TORONTO - It’s D-Day for the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
With playoff possibilities and seedings being affected by most of the games Sunday, there is none bigger than the Giants-Cowboys clash.
A Dallas win would put the Cowboys two games up on the Giants with three games to go in the race for the NFC East division crown. A victory by New York would draw the two teams equal, both at 7-6, with the Giants holding the tiebreaker.
All the pressure, however, seems to be on the visiting Giants, who are on the road and have no wiggle room left. They have to win. It’s as simple as that.
“The season’s on the line,” was how Giants cornerback Corey Webster put it Friday.
Added New York linebacker Michael Boley: “There’s pressure on both teams — given the stakes of this game, given the intensity of it, given the fact that this game could make or break whoever’s going to win the division.”
Both teams are coming into the game off losses last Sunday.
The Giants, though, have to be buoyed by their effort against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers where they lost 38-35 in a thrilling shootout.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, may still be bitter over a 19-13 overtime loss to Arizona, a game they should have won.
If momentum is riding anywhere in Arlington, it has to be seen on the side of the Giants.
Of the two teams, the Giants are also the more desperate one and that may give them another edge.
“We’ve got to win the game,” Giants defensive end Dave Tollefson said. “If we lose, we lose a lot more than just a game. We don’t want to leave Dallas having lost control of what we need to happen.
“Throughout this four-game losing streak we’ve always at least still had some sense of control. If we don’t win this week, we lose all of that control.”
An obvious key to the game will be the performance of quarterback Eli Manning, who to date is putting together one of his best seasons from a statistical perspective.
But it will all mean nothing if he fails to deliver in this one.
“Certain people perform well under pressure and certain people don’t,” Webster said. “I think we do a good job of not letting it affect us, having the Eli Manning mentality where nothing bothers us and we keep on rolling with the punches.”
On Sunday they’ll be looking for the knockout blow.
UNDER THE GUN
Rarely has a coach received a grilling like the one by Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur the day after his loss to Pittsburgh. The questions weren’t about the loss, though. Rather they were centred on whether his quarterback, Colt McCoy, received proper medical attention following a violent hit by the Steelers’ James Harrison, one that laid him out on the field. McCoy missed just two plays before returning and following the game was suffering from obvious concussion symptoms.
Shurmur defended his decision to send McCoy back into the game and that the team followed the proper procedures.
“If he would have shown symptoms of a concussion, then I wouldn’t have put him back in the game, absolutely not,” Shurmur said. “It would have been out of my hands anyway because I would have been told he can’t go back in the game, but with the way it happens — listen that was a tough physical game. Everybody got knocked around. If he had the symptoms, he wouldn’t have gone back in the game, absolutely not. We go through the strict protocol to evaluate whether there are concussion-like symptoms.
“I was told that Colt could go back in the game. He came up right next to me and said, ‘I’m ready to roll,’ so he went back in.”
McCoy’s father, Brad McCoy, told The Plain Dealer on Friday that his son didn’t remember anything after the hit.
“He never should’ve gone back in the game,” Brad McCoy said. “He was basically out (cold) after the hit. You could tell by the rigidity of his body as he was laying there. There were a lot of easy symptoms that should’ve told them he had a concussion. He was nauseated and he didn’t know who he was.”
Shurmur, however, said the symptoms didn’t surface until sometime after the game.
“When we were leaving the locker room is when I was made aware of it,” Shurmur said. “I’m usually the last one to leave.
“I think these concussions or concussion-like symptoms, they’re different. It could happen immediately, it could happen in hours, it could be a day later.”
The NFL said it is looking into the situation and whether or not the Browns violated the stringent NFL concussion guidelines.
In Minneapolis, they are doing everything short of lighting candles and flying Christian Ponder to Lourdes, in order to get him back of the centre for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
Ponder is suffering from a hip pointer and has undergone pool exercises and ultrasound treatments in an effort to get ready for the game.
Ponder said he has been encouraged by the hip’s improvement but isn’t sure whether the swelling and tightness will subside before Sunday.
“I’m confident that I’ll be able to go. I think it’s a matter of my effectiveness,” he said. “I don’t know how effective I’ll be. I would like to think I’d be playing 100 percent, but I don’t know if that’s 100 percent true.”
Head coach Leslie Frazier said he was encouraged by Ponder’s movement during Friday’s practice but his final status would probably be a game-time decision.
“Being able to see him drop back and deliver the ball and have accuracy and move around a little bit, that was encouraging, because yesterday he was pretty stiff,” Frazier said. “We will see how he feels tomorrow, as well, when he is throwing the ball around. But we were encouraged by some of his movements today.”
If Ponder can’t go, the duties will shift to backup Joe Webb.