The New York Giants led the Dallas Cowboys 23-13 midway through the fourth quarter Sunday night, kicked a field goal with less than two minutes to go, and still lost. Yes, Dallas scored on back-to-back, six-play touchdown drives – the second coming with just seven ticks left on the clock – to win 27-26.
How did the Giants collapse like that?
“Well, there was that really ill-advised pass out of the end zone that Eli Manning threw that gave the Cowboys an extra 40 seconds,” Sports Illustrated NFL writer Doug Farrar said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Their defense kind of fell apart on the subsequent drive, which was too bad because the secondary played really well. Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played extremely well, and honestly, the Cowboys should not have been in that position because the pass interference call on Rodgers-Cromartie the play before the touchdown pass to Gavin Escobar was one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. I would expect the Giants will get the letter apology from the league this week and that won’t do much to assuage their loss issues, but yeah, the officiating (was not good). Honestly, Bill Vinovich’s crew was awful. It was kind of a mess of a game overall.”
The same could be said for Titans/Bucs – at least if you’re a Bucs fan. Marcus Mariota proved Tennessee right through one game, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions in leading the Titans to a 42-14 win in Week 1.
Farrar was especially impressed with Mariota’s rhythm and timing.
“It’s funny because when shotgun quarterbacks start playing under center, those dropbacks – they do what I call river dancing where they don’t really have that sidestep together yet,” Farrar said. “Mariota seems to have done the protections, reading defenses, dropping back from under center – he’s got it all so down, and so quickly. And then Ken Whisenhunt, the head coach, they’ve put together package plays, little different option things – it was just a really impressive mixture of what Mariota can do and what he has to do.”
Mariota was an efficient 13-of-16 for 209 yards, as Tennessee led 21-0 after the first quarter and 35-7 at halftime.
“The Buccaneers are proving what we’ve all known for a a couple of years,” Farrar said. “You can’t play Cover 2 as a predominant defense in the NFL anymore. You’re just going to get your lunch eaten. They’ve got to be more diverse or they’re just going to get killed like that every week.”
Winston, meanwhile, wasn’t nearly as good as Mariota, throwing a pick-six on his first pass and finishing 16-of-33 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
What didn’t go well for the No. 1 overall pick?
“I think what didn’t go well for him were the same things that didn’t go well for him preseason,” Farrar said. “A-gap blitzes drive him nuts. He doesn’t react to pressure well, and behind that offensive line he’s going to get a lot of it. He’s kind of the opposite of Mariota – and Mariota is a quick-twitch player. Jameis Winston, he’s mobile, but he reminds me of Philip Rivers. He’ll just stand there in the pocket and let people tee off on him. I think he needs to react to things a little more quickly. I think he will, but Mariota is just built more for the modern passing game than I think Jameis Winston is.”