Cowboys' season of discontent hits new low with Romo's clavicle injury
Michael Boley's ferocious hit on QB Tony Romo was absolutely clean
The 1-5 Cowboys will likely finish the year with Jon Kitna or Stephen McGee
The Giants are cruising in the East, and may be the NFC's best team right now
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Here are five things we learned from the Giants' 41-35 win over the Cowboys on Monday night.
1. Tony Romo became the Giants' latest victim. If your name is Matt Hasselbeck, feel free to start checking your insurance coverages and deductibles now. The Giants' defensive front is scary-good right now. The Cowboys' season unofficially came to an end with 12:09 remaining in the second-quarter. That's when Giants linebacker Michael Boley came through untouched -- a regular occurrence on this night -- and slammed Romo hard to the turf on a legal hit. Romo immediately began grabbing his left shoulder. The X-rays revealed a broken clavicle, likely shelving Romo for 8-10 weeks. His backup, Jon Kitna, was a train wreck running the offense. But that's what the Giants do. Romo became the seventh quarterback to be knocked out of a game for at least one series by the Giants' ferocious pass rush. The Giants have a bye week coming up, then travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks. Good luck, Matt.
2. Don Meredith wasn't the only one singing, "Turn out the lights, the party's over." The ol' Cowboys quarterback and Monday Night Football legend no doubt had a lot of company telling Wade Phillips goodnight. There is virtually no realistic scenario anymore for the 1-5 Cowboys to keep their coach or make the playoffs. You don't have to go home, Wade, but you can't stay here. Nothing's official, of course, and Jerry Jones has repeatedly backed Phillips. But it will be next to impossible for the Cowboys owner to justify keeping his coach for another year. Not in Dallas. Not when Jones circled this national stage as a showcase game for a turnaround. Not when the entire season turned into a Cowboys Stadium referendum on Phillips. Not on a Monday night. Not when the Super Bowl is going to be played in Jones' new playpen. Worse, the Giants could not have done more early-on to set up a huge night for the Cowboys. And the Cowboys still blew it. Consider this: The Cowboys started their first three possessions deep inside Giants territory, including two red-zone starts, courtesy of Eli Manning interceptions. Rookie Dez Bryant returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown. The Giants had three turnovers. The Cowboys were virtually penalty-free and took a 20-7 lead. And yet, the Cowboys still trailed 24-21 at the break and folded.
3. The Giants' offensive line may be the most athletic and prolific in the league. It's rare when offensive linemen at any level legitimately make the highlight reels, but the Giants' O-line deserves at least three highlights from Monday's romp. As the Giants were making their comeback in the second-quarter, Rich Seubert twice cleared the way for running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. But that was nothing compared to the pancakes Chris Snee was passing out, including the break-out block on Mario Manningham's game-breaking third-quarter touchdown. Snee absolutely pancaked Cowboys linebacker Bradie James to set Manningham free.
This success didn't come against any mediocre opponent. The Big Blue Uglies helped the Giants rack up 498 yards against the NFL's third-ranked defense.
4. As we say goodbye to the Old Brett Favre, are we saying hello to the new one? Eli Manning is not his older brother. He hears it all the time about how the machine-like Peyton is superior. But in some ways, Eli's trust in his arm obviously works to his advantage. While the football world has gone out of its way to compare Romo to the swashbuckling Favre of old, the fact is Romo hasn't won anything. And if anyone has Favre-like tendencies and the kind of short memory necessary to shake off bad moments, it's Eli. This Manning is not afraid to take chances and live with the results. How many quarterbacks -- Romo included -- never would have recovered from the kind of start Manning had in a hostile environment on the road? Two of Eli's first three passes were picked and set up the Cowboys inside the Giants' 20. All Manning did was continue to sling it everywhere and trust his arm. He made all the right calls and several game-changing reads against the Cowboys. Most significantly, Eli consistently threw passes in the vicinity of Cowboys end DeMarcus Ware. It accomplished several things: It gave the receiver on that side one-on-one coverage. It stopped Ware's rush in its tracks, as he jumped trying to block Manning's passes. And it allowed receivers and backs space to break tackles. Three of Eli's touchdown passes were thrown through lanes directly on Ware's side of the field.
5. The Cowboy wideouts may get all the headlines. But do they deserve the pub? Miles Austin had two crucial drops early on, when the Cowboys could have broken open the game. Jason Witten had a fumble that led to a Giants touchdown. Roy Williams was held without a catch. And, yeah, Dez Bryant is legit. But in the battle of wideouts, the Giants' corps dominated. Hakeem Nicks (9 catches, 108 yards, 2 TDs) and Steve Smith (9 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD) each broke the 100-yard barrier, while Kevin Boss and Manningham made big plays all night, receiving and blocking. The Cowboys' headline-grabbers dropped the ball in this one.
John P. Lopez is a columnist and sports talk host in Houston. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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