The Giants did just enough Sunday. The Cowboys haven’t done nearly enough.
That doesn’t mean next Monday’s NFC East game in Dallas is destined to be a snoozer. It’s always interesting down there. But there is no question now that the Giants head into that game as the current class of the division.
The Cowboys, at one time thought of as contenders to play the Super Bowl in their own sparkly new building this year, have fallen on hard, 1-4 times. They lost Sunday to Minnesota 24-21, causing the cloud of doom and gloom that loomed high over the Texas sky to descend even lower on the franchise.
The fans want Wade Phillips gone. Owner Jerry Jones hasn’t ruled out the playoffs, but he’s not optimistic, either.
"I'm very disappointed," Jones said. "I realize the challenge we've got and we're not playing well to get it done right now. We're running out of the opportunity to make this season what we want it to be. Everybody is aware of that."
Jones isn’t ready to jettison Phillips, at least not until after the season. But there is no doubt that any semblance of common sense has left that organization. The Cowboys commit the worst kind of penalties – unaggressive and unthinking. Like the one two weeks ago that cost them 15 yards on a kickoff for excessive touchdown celebration, a late fourth-quarter call that positioned Tennessee for the winning touchdown. They drew 11 flags against Minnesota.
They’re not thinking.
Flip that over to the Giants’ side and you have quite a different story. They used their heads quite a bit in their 28-20 win over Detroit. No, it wasn’t a domination the likes of the Houston game last week. But when it counted, the Giants created three turnovers with good, hard-hitting defense. And they didn’t turn the ball over on offense once.
The running game came alive when they needed it, as Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 133 yards, 45 of them right after Deon Grant made like a high school wrestler and pinned Nate Burleson to the ground as he reached across and gathered in the receiver’s fumble. There was also Kenny Phillips, who delivered a perfectly-time blow to the chops of Calvin Johnson just as a Drew Stanton pass was about to settle into Johnson’s arms deep downfield in crunch time.
They’re playing clutch, and the Giants have a 4-2 record and a three-game winning streak to show for it.
As for the division, the Giants and Eagles are tied for first place. But the Giants are in better health, as the Eagles have now lost playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson for what should be an extended period with a severe concussion. Health means a lot in the NFC East.
So does momentum. And right now, the Giants have it. The Cowboys, looking to salvage their season already, would like nothing better than to take it away. A DeMarcus Ware sack here, a Tony Romo-to-Jason Witten touchdown there, and the Cowboys could well do it.
Then again, an Osi Umenyiora strip sack could turn that game around on a dime.
The Giants will have to do more than just enough in Dallas if they expect to get their first division win of the season. Gritty, uneven performances like the one the Giants beat the Lions with tend not to stand up well against the Cowboys, no matter their previous struggles.
Leave the “B” game for the Detroits of the world. The Giants need to use this long week find their “A” game again.