Prob­lem solv­ing

Cow­boys, Giants fa­vor old school ways, but suc­cess de­pends on Dak and Eli

The Dallas Morning News - - Sportsday - TIM COWLISHAW wt­cowlishaw@dal­las­news.com

It’s hard to be­lieve this Sun­day night marks the 10th home opener at AT&T Sta­dium for the Cow­boys. It’s not hard to be­lieve this is the sixth time their op­po­nent is the Giants.

(I was go­ing to guess seven be­fore I looked it up).

Sports pro­vide us the op­por­tu­nity to live in our own past, to re­mem­ber teams as they were when we were younger, in my case a kid at the Cot­ton Bowl watch­ing Don Mered­ith go long to Bob Hayes who out­ran the Giants’ Clarence Childs, a fel­low Florida A&M speed­ster, in what was called “The Great Race.”

NBC loves this his­toric matchup be­cause you’ve got the big­gest

mar­ket in the league (and by far the more pop­u­lar of the two teams shar­ing that mar­ket) against the con­stant rat­ings suc­cess that is the Cow­boys. As I said, fans like to live in the past.

Be­tween them, the Giants and Cow­boys own nine of the NFC’s 27 Su­per Bowl vic­to­ries, even if Dal­las’ most re­cent triumph pushes some mem­o­ries to the limit. And yet these sto­ried fran­chises leave us scratch­ing our heads to­day, won­der­ing if maybe their de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­live the past doesn’t rep­re­sent some kind of glar­ing mis­take.

Not to dis­miss the work of Roger Staubach or Troy Aik­man, but the Cow­boys’ Su­per Bowls were also very much a prod­uct of Tony Dorsett and Em­mitt Smith. The Giants won their first two Su­per Bowls un­der Bill Par­cells on the strength of their run­ning game and a con­trolled pass­ing at­tack, whether it was Joe Mor­ris or O.J. An­der­son car­ry­ing the load. They even won with a backup quar­ter­back in 1991 when Jeff Hostetler had to re­place an in­jured Phil Simms.

Eli Man­ning ob­vi­ously played a fea­tured role in the last two Giants’ Su­per Bowls which them­selves are start­ing to fade from the mem­ory banks (2007 and 2011 sea­sons). The Giants had the choice of re­plac­ing Man­ning with any quar­ter­back other than Baker May­field in the April draft.

They passed on Sam Darnold, now a Jet steal­ing head­lines in their own town, and opted for Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley. The hope is that, with Man­ning hav­ing a cou­ple of func­tional sea­sons left in Years 15 and 16, Barkley will do for their of­fense what the ar­rival of Ezekiel El­liott did for Dal­las in 2016.

These teams are still try­ing to win cham­pi­onships while fo­cused on fea­ture backs. It’s an old school men­tal­ity and who can say it won’t work, but it comes at a time when the Ea­gles, Pa­tri­ots and Bron­cos have won the last four Su­per Bowls with­out re­ally car­ing much about who was run­ning the ball as long as their pass­ing game was go­ing full speed.

That’s why as much as the Giants and Cow­boys would love for Barkley or El­liott to cap­ture the head­lines off Sun­day night’s game, it’s still all about Eli and Dak. That’s to­day’s game.

And there’s not much dif­fer­ence be­tween these two quar­ter­backs ... other than $218 mil­lion in ca­reer earn­ings and a cou­ple of dusty Su­per Bowl rings that Eli keeps some­where. Both have come un­der fire af­ter poor per­for­mances in Week 1 de­feats.

Nei­ther threw a touch­down pass. Man­ning threw an in­ter­cep­tion while Prescott was sacked six times. Both av­er­aged only about 6 yards per at­tempt. The big­gest dif­fer­ence right now is that peo­ple ques­tion whether the Cow­boys have ad­e­quate weapons at re­ceiver while Odell Beck­ham Jr. caught 11 passes for New York last week. He just didn’t pile up his usual yardage to­tal or find the end zone.

Giants safety Lan­don Collins

said it was in New York’s best in­ter­est to keep the ball in Dak’s hands and not Zeke’s. That’s not re­ally an out­ra­geous state­ment, given that Zeke led the NFL in rush­ing as a rookie, is the lead­ing rusher over his first two sea­sons de­spite last year’s sus­pen­sion and be­cause, as men­tioned, no one re­ally knows if Allen Hurns or Tavon Austin or Deonte Thomp­son or rookie Michael Gallup have Pro Bowls in their fu­ture.

Still, it had to en­cour­age Cow­boys fans to hear Prescott’s quick

re­sponse to Collins’ state­ment. “Chal­lenge ac­cepted,” he said. Dak knows what’s at stake here and cer­tainly Eli is aware of what hap­pens 90 per­cent of the time to 0-2 teams. He has ex­pe­ri­enced it. It re­mains one of the re­mark­able sta­tis­tics in NFL his­tory that Eli Man­ning ac­cu­mu­lated all eight of his play­off vic­to­ries in two post­sea­sons. When not win­ning Su­per Bowls, he has never won an­other play­off game.

The Giants be­lieve he has po­ten­tial post­sea­son suc­cess left in his arm, and the Cow­boys want to make cer­tain the same is true of Dak be­fore he starts carv­ing into that mas­sive mon­e­tary lead Eli has on him. Two of the game’s best run­ning backs will be on dis­play on NBC on Sun­day night, but they will prob­a­bly fill sup­port­ing roles.

The quar­ter­back who sur­vives the pass rush and gets things done wins this game.

Michael Hogue/Staff Artist

2012 File Photo/Getty Images

Eli Man­ning has di­rected the Giants to two Su­per Bowl ti­tles, but he has never won a play­off game out­side of those two sea­sons.

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