On Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants‘ defense did not play as bad as the final score of 36-31 would indicate. Sure, New York struggled in certain areas, but there were also some positives to take away from their performance.
First off, the Giants’ offense did nothing to help out their defense. In fact, they actually hurt them, forcing the defense into some exceedingly difficult situations.
The Cowboys returned both an Eli Manning interception and a David Wilson fumble for touchdowns.
Manning also handed Dallas three points on his first interception, which was a screen pass intended for Wilson on the very first play from scrimmage. The Giants’ defense stepped up and held the Cowboys to just a field goal.
Then there was Trumaine McBride’s blunder. McBride muffed a punt in the third quarter, giving the Cowboys starting field position at the Giants’ 16-yard line. This time, the defense surrendered the full seven points.
Overall, the Giants’ defense only gave up three truly extended Dallas scoring drives. In the second quarter, the Cowboys put together a 14-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Also in the second quarter, they had a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive.
In the fourth quarter, Dallas compiled an eight-play, 53-yard drive that ended with another field goal.
Giving up just three true scoring drives resulting in 13 points is not a stat to hang your head on. Last season, Tony Romo ranked third in passing yards. He finished with 263 yards on Sunday night. Considering the receiving core he has around him of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, that is a solid job by the Giants’ defense.
A few of the Giants bright spots came in the secondary. Ryan Mundy, who took over in the preseason for an injured Stevie Brown, played a very good game. He may have gotten lost a couple of times in coverage, but it never cost the Giants too much.
Mundy had an interception that he returned 91 yards to the Cowboys one-yard line, and he also looked like one of the Giants’ best tacklers. Twice on crucial third downs, Mundy came up to make a textbook tackle, stopping a Dallas player one-yard shy of the first-down marker.
Cornerback Terrell Thomas also looked good, playing in his first regular season game since 2010. He got picked on initially while covering Austin, but he kept the gains minimal and didn’t give up anything over the top. He also doesn’t seem to have missed a step on his form tackling.
On the negative side, the Giants’ defensive line failed to get pressure on Romo for the majority of the game. Both of New York’s sacks came on the same drive, and one should be chalked up as a coverage sack.
The run defense was mediocre, but the linebacker unit is where the Giants are going to struggle. Starting middle linebacker Dan Connor suffered a “burner” in the fast half, and wasn’t able to return to the game. In his absence, Mark Herzlich was forced into an extended role.
Herzlich, a third-year player out of Boston College, is too slow to play in pass coverage. The Cowboys did their damage through the air in the middle of the field, targeting Herzlich’s coverage assignments.
Rust was evident on both sides of the ball in the Giants’ opener. However, there were several positives to take away from the loss, and it is far from time to panic. New York will have to clean it up if they are going to have a chance against Peyton Manning and the high-powered Denver Broncos in Week 2.
Daniel Brennan covers the New York Giants for Rant Sports. He lives in Westchester, New York and is a graduate of Quinnipiac University.