kick their 4th field goal of the game, instead Cole Beasley picks up the first down and on the next play, Prescott hands off to Elliott for his first rushing touchdown of his high anticipated career. 16-13 Cowboys.
The 3rd quarter ends with a couple of uninspiring drives from both teams, but the Cowboys extend their lead to 19-13 early in the 4th with another Dan Bailey field goal.
Deep in their own territory the Cowboys are forced to punt, after excellent QB pressure from new man Olivier Vernon leads to a holding call on a long 3rd down.
The Giants capitalise, moving the ball downfield on the ground with Shane Vereen and in the air as Manning finds Shepard in the middle of the field. Three excellent runs from Vereen has the Giants with 1st and goal, but two overthrown passes to Beckham leads to 3rd and goal.
The salsa dance has not been seen for over 700 days, but finally Giants fans were rewarded as Victor Cruz showed patience and nous to free himself in the endzone for a 3 yard touchdown. A great moment for Victor Cruz who has battled injuries and adversity to fight his way back onto the field.
Another excellent defensive display from the Giants forces a punt from Dallas and the Giants get the ball back leading 20-19 with 4 minutes left, a situation they found themselves in last year in the exact same game.
Jennings and O-line manage to run the ball down to the 2 minute warning on a 3rd and 12, where Ben McAdoo makes the decision to run the ball, a wise move as the clock runs all the way down to 1:05, where Dallas takes over at the 20, after a punt from Brad Wing.
Prescott is unable to find Jason Witten on 2nd 15 after great coverage from Janoris Jenkins forced Prescott to overthrow his man. The Cowboys are able to convert the 3rd down, but another incomplete pass leads to 12 seconds on the clock. Prescott hits Terrance Williams on the right side of the field, but for some reason Williams neglects to go out of bounds to stop the clock and instead cuts inside.
The Giants are handed their first win of the season as time expires on the Cowboys. Poor decision making from Williams cost the Cowboys dear, but ultimately the Giants deserved to win the game. Defensively they were superior to the Cowboys, only allowing Elliott to average 2.6 yards a carry on 20 attempts and shutting down Dez Bryant for only 1 reception and 8 yards.
Jonathan Casillas had a great game for the Giants, ending the game with 11 tackles, with the linebacker seeming to be everywhere on the field all night. The defensive line as a whole deserves huge credit for outplaying the Cowboys O-Line, which is touted as being the best in the league.
A solid start for the offense as Jennings an Vereen both ran well (75 and 38 yards respectively). I feel there is more to come from Manning and Co in the passing game, but Shepard had a Sterling first game and Victor Cruz was impressive on his return. Odell Beckham racked up 73 yards from 4 catches, but the superstar wide-out will certainly not be satisfied by that. John Jerry (RG) and Marshall Newhouse (RT) made a great start to the season and silenced many doubters, including myself.
The Giants host the Saints in week 2 on Sunday @ 6pm BST.