Good afternoon Giants enthusiasts! Welcome to Week 13 in the NFL!
I'm Chris Mascaro and I'll be bringing you all of today's live game action, as the Giants (6-5, 3-2 home), the third place team in the NFC East, take on the first-place Dallas Cowboys (8-3, 3-2 road) at Giants Stadium.
The Giants have lost five of six after dropping a 26-6 decision to the Broncos Thanksgiving night in Denver. They were held to 57 yards rushing.
Said Brandon Jacobs: "We gave the game away, basically. We went out and we didn't play hard. We didn't play hard and they took it."
The Cowboys, however, are winners of six of seven, after dismantling the Raiders 24-7 on Thanksgiving in the Big D. Tony Romo threw for 309 yards, his fifth 300-yard passing game of the season. Dallas had scored just 14 points in its previous two games (a 17-7 loss at Green Bay and a 7-6 win over Washington).
In Week 2, the Giants beat the Cowboys to open their brand new stadium, 33-31. Eli Manning threw for 330 yards and two touchdowns, and then apparently did some writing in the locker room. Tony Romo (who has won both his starts at Giants Stadium) had his worst game of the season, completing just 13 of 29 passes for 129 yards, a TD and three INTs.
Both teams come into this game beat up. It was revealed the day after the Denver game that Manning is fighting a stress reaction in his right foot, which could become a season-ending stress fracture at some point. Manning says it's just a nuisance, but we'll see if it affects his play today. Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle), who missed last week's game, will give it a go today.
Also, Osi Umenyiora may find himself on the bench — not because of an injury, but rather poor performance. Umenyiora, who has just four sacks on the season, and tackle Fred Robbins were replaced by Mathias Kiwanuka and Chris Canty, respectively, in the first-team defense. Canty, a former Cowboy, has just five tackles in four games played this season.
cornerback Aaron Ross may play a little safety today because Michael Johnson is listed as questionable with a groin injury.
For the Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware, who leads the team with eight sacks, will wear a cast on his left wrist (he has a small fracture). Ware also has a stress fracture in his foot, but it hasn't limited him in practice. Romo is fighting through back pain, while tight end Jason Witten ws limited in practice with a sprained foot.
With that, let's get to today's keys to the game...
1. If the Giants lose, they can kiss the division title goodbye... ...and probably the postseason, too. The defending NFC East champs are two games behind the Cowboys for the division lead, and 1.5 games behind the Eagles (who won earlier today in Atlanta). If the Giants win, they'll be a game behind both teams with four to play (they play Philly next week). But if they lose, they'll be two games out at 6-6, which pending Green Bay's game tomorrow night against Baltimore, means they'll be a game out of a wild-card spot in the NFC.
*Mathematically the Giants are still on the oustide looking in if the postseason started today, but they brought themselves within a game of the Cowboys and Eagles for the division lead and swept Dallas for the first time since 2004. Next week's battle against Philly looms large, while a Packers loss tomorrow night will drop them in a tie for the final playoff spot with the G-Men. (All of this is explained by T-Rock here.)
2. Is it December 6 or November 36? The Cowboys are 5-10 in games played after November the past three seasons (including playoff losses to the Giants and Seahawks). Last season, the Eagles destroyed them 44-6 the last week of the year to knock them out of the postseason. Romo has 16 TDs and 20 INTs in those 15 games. Is it the weather? Is it Holiday cheer gone bad? Is it Jessica Simpson? Romo says it's just coincidence.
"We don't look at other seasons. This is this season — it is a brand new football team. Nothing that happened in 1999 or 2004 or 2008 has any bearing on what is going to happen this December."
We'll see if the conditions (wind, cold) affect the embattled December QB (and his coach) in about three hours.
*Romo was money, throwing for a career-high 392 yards on 41 of 55 passing with three TDs. But he fell to 5-9 in December games, while the Cowboys are now 5-11 the last three seasons in games played after November. Jerry Jones is sticking with the coincidence thing, though. We'll see next week when Dallas plays host to the red-hot Chargers (winners of seven straight).
3. Boo Tiki? Former RB Tiki Barber is serving as an honorary captain and there's talk that he may get booed by the Giants Stadium crowd because of the harsh words he's had for Tom Coughlin and Manning since retiring.
Said Giants director of communications Pat Hanlon: "Tiki Barber is an all-time great. No words can change that fact."
We'll see what the crowd thinks in a few minutes.
Okay, since that wasn't an actual key to the game — so chew on this one for a bit: Dallas is second in the league (to Tennessee) with 5.3 yards per rushing attempt, but have only run the ball 288 times (tied for 20th in the league with St. Louis). The Giants have allowed 4.2 yards per rush (14th in the league). Whichever unit bends today could decide this game. Stay tuned.
*Again, a large disparity in pass/run ratio, as Dallas called 55 passes to only 23 rushes. The Giants mostly bottled up Marion Barber, who had 2.4 yards per carry on 15 attempts. The Cowboys' coaches seemed afraid to give him the ball after his fumble at the end of the first half led to a Giants' touchdown (the fumble came on a pass play).
As for Tiki, he acknowledged a smattering of boos when describing the scene on Football Night in America. But he says there was mostly cheers from the Meadowlands crowd.
Here are the today's inactives, and some other musings from the stadium from our Giants beat report, Mr. Tom Rock.
Finally, here are a few notes on today's game:
-The Cowboys, who finished last season 9-7, were 3-5 on the road in 2008.
-The last time these two teams played (Week 2), Marion Barber rushed for 124 yards, but the Giants got the win thanks to Lawrence Tynes' 37-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants lead the series 10-8 since 2001.
-The Giants are tied for fifth in the NFC with Atlanta in points scored with 272 (behind New Orleans, Minnesota, Green Bay and Philadelphia). They have allowed 261, which is tied for 13th best in the conference with Chicago (only Detroit, Tampa Bay and St. Louis and have allowed more).
-The Cowboys have scored 255 and allowed 182 points through 11 games. They are 6-2 against the rest of the NFC and 2-1 in the division.
-The Giants are 2-1 against NFC East opponents. They beat the Redskins 23-17 Week 1 and the Cowboys 33-31 Week 2, but dropped a 40-17 decision at Philly Week 8.
-The Cowboys last win in Giants Stadium was Week 10 of the 2007 season, a 31-20 victory.
-Romo, who's thrown 17 touchdowns and seven INTs, is 11th in the league in passer rating at 93.9. He's completed 60.2 percent of his passes (20th in the league), and his 8.17 yards per attempt are fifth in the NFL.
-The Cowboys are -3 in turnover margin (tied with the Dolphins and Jets for 18th in the league), while the Giants are even, which is tied for 16th best with the Chiefs.
-Brandon Jacobs rushed for a season-low 27 yards on 11 carries on Thanksgiving night. He is 14th in the league with 683 yards, but he is averaging just 3.93 yards per carry, which is the lowest of any player in the 20 save Detroit's Kevin Smith (3.35).
Okay, that's all for now. But we've got plenty more to talk about this afternoon, so let's get the conversation going in the chat box above! And be sure to vote on the poll questions.
I'll be back after each quarter with updates.
We're about 15 minutes from football on FOX!
End of the 1st Quarter: Giants 0, Cowboys 0
*No scoring drives to speak of.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Steve Smith's first reception went for 16 yards over the middle to convert a 3rd-and-7.
-Jeff Feagles downed a punt on the Cowboys' 12-yard line.
Players who struggled:
-The Giants allowed Witten to catch an 11-yard pass over the middle to convert a 3rd-and-11. He caught three passes on the first drive.
-Jacobs fumbled on a second down carry, but Manning recovered for the Giants.
-Manning completed just one of his five passes in the quarter.
-Smith dropped a tipped pass on 3rd-and-3 that would have converted a first down.
What to watch for in the second quarter: When will these two high-powered offenses score?
End of the 2nd Quarter: Giants 14, Cowboys 10
Cowboys' first scoring drive: 13 plays, 64 yards, 7:04
Scoring play: Nick Folk 34-yard FG
Key play: Patrick Crayton 10-yard catch from Romo on 3rd-and-9 from the Giants' 19.
Cowboys' second scoring drive: 13 plays, 64 yards, 7:04
Scoring play: Roy Williams 4-yard pass from Romo (Folk kick). It was his fifth TD catch of the season and Romo's 18th TD pass.
Key play: Bradshaw's fumble (more below).
Giants' first scoring drive: 4 plays, 74 yards, 1:28
Scoring play: Hakeem Nicks 21-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick). It was his fifth TD catch of the year, and Manning's 19th TD pass.
Key play: Boss catch (more below).
Giants' second scoring drive: 4 plays, 28 yards, :45
Scoring play: Jacobs 1-yard run (Tynes kick) .... it was his fourth TD of the season.
Key play: Barber fumble and Umenyiora's recovery and 24-yard return (more below).
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Corey Webster knocked a pass out of Roy Williams' hands in the end zone.
-Rookie Clint Sintim recorded his first NFL sack.
-Aaron Rouse tackled Marion Barber in the backfield for a loss of five yards.
-Kevin Boss' first catch went for 16 yards out of the backfield. It was technically a run because it was a backwards pass. It came on 1st-and-10 from his own 42.
-Umenyiora, who was benched this week, came in and was flagged for jumping offside. But two plays later, he recovered a Barber fumble and returned it 24 yards to the Cowboys' 28. It was his fourth fumble recovery of the season, which is tied for the league lead.
Players who struggled:
-Michael Johnson dropped a near interception that fell right into Witten's hands for his fifth catch.
-Ahmad Bradhsaw simply dropped the ball on 2nd-and-15 from his own 33 and the Cowboys recovered.
What to watch for in the second half: Can the Giants keep this momentum?
Here are some halftime stats for your viewing pleasure:
Manning: 6 of 13, 90 yards, TD
Jacobs: 7 carries, 20 yards, TD
Smith: 3 catches, 43 yards
Nicks: 2 catches, 37 yards, TD
Bradshaw: 2 carries, 9 yards, lost fumble
Tynes: 2 of 2 XPs
Rouse: 5 tackles, sack
Romo: 20 of 24 for 160 yards, TD
Barber: 10 carries, 26 yards
Witten: 7 catches, 81 yards
Austin: 4 catches, 32 yards
Williams: 3 catches, 14 yards, TD
Folk: 1 of 2 FGs; 1 of 1 XPs
Spencer and Ratliff: forced fumbles
End of the 3rd Quarter: Giants 21, Cowboys 17
Cowboys' third scoring drive: 8 plays, 56 yards, 4:02
Scoring play: Williams 5-yard TD from Romo (Folk kick)
Key play: Austin 11-yard pass from Romo on 3rd-and-9 from the Giants' 38.
Giants' fourth scoring drive: 1 play, 74 yards, :19
Scoring play: Jacobs 74-yard TD catch from Manning (Tynes kick) ... it was Jacobs' third career receiving TD (third of his career) and Manning's 20th TD pass.
Key play: There was only one.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Jacobs made some shifty moves along with left sideline on the TD run. He barely stayed in bounds (it was reviewed) and broke a few tackles en route to his second TD of the day.
Players who struggled:
-Manning floated a pass deep left into the end zone that was picked off by Mike Jenkins. It was Manning's 11th INT of the season.
What to watch for in the fourth quarter: Will the Cowboys be in the driver's seat in the NFC East?
That's the end of game, as the Giants defeat the Cowboys, 31-24.
Giants: 7-5 (4-2 home)
Cowboys: 8-4 (3-3 road)
Scores by quarter for the Giants: 0, 14, 7, 10
Scores by quarter for the Cowboys: 0, 10, 7, 7
Giants' fourth scoring drive: 8 plays, 63 yards, 3:15
Scoring play: Tynes 23-yard FG ... his 24th made this season.
Key play: Smith 25-yard catch from Manning on 3rd-and-5 from their own 37.
Giants' fifth scoring play: Hixon 79-yard punt return (Tynes kick) ...
Cowboys' fourth scoring drive: 6 plays, 77 yards, 1:27
Scoring play: Austin 22-yard catch from Romo ... it was his ninth TD catch of the season and Romo's 20th TD pass.
Key play: Witten 13-yard pass from Romo on 2nd-and-10 from the Cowboys' 39.
Here are your three stars for today's game:
1. Jacobs: 13 carries, 39 yards, TD; 74-yard receiving TD
2. Manning: 11 of 25, 241 yards, two TDs, INT
3. Romo: 41 of 55, 392 yards, three TDs
...and a bonus fourth star: Hixon with his 79-yard punt return for a TD.
*The Cowboys had a 38:50-20:36 advantage in time of possession and a 379-237 advantage in passing yards.
**This is the Giants' first season sweep of the Cowboys since 2004, and it was the Giants' first win in regulation since Week 5 against Oakland.
Bradshaw: 7 carries, 47 yards, lost fumble
Smith: 6 catches, 110 yards
Nicks: 2 receptions, 37 yards, TD
Tynes: 1 of 1 FGs; 4 of 4 XPs
Rouse: 10 tackles, sack
Barber: 15 carries, 36 yards, lost fumble
Jones: 6 carries, 6 yards
Witten: 14 catches, 156 yards
Austin: 10 receptions for 104 yards, TD
Williams: 6 catches, 60 yards, 2 TDs
Crayton: 2 catches, 24 yards
Folk: 1 of 3 FGs; 3 of 3 XPs
Okay, that's all for today's game. Please check back above for updates on my pregame keys to the game. Thanks to all for coming out!
As always, it was my honor and pleasure to bring everyone all of tonight's live game action.
See ya'll back here in next Sunday night, as the Giants play host to the Eagles at 8:20 p.m.