Cowboys, Giants favor old school ways, but success depends on Dak and Eli
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.
Eli Manning has directed the Giants to two Super Bowl titles, but he has never won a playoff game outside of those two seasons.