New York Giants' Week 1 Loss: Randomness Reigns Supreme

By Jay Cullen
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants committed mistake after mistake, and in many ways lost the game instead of forcing the Dallas Cowboys to win it.

At the same time, they actually outplayed the Cowboys. To the average fan, this sound preposterous. How could a team with six turnovers have outplayed the other team? Well, because most of the turnovers were due to randomness. The skills that are consistent from game to game favored the Giants.

The most significant source of bad luck for the Giants came on fumbles. There were five fumbles and one onside kick in the game, and the Cowboys won all six. Forcing fumbles is a skill, so give the Cowboys credit for forcing three (and the Giants credit for forcing two), but fumble recovery rates for given teams are random on a week to week basis.

It has been shown that the chance of recovering a fumble is almost exactly 50-50 with a large enough sample size. In this game, the Giants lost every one of the five fumbles, something that only happens three percent of the time.

While David Wilson needs to learn how to hold on to the ball and should take some heat, the other lost fumble for the Giants was on a semi-freak play. On a punt, the ball bounced sideways, just hitting the Giants’ Tim McBride on the arm a hair before any Cowboys players. Bounces like that are purely random. Furthermore, few will remember that the Cowboys fumbled twice because the Giants recovered both.

In almost every other facet of the game, the Giants dominated. The Giants averaged 8.1 yards per play to the Cowboys 4.5. Eli Manning averaged 10 yards a pass, and Tony Romo averaged five. The Giants had 140 yards more offense and were moving the ball easily by the end of the game.

Unfortunately, the drive stopped when the Giants’ third-string running back, Da’Rel Scott, tipped the ball right to the Cowboys’ Brandon Carr. It was certainly a mistake, but one that almost always simply results in a second and 10, not a pick six the other way.

The Cowboys won fair and square, but the truth is the Giants outplayed the Cowboys in many ways. That may be comforting — or maybe it’s simply more frustrating.

Jay Cullen is a New York Giants writer for Follow him on Twitter or add him on Google.

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