The New York Giants are fresh in the minds of Green Bay Packers fans. We have a pretty good idea of how the Giants perform offensively and on the defense.
So how did the Giants get the best of the Dallas Cowboys twice this past season? Let’s take a look back.
Game 1 – September 11
In the first game of the season, the Giants escaped from Texas with a one-point win, 20-19.
In his first NFL game, quarterback Dak Prescott was ordinary: 25-of-45 passes for 227 yards through the air, 12 yards rushing, and a passer rating of 69. So was rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott: 20 carries for 51 yards, and two catches for one yard.
As the score indicates, it was an even battle. Dallas had 328 total yards, a dozen more than New York. The only major statistical disparity was that Dallas had over 13 more minutes in time of possession. The Giants managed only two sacks, but they also had the only turnover.
Tight end Jason Witten was the Cowboys’ top receiver, with nine catches for 66 yards. Odell Beckham Jr. led the Giants with four catches for 73 yards.
Eli Manning got the go-ahead score with his third touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. For the game, Manning had a healthy 110 passer rating.
The Giants’ defense, strengthened with some new free agent signings, held Dallas without scoring for the game’s final six minutes.
Giants coach Ben McAdoo got his first NFL victory by hobbling what turned out, over the course of the season, to be the Cowboys’ big three: Prescott, Elliott, and Dez Bryant (one catch for eight yards).
Game 2 – December 11
The Cowboys traveled north sporting an 11-game win streak. In a defensive battle, the Giants forced Dak Prescott into the worst outing of his short career. Prescott connected on only 17-of-37 throws, for only 165 yards, and he also gave up two interceptions.
Ezekiel Elliott fared a little better: 24 carries for 107 yards.
The Giants scored all their points in the third quarter and they held Dallas scoreless after its lone TD, 10 minutes into the game.
The leading receivers for Dallas were Terrance Williams (76 yards), Cole Beasley (41), and Witten (26). Dez Bryant was again held to one catch – giving him 18 total yards and one lost fumble for the two losses.
QB Manning had a mediocre outing: 17-of-28 for 193 yards. He was sacked three times, as was Prescott.
Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins each had 15 rushes, and as a team New York ran for 93 yards in 33 attempts.
Odell Beckham was the game’s top receiver, with a 61-yard TD grab, and four catches for 94 yards in all.
The other stat that stood out was Dallas’ linebacker Sean Lee’s 18 tackles. Lee finished the regular season with 145 tackles, fourth best in the league.
The game was once again an even matchup – each team finished with 260 total yards.
The Giants owe both wins to a stout defense. They held Prescott to two of his three lowest passer ratings on the year, 69.4 and then 45.4.
Most noteworthy, they prevented big plays by stars of the Cowboys. In game 1, only one Cowboys’ pass completion was for more than 17 yards, a 21-yarder to a reserve tight end. Elliott’s longest run was for eight yards. In game 2, Elliott’s longest run went for 15 yards; the only pass completion of more than 18 yards was a 31-yard TD toss to Williams.
Not only was Manning not special in either game, he turned the ball over four times.
On Sunday, I’m ready to concede that a well-rested Elliott will exceed 100 rushing yards, and he might approach or surpass the 154 yards he had against Green Bay in October. I don’t think that will determine the outcome, however. The Packers’ defense needs to hold Dallas to under 30 points – and they only averaged 26.3 per game on the year, against mostly lesser opponents.
If the Green Bay defense gives up fewer than 30 points, I think Aaron Rodgers and his receivers, with or even without a strong run game, can top that number.