I. Eli and His Health:

What’s Eli’s health status? That’s obviously the million dollar question.

The defense was horrendous tonight, but the offense was great. Not as great as the defense was horrendous, but great nonetheless. And nobody was better than Eli: he made all the reads and all the throws, time and again taking the offense downfield in adverse situations and turning what could have been a blowout into a winnable track meet.

His stats speak for themselves. So do his body language and the way that he inspired confidence that the game was within reach even as the Pokes kept scoring.

Now, it would obviously be ridiculous to get over-exuberant about Eli right now (especially considering the injury). The guy has been a notoriously fast starter, finishing each of his three seasons by folding in ugly fashion. But we Giants fans really have no choice but to hang our hats on the guy. Tonight’s performance, his excellent preseason, and the flashes he’s shown in the past give us reason to do so.

His one mistake tonight was the interception by Jacques Reeves on that comeback to Plax. Plax fell down on the play, but Reeves jumped that route pretty good – I think he would have made that play even if Plax hadn’t fallen down.

But whatever. I’m sure we’re all fine with a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio.

And I’m sure that we’re all most definitely not fine with what we’ve seen from Jared Lorenzen, who was pretty God-awful all preseason and, in only a series of work, managed to look pretty horrendous tonight against a prevent defense.

First, he vastly overshot an open Plax on a fly pattern on 3rd down; then, on 4th down, he basically ended the game by mysteriously sliding before the first down marker. Granted our chances of winning at this point were slim, but the bizarre short-of-the-marker slide was the nail in our coffin.

So we’re back to the question of Eli’s health. After watching all the post-game news conferences, I’m optimistic that he’ll be back next Sunday.

Here’s what I heard:

From Colonel Tom:

“On the two-point play he went down on his shoulder. His shoulder started to stiffen up. He came in and threw a touchdown pass, but after that we just felt like we needed to make sure that we got him iced down so we could have the best chance of getting that under control as fast as possible.”

From Eli:

“It feels just a little tight and a little sore right now. I think I just bruised it. So, I’m gonna get an MRI tomorrow but I was still able to throw on it. I threw the last touchdown to Plaxico on that last drive with it so, I feel like I can still make all the throws. It’s just a little tight right now, a little sore.

“As the time went on it just got a little more sore and tightened up…. When they got the final touchdown, it was a situation where I didn’t want to go in there and make anything worse.”

Ok, I’ll accept this. And I have no problem that we basically conceded the game after the backbreaking Sam Hurd touchdown: given our defense’s inability to make a single play all night, there was really no way we were winning that game.

But Eli’s health will be the story of the week. We need him back as soon as possible.

 

Ia. More on Eli: A Post-Script to the Eli-Tiki Bitch-Fest:

I haven’t really touched on Tiki v. Eli or Tiki v. Coughlin. To me, it’s pretty obvious that Tiki’s has been a pretty substantial tool in recent weeks.

Now, please bear in mind that I would never say that Tiki is a tool: I’m merely saying that he’s being a tool, in the same way that Crash Davis said the home plate umpire made a cocksucking call and didn’t call him a cocksucker.

Those who read this blog regularly know that I love Tiki, and so long as he doesn’t murder a member of my immediate family, I always will. Check out my borderline homoerotic love poem to him, or my study of his 234-yard game against the Redskins last year, which rivals O-Dawg from “Menace II Society” in the pantheon of obsessive attention to slow-mo detail on a taped recording.

But he’s been acting like a schmuck, no doubt. For more on this perspective, check out Deadspin’s Will Leitch’s “Kindly Plea for Tiki Barber to Shut the Hell Up.”

But tonight, both on the national NBC telecast and then later on Mike’d Up, he appeared to be trying to back away from his previous dick comments.

Here’s what he said on Mike’d Up about Eli:

“If you watched this game today, he carried himself with a confidence and a wherewithal and an “I’m gonna put you guys on my back.” And it showed. I mean, the four touchdowns, and a couple of huge throws to Plaxico and Amani. You can see that the leadership qualities and the attn to detail and the things that it takes to take your team to another level are there.”

So there you go. Tiki went too far about Eli during the preseason, then added fuel to the fire by vigorously defending himself. To his credit, however, he took the opportunity tonight to try to make things right. Let’s leave it at that and start talking more important things.

 

II. Other Injuries

Osi and Jacobs. Wow. If not for the awesome performance of our offense, tonight’s game would have been some Murphy’s Law shit: The quarterback goes down, the running back goes down, and our best pass rusher goes down. What an absolute fucking disaster.

The injury to Osi (something with his lower leg; he’s going for an MRI tomorrow) occurred on the Cowboys first drive, and spelled disaster for the rest of the night. Our lack of pass rush wasn’t our only problem, but it made our already struggling safety/linebacker pass defenders look even worse.

I haven’t poured over the DVRd game yet, but Strahan did not look ready – the combination of he and Awasom was pretty silent on the left side. Tuck, moving over to the right side, was quiet as well (save for the third quarter sack when he broke out with the baby-cradling dance).

Without any semblance of a pass rush, Romo was able to pick us apart with impunity. He didn’t even have to avail himself of his athleticism – his best attribute – to put up the best quarterback numbers of the week against us.

As for Jacobs (knee-sprain), who knows how long he’ll be out for? And who knows if/when this will happen again?

It’s an oft-made point, but Jacobs body-type and running-style leave him extremely vulnerable to hits like the one that sidelined him tonight. I’ve always compared him to Jeremy Shockey, who has the same long-limbed build and high-contact style. Think of how nick-up-prone Shockey is right now, and imagine how much worse things would be if he were carrying the ball every play like a running back?

Jacobs looked pretty good tonight (6 runs for 28 yards); it would definitely be a blow if he got hurt. Ward looked really good and clearly has some talent, but remember that his numbers are dubious considering they were achieved when the Cowboys ahead the whole time he was in and were therefore geared up to stop the pass.

So after the first game, we’re left with an 0-1 record and three injuries to three of our most important players.

 

III. The Defense

Where to begin here?

We gave up 45 points. We couldn’t stop the run, rush the passer, or guard their receivers. It was an absolute disaster in all phases of defense. There is absolutely nothing for us to hang our hats on as we pick up the pieces for the rest of the season.

It would be kinda ridiculous for me to cite specifically infuriating plays; after all, most of the plays the Cowboys ran were pretty maddening for the G-Men faithful. But fuck it. Here are some plays I can’t stop thinking about:

 

12:01 in the Second Quarter: 1st and 10 from the Cowboys 44:

Romo fakes the handoff to Marion Barber, then looks downfield to survey the scene before determining that nobody is open. Fortunately for Romo, Barber is wide open on the left side: somehow, outside linebacker Matthias Kiwanuka has lost sight of Barber and has abandoned his responsibility in the left flat.

Barber catches the ball, eludes the out-of-position Kiwanuka, and doesn’t stop running until he’s tackled at the 27. It’s 1st and 10 for the ‘Boys after a 29-yard gain, and it’s the inexperienced Kiwanuka’s fault.

10:06 in the Second Quarter: 4th and 1 from the Giants 18:

Pierce, Butler, and Webster all miss tackles (Butler most egregiously), as Barber bounces an off-tackle run outside and turns the corner for the 18-yard touchdown. 10-6 Cowboys.

4:07 in the Second Quarter: 2nd and 17 from the Giants 12:

Jason Whitten, who killed us all game but especially in the first half (5 catches for 78 yards) leaks into a soft-spot in the zone created by two inexperienced outside linebackers: Kawika Mitchell, who inexplicably drifted away from Whitten, who appeared to be the only man in his zone; and Matthias Kiwanuka, who was too late getting over to make any kind of play on the ball.

Romo zipped a nice throw in there to put the ‘Boys up 17-6.

12:07 in the Third Quarter: 1st and 10 from the Giants 22:

To give some context, it’s not as if Dallas wasn’t gonna score on this possession anyway: On their previous three plays, they had put together gains of 14, 21, and 18 yards.

Still, their touchdown was particularly bewildering.

It looked as if R.W. was in press coverage against T.O. on the right side: he bumped him and then ran with him, understandably a couple of strides behind. Only there was no over-the-top help, and T.O. was wide open to catch the touchdown pass.

Press coverage against T.O. with no safety help in sight? It had to be a blown coverage. Either way, the ‘Boys extender the lead to 24-16.

1:18 in the Third Quarter: 2nd and Goal from the Giants 9:

A strong interior pass rush forces Romo to the outside. Unfortunately, Kiwanuka, who had outside contain responsibility on the play, took an inside angle to Romo and gave up the outside edge. Romo took advantage and ran around the bend for the easy touchdown. Cowboys 31-Giants 19.

11:52 in the Fourth Quarter: 2nd and 11 from the Giants 47:

Once again, Romo has all day to throw. He sits back and hits T.O. dragging across the middle of the field. James Butler misses another tackle, and the Cowboys go up 38-22.

But more than anyone else, it was Gibril Wilson’s fault. Playing underneath, Wilson was way too late to react and get back in his drop zone, which gave T.O. a lot of space to maneuver against the overmatched Butler.

Another easy score for the Pokes.

3:11 in the Fourth Quarter: 3rd and 7 from the Cowboys 49:

The coup de grace.

Romo drops back and hits Sam Hurd on an inside dig. Hurd doesn’t break stride as he streaks to the endzone unmolested (strange phrase, yes).

Who’s fault was this? I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t look like it was R.W.’s fault for getting beaten by half a step on an inside move.

Maybe it was Pierce’s fault – he didn’t get enough depth in his drop zone.

Maybe it was James Butler’s fault – he was nowhere to be found after Hurd caught the ball, and was easily eluded as Hurd took it the distance to bury the G-Men. 45-35, Cowboys.

**

As preposterous as the phrase is might seem after tonight, let me look on the bright side when it comes to our defense:

1) The D was so horrendous, in part, because Osi went down and Strahan was clearly not ready. We’ll see what happens with Osi’s injury, but Strahan should be back in his old form soon. Our pass rush has to get better because it can’t possibly be any worse.

2) The above plays represent the tip of the iceberg, but if you look at these plays, you will notice that many of the culprits were either young or inexperienced guys starting their first games for this team at their respective spots.

James Buter looked bad tonight, but it’s his first start at strong safety; Kiwanuka looked bad, but he’s still learning to be a linebacker; Mitchell is an inside linebacker by trade, and made a critical mistake in his first game as on outside ‘backer; and Gibril is a strong safety playing his first game at free safety.

3) Like many of the players, the scheme is new too. We’ll learn it and get better at executing it. Hopefully, our performance tonight will be as bad as it can possibly get.

The D has to improve. Right? RIGHT?!