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Third down confounds Giants defense

(TSX / STATS) -- EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Sunday night, the New York Giants defense was on the field for 71 plays.

If that sounds like a lot, it's because it is, especially if considering that the majority of those starting defensive players had relatively light preseason workloads that rarely topped 50 plays this past summer.

Couple the heavier workload with the Cowboys strategy to run an up-tempo offense, and the fact that the Giants had trouble getting off the field on third downs, allowing the Cowboys to convert 53 percent of their third-down situations and you have a recipe for one tired defense.

Unfortunately for the defense, this isn't something new. Last season, the Giants finished 2-4 in games in which the defense allowed the opponent to convert at least 40 percent of their third-down plays.

"I think they were in manageable third downs," said head coach Ben McAdoo when asked what the Cowboys did or the Giants didn't do. "It starts on first and second downs. We were either winning first down and not having success on second down, or vice versa. When you do that, a team that has balance like Dallas does, you make it tough on yourself."

While some Giants defenders admitted that fatigue seeped into their game, they all agreed that they could have done a better job in not letting things escalate as far as they did.

"It is not difficult at all," said safety Landon Collins. "Our job is we have to get off the field on third down. If we get off the field on third down, it is a different game."

Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie admitted that while the lopsidedness of the game was a factor, each member of the defense needed to "suck it up" and not let it affect his individual performance.

"That's what we practice for and go through all those OTAs," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "You can't even think about that. You just have to find a way to go out there and find a way to get off the field. We didn't get off the field enough."

The Cowboys ran 31 times and passed 39, giving them a nice balance of options. Because they were able to move the chains, that made things harder for the Giants to guess.

"They just played a good game, that's all I can say," Collins said. "They played within their system, they did a good job. They made those third-down plays they needed to make. We need to stop them every time we get the chance too. We are definitely going to do so next time."

Updated September 11, 2017

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