When the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys met in Week 1, Big Blue’s defense was embarrassed after giving up 494 yards of offense and four touchdown passes to Dak Prescott in the Cowboys 35-17 win.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—There haven’t been many bright spots in the New York Giants 2019 season. The team is 2-6, riding a four-game losing streak and seemed destined for another double-digit loss season.
As bad as the season has been, the lowest moment occurred in Week 1 at AT&T Stadium when they were embarrassed by the rival Cowboys, 35-17. The defense, in particular, was thoroughly overmatched as they allowed Dak Prescott to look like an All-Pro quarterback, completing 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns.
Cowboys receivers had a field day against the Giants secondary. Both Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper both had over 100 yards receiving and, as a team, the Cowboys pass-catchers averaged 16.2 yards per reception.
Perhaps the most embarrassing stat from that game was found in the fact they allowed the Cowboys to score on five consecutive possessions.
Many expected the Giants defense and, in particular, their secondary to struggle early, considering the plethora of new, young faces. But the defense is still struggling eight weeks later.
They’ve allowed six of their seven opponents to score at least 27 points or more and have allowed four quarterbacks to throw for at least 300 yards (Jameis Winston, Kirk Cousins, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford).
Despite playing together for eight games, the secondary still has communication issues which lead to giving up huge chunks of yardage. The defense is currently ranked 28th in total yards per game (386.8).
On Friday, defensive coordinator James Bettcher was asked what, especially, he’s disappointed in most.
“The explosive plays, for sure,” the Giants defensive coordinator said. “The explosive plays because you change two explosive plays a game or one explosive play a game and then all those things that you’re talking about, whatever those numbers are ranked, they all change. And it changes field position, and in close games, which we’ve played some close games, field position is points. Those have to continue to get erased. We all know that and there’s no hiding that, there’s no hiding the emphasis we’re putting on it, there’s no hiding the emphasis. We’re trying as a coaching staff to take ownership of what those things are and why they’re happening. Again, I can’t tell you how much I love the players and their responsiveness to that.”
The Cowboys are coming off a bye week, meaning they’ll be especially prepared.
It’s imperative Bettcher comes up with a scheme to slow down the Cowboys passing attack or Monday night’s game will look similar to the season opener.
One thing Bettcher can do differently is press the Cowboys receivers at the line and not allow them free releases deep into the secondary. Rookie cornerback DeAndre Baker made his NFL debut in Week 1 and has made steady improvements since then. The kid should be up to the task this time around in getting physical with the Cowboys receivers.
But the best way to slow down the Cowboys offense is to get pressure on Prescott. The Giants failed to sack Prescott in their Week 1 matchup, but Bettcher believes the newly-acquired Leonard Williams can change all of that.
“I do believe that this will be a good fit for him (Williams),” Bettcher revealed. “I think that he’s a guy that when you just keep watching more, obviously we watched quite a bit of his tape from the Jets, and I think I said this a couple of weeks ago, sometimes there’s more to rushing the passer than just—we all want the sack number, we all want the quarterback hit number, but there’s something to getting a guy off the spot on the inside and making the quarterback lower his vision and have to move left or right.”
Monday’s game against the Cowboys is a huge game for the Giants as they look to end their five-game losing streak to their division foe, and a huge game for the coaching career of Bettcher.
Over the past two seasons, the front office has acquired several players that Bettcher coached when he was with the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, and the defense continues to struggle. If Prescott looks like an All-Pro quarterback again on Monday, this could be the beginning of the end for Bettcher’s tenure with Big Blue.
In the NFL, wins and losses come in team form, but it’s been a long time since the defense has held its own against a playoff-caliber opponent. Bettcher needs to maximize his unit’s potential on Monday night.