Just about everything that could go wrong for the New York Giants went wrong Sunday night in the team's 36-31 Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Eli Manning threw three interceptions, second year running back David Wilson looked dreadful while losing two fumbles, and another turnover occurred when a Dallas punt took an errant bounce off of Trumaine McBride's arm.
In spite of all these things, it still looked like Big Blue would prevail when the two-minute warning sounded near the end of the fourth quarter. New York had the ball just shy of midfield, and Manning had just completed a 26-yard pass to Rueben Randle. With the Giants down just 30-24 and Manning on a roll, it wasn't too hard to imagine the team driving to the end zone for the winning score. However, the next play saw Manning's dump-off to Da'Rel Scott bounce off the backup halfback's hands and right into those of cornerback Brandon Carr, who dashed 49 yards down the sideline for a Dallas touchdown.
Up until that moment, it looked like New York would be able to overcome a long list of errors and pull off another miracle win in North Texas, but it turned out that there was one more bad bounce in store for the Giants. With three of the team's six turnovers coming off of Manning's arm, it's easy to place a lot of blame on him, but this is a game in which the quarterback should be forgiven.
Manning was that good in between his second and third interceptions. He started by finding Victor Cruz wide open on a 70-yard bomb at the end of the second quarter to finally get the Giants in the end zone. New York would fall behind 27-10 in the third quarter, but as usual, Manning refused to give up, and he continued to tear the Dallas secondary to shreds. At the end of the third quarter, Manning converted a 3rd-and-10 when he found Cruz in the end zone again for an 18-yard touchdown. With just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth, Manning found Cruz for a third time on a 10-yard touchdown pass to cap off a seven-play, 90-yard masterpiece of a drive that cut the Dallas lead to six.
It's safe to say that Manning did enough in this game to make up for his three turnovers. He averaged an insane 10.2 net yards per pass attempt, threw for four touchdowns, and got Cruz, Randle, and Hakeem Nicks over 100 receiving yards. The real problem in this game was New York's failure at the halfback position. Not only did David Wilson lose two fumbles during the game, but he only averaged 2.7 yards per carry and failed spectacularly when the Giants had the ball on the one-yard line following Ryan Mundy's interception of Tony Romo in the first quarter.
Wilson was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on first down, and on second down he missed a crucial block that caused Manning to get sacked. That erased any chance of a touchdown on the possession, and it's kind of surprising that Wilson wasn't benched at that moment. Instead, Coughlin waited until Wilson's second fumble was returned for a Dallas touchdown by Barry Church early in the third quarter.
When it comes down to why the Giants lost last night's game, it's hard to point to Manning. We know the veteran quarterback is turnover prone, and we've seen him be brilliant before. As bad as his three interceptions were, he was so spectacular when he wasn't throwing picks that he had the Giants poised to win in the end. What New York can't have is inconsistent play from the halfback position. If Wilson can't be trusted, then someone else needs to be brought in to help Scott shoulder the rushing load this season.