X's and O's for GI Staff

QUARTERBACKS Eli Manning misfired badly toward WR Plaxico Burress, who was open near the sideline on a pivotal third-and-eight play from the Giants' 47 with 1:33 left in the game. Feeling pressure up the middle, Manning underthrew a pass to Burress and RCB Aaron Glenn intercepted it in the front corner of the west end zone with 8:06 left in the first half.

On the previous play, Manning overthrew wide-open TE Jeremy Shockey near the other front corner of the west end zone. Bottom Line: Eli threw several terrible passes.

RUNNING BACKS

FB Jim Finn shifted direction swiftly enough to make LCB Terence Newman miss a tackle, which extended a short screen into a 15-yard gain on a third-and-nine play around the midway mark of the fourth quarter. Tiki Barber somehow stayed on his feet, spun away from RCB Aaron Glenn's tackle attempt and added eight more yards for a 27-yard gain that advanced the Giants to the Dallas' 33 early in the fourth quarter. Bottom Line: Barber's bigger gains were extremely timely.

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

WR Plaxico Burress came back to snag a Manning pass in front of Glenn for a 16-yard gain early in the fourth quarter. The adjustment demonstrated that Burress learned from an earlier mistake. On that third-and-five play from their own 15, Burress waited too long for a Manning attempt to reach him and allowed Glenn to step in from of him for an interception and 10-yard return that gave the Cowboys fantastic field position. They scored their lone touchdown on the following play from the Giants' 7. The pass was wobbly, but WR Amani Toomer should've converted Manning's attempt into a first down on a second-and-four play late in the first quarter. Bottom Line: Thanks for the reminder that Tim Carter isn't on injured reserve again.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C Shaun O'Hara and RG Chris Snee blew open a huge hole that even enormous RB Brandon Jacobs managed to penetrate untouched for a 1-yard touchdown with 10 minutes left in the second quarter. LT Luke Petitgout was relatively well behaved, until a false start late in the fourth quarter. Petitgout also allowed WLB DeMarcus Ware to run right around him and take a clean shot at Manning's blind side on the Giants' third play from scrimmage. Bottom Line: Manning wasn't sacked.

DEFENSIVE LINE

RDE Osi Umenyiora was initially fooled on the play, but had the speed and the determination to drag down RB Julius Jones and prevent him from moving the chains early in the fourth quarter. Umenyiora's hustle moved Dallas into a third-and-one situation, which they couldn't convert into a first down and consequently punted. LDE Michael Strahan blew by RT Rob Petitti, then turned up the field to drop Drew Bledsoe in the pocket. The three-yard sack, on a third-and-eight play from the Giants' 39, was the first of two for Strahan in the final 5:54 of the third quarter. DT Kendrick Clancy perfectly timed a snap by backup C Andre Gurode, blew by him and alertly grabbed Bledsoe's left arm as he tried to hand off the ball to Jones. MLB Antonio Pierce picked up the resulting fumble and ran untouched to the end zone from 12 yards away to give the Giants a 17-0 lead on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. Bottom Line: They were very, very disruptive.

LINEBACKERS

WLB Nick Greisen got away with a pass interference penalty when he arrived a little early while trying to break up a Bledsoe-to-Keyshawn Johnson connection with 5:12 to go in the fourth quarter. MLB Antonio Pierce was actually responsible for a 15-yard personal foul penalty that was called on backup RCB Frank Walker in the first quarter. Pierce blasted TE Jason Witten several seconds after he dropped a Bledsoe pass, and the impact pushed Witten into Walker, who was trying to avoid hitting him. Bottom Line: They helped limit Dallas to 81 rushing yards.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

SS Gibril Wilson leaped in front of a much taller Johnson and tipped a Bledsoe throw backward, into the arms of FS Brent Alexander for a pivotal pick that Alexander returned 15 yards to the Giants' 45 with 1:47 left in the game. Backup FS James Butler positioned himself perfectly to intercept Bledsoe's underthrown deep pass to WR Terry Glenn at the Giants' 7 late in the third quarter. RCB Curtis Deloatch wasn't at all aware that Bledsoe had thrown a perfect pass over him to Glenn in the front corner of the east end zone with 3:52 left in the third. Bottom Line: They were much more productive than the previous Sunday.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jeff Feagles dropped a perfect punt at the Dallas 4, which forced the Cowboys into a situation in which they needed to score a touchdown from 96 yards away, with just 1:22 left in the game. K Jay Feely pushed his 33-yard FG attempt to the right, which could've cost the Giants again. Had Feely's kick not hit the upright, they would've gone ahead two scores (20-10) with only 5:18 remaining in the game. WR David Tyree was in perfect position to field a Feagles punt at Dallas' 2 early in the first quarter, but was whistled for being offside on a punt attempt later in the quarter. Bottom Line: The Feely follies are beyond alarming.

COACHING

Defensive coordinator Tim Lewis showed some imagination early in the second quarter, when he aligned Umenyiora (end) and Strahan (tackle) alongside one another on the left side. The disruption enabled Strahan to overwhelm RG Marco Rivera, whom he pushed into Bledsoe, who moved into the awaiting arms of RDE Justin Tuck. Overall, they significantly cut down on their penalties (six for 44 yards), too. Bottom Line: They were well prepared for a meaningful December game.

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