You’d think after a night like last night, I’d be miserable this morning. Not only were the Giants the first defending Super Bowl Champions to lose the NFL Kickoff game since 2004 when the NFL decided to feature the defending champions at home on opening night, but I also got torched by Cowboys in my three big fantasy money leagues. In a league where QB TDs are worth 6 points instead of the traditional four, my opponent had both Romo and Dez Bryant. The only way it could have been worse is if they hooked up for a touchdown. Romo did hook up with Miles Austin, who I was facing in the two other money leagues, which goes to show what one big play can do for a guy’s whole day.
This drubbing also hurt because it brought back painful memories of the Miracle in the Meadowlands II for me. Not only did Philadelphia come back from down 21 points in the fourth quarter, but I was also playing a guy who had started Michael Vick. The Giants had done their part to shut down Vick in the first half, but Vick went off in the second half (similar to Romo), I lost the fantasy matchup, and lost a seed in the playoffs because of it. It’s a double gut-puncher when the Giants get beat by a division rival and I lose in Fantasy. And it’ll only get worse this season. Looking ahead at my fantasy schedules, I have to play against guys who have Vick twice when he’s going against the Giants, and the next time the Giants play the Cowboys, I have to go up against Romo twice again (including against the guy I’m playing this week, who already torched me). It’s like the fantasy football gods seem content to give me a good dick-slap this season, and usually dick-slapping’s MY game!
So yeah, you’d think I’d be ready to jump off a bridge. For some reason, I’m eerily calm. I’ve managed to remind myself that it’s only the first game (both in the NFL season and in the fantasy season), that unlike the Giants, I haven’t lost yet (I’ve got Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady ready to roll on Sunday), and that even in a Superbowl-winning year, the Giants have these dumb losses (hell, they lost to the Rex Grossman-led Redskins TWICE last year!). But if I go 0-3 in the first week of my money leagues, my attitude might be a bit different come Monday morning. Let’s just say I’ve got an uphill climb in all three leagues, but it’s not insurmountable.
Now that I’ve got my hemming and hawing out of the way, let’s try to analyze this game.
I’ve seen ESPN reporters try to blame Eli Manning for this game. That’s a bit harsh. The offense was barely on the field, and Manning only truly missed one bad throw (to Domenik Hixon in the fourth quarter, but it was made up by the TD pass to Martellus Bennett a couple plays later). You also can’t blame Manning for Victor Cruz’s sudden case of the dropsies. No, this loss belongs squarely on the defense, who kept the Cowboys offense on the field way longer than they needed to be, especially given the ungodly amount of penalties Dallas committed. Hell, the game-icing touchdown to Austin came on a first and 30! How does that happen?? It happens because a Giants secondary that ranked second-worst last year after being ravaged by injuries was once again ravaged by injuries. No Terrell Thomas, no Prince Amukamara, and for the majority of the second half, no Michael Coe. The Cowboys wisely targeted Coe’s replacement, Justin Tryon, the fifth cornerback on the depth chart, to much success.
And where the heck did Kevin Ogletree come from? I mentioned in my column on Tuesday that he was a Casualty, because I expected the Giants secondary to be torched by Austin and Dez. With the exception of two (very) bad plays, the depleted Giants secondary actually did a good job keeping the hobbled Cowboys receivers in check. This left Ogletree on single coverage, which he exploited for some really good catches and a couple scores. I’d imagine that he’ll be a targeted guy on the waiver wire this week, and certainly worth picking up. He might be a one-week wonder, or he might be the next Victor Cruz. At the very least, if he doesn’t pan out, you can drop him after a couple weeks.
As for the replacement officials, they actually did a pretty good job, except for an extremely crucial non-call that may have changed the complexion of the game. After the Michael Boley pick (which should have been a Pick 6 if not for Tyron Smith horse-collaring Boley on the 2), on third down, the Cowboys got away with defensive holding on Victor Cruz, which would have been an automatic first down, and three more chances for the Giants to punch the ball into the end zone. That non-call resulted in the Giants only getting a field goal, and gave Dallas some much-needed confidence.
As for the running game, DeMarco Murray ran exceptionally well (and I was hoping that if any Cowboy had to score, I’d want it to be him as I have him on one of my teams). Touchdown aside, I thought Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t run very well. He looked very cautious in the backfield, tip-toeing and dancing before the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, David Wilson looked explosive for the few plays that he was in there. But as soon as he fumbled the ball in the first quarter, I knew he was done for the game (I don’t think he got another touch all game after that). He’s a rookie, and you have to establish trust, especially with Tom Coughlin, who’s had his share of ballcarriers with severe cases of fumbleitis. I think had Wilson held onto the ball, he would have made a serious dent in this game.
Well, it’s only one game down, 15 to go for the Giants, 255 to go for the NFL. I expect the G-Men to bounce back against Tampa Bay next week. I’ll be back on Wednesday with Week 2’s version of The Comfortables, the Cautions and the Casualties. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull!