Manning statistically outplayed journeyman Jon Kitna, as he passed for 373 yards and two touchdowns, but those two interceptions and a lost fumble doomed New York. Although the fumble wasn’t necessarily his fault – regular left guard Rich Seubert started at center -- Manning admitted he should’ve “just fallen on the ball and given us a chance with third-and-long instead of trying to pick it up.” Manning wasn’t comfortable for most of the afternoon and wasn’t as cool and collected as Kitna appeared to be throughout the game.
Backs and Receivers:
If Manning, whose numbers were a fantasy football owners’ dream, didn’t get a stellar grade, just imagine what his ‘skill position’ guys got. The Giants receivers compounded most of Manning’s problems with their own mental mistakes. The biggest gaffe was Hakeem Nicks leaving Manning high and dry on an unauthorized canceling of a slant pattern in the end zone in the second quarter. Because of Nicks’ freestyling, rookie cornerback Bryan McCann scored on a team-record 101-yard interception return, sucking the life out of the crowd. Nicks also dropped a key pass in the third quarter and was looked to be the go-to guy after Steve Smith was deactivated for the game and fourth receiver Ramses Barden went out with a fractured left ankle and ligament damage.
The reconstructed line finally showed holes under the pressure of a rejuvenated Cowboys defense. Rich Seubert was the third Giants lineman to play center this season – following injuries to Shaun O’Hara and Adam Koets -- and it was his late-game errant shotgun snap that effectively ended the game. New York appeared to cut the margin to less than a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when Manning and Nicks connected on a 48-yard scoring pass but the play was called back by a holding penalty against guard Kevin Boothe, who was playing his first game of the season.
For the second consecutive week Big Blue’s vaunted pass rush didn’t generate much, as Kitna had tons of time to throw. Maybe it was a bad idea for linebacker Michael Boley to injure Tony Romo, considering it was the little-used understudy who haunted New York. The run defense was stout, as Dallas failed to get 100 yards from its two-headed monster of Felix Jones [14 carries, 51 yards] and Marion Barber [eight carries, 47 yards]. But when Kitna had as much time as he did to throw, why bother running the ball? Kitna was relatively clean all day, as he completed 13-of-22 for 327 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The secondary was a sieve for the first time since Peyton Manning carved them up in Week 3. Then again, that’s Peyton Manning but there’s no excuse for Kitna and Co. to abuse them like that. Dez Bryant [three reception for 104 yards and a touchdown], Miles Austin [two catches for 68 yards and a touchdown], and Jones [three catches for 85 yards, including a backbreaking 71-yard touchdown reception on a screen] victimized what was a unit that was playing with the utmost confidence lately.
Sure, Big Blue racked up tons of yards but their carelessness with the football offensively and their inability to get off the field on third down ultimately doomed them. This performance was bound to happen, according to Coughlin, who preached for weeks that his team had fatal flaws, specifically turnovers. “It’s a plague,” Coughlin once said. Maybe this is the wakeup call that the Giants really aren’t the anointed ones just yet.