Running back Wayne Gallman
The Giants’ running game is near the bottom of the league (90.1 yards per game, ranked 28th) but you couldn’t tell by watching Gallman. He ran hard and with a purpose all game long. Gallman finished with 59 yards on 12 carries. He also showed off his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with seven receptions (tied for the team high) for 40 yards on 11 targets. Gallman got the increased workload due to Orleans Darkwa dealing with an illness last week and made the most of it. He showed the form that helped Clemson win a national championship last season. Gallman also showed he should get the ball more.
Wide receiver Darius Powe
If this game had a Perseverance Award, it would go to Powe. After spending the better part of the past two seasons on the practice squad, Powe was elevated to face the Giants’ most bitter division rival. His stats were not eye-popping with two receptions for 13 yards on four targets. It was Powe’s will that earned his teammates’ respect. He fractured his right foot on his first career NFL reception: an 8-yard short pass. Powe knew he was injured but refused to come out of the game, playing in 60 percent of the Giants’ offensive snaps. Powe will have season-ending surgery and join fellow receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris on injured reserve. In a season that has gone wrong in every way conceivable, Powe reminded his teammates and Giants fans that the game is sometimes much, much bigger than standings or playoff berths.
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard
Sheppard was flying all over the place, leading the Giants with 10 combined tackles. He also had two passes defended. Sheppard is one of the few bright spots on the Giants defense as his versatility was on full display against the Cowboys. It’s hard to believe that he only re-signed with the Giants back on Nov. 7 after being released by the Chicago Bears in the final round of preseason cuts. The Giants will need Sheppard’s play and energy as they are woefully thin at the linebacker position.
Wide receiver Sterling Shepard
Shepard became the Giants’ top receiver when Beckham and Marshall were lost for the season. He looked like anything but that against the Cowboys. He only had two receptions for 16 yards on three targets and lost nine yards on a rushing attempt. Shepard’s play has been down since missing two games with migraines. He only has five receptions for 72 yards in the past two games. The Giants need him to elevate his play as he is the No. 1 option on offense.
Cornerback Eli Apple
Apple was inactive for the fourth consecutive game because, officially, he didn’t get enough reps in practice. Something is amiss when the Giants chose to go with Brandon Dixon and Darryl Morris, two players who weren’t even on the active roster a few weeks ago. Even with Janoris Jenkins on injured reserve, the team is still not pressing to get Apple back on the field. Apple did himself no favors when he sent out tweets regarding his status and shouting out his former Ohio State teammate, Cowboys running back Rod Smith (Smith put the nail in the Giants’ coffin with an 81-yard touchdown run). There are rumors that the front office is not very happy with Apple, despite being a top-10 pick last season. His future doesn’t bode well if the Giants are purposely going with cornerbacks who aren’t as experienced.
Interim head coach/defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo
Spagnuolo was named interim head coach after the firing of Ben McAdoo and it showed on Sunday. He seemed to have difficulty making in-game decisions as he now has to worry about the offense. Spagnuolo’s offensive game plan was conservative, extremely surprising considering the Giants have the NFC’s worst record. He was named interim head coach because the Giants are not a very good football team. The team needed to sweep the month of December in order for the team to consider removing Spagnuolo’s interim tag and the Giants are 0-2 thus far. The Giants played like a team going through the motions in the Week 13 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Against the Cowboys, the Giants seemed so hell bent on not making a mistake they forgot Herm Edwards‘ timeless adage: “You play to win the game.” There is a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. Playing to win is pro-active while playing not to lose is reactive. Playing not to lose isn’t going to fly. It hasn’t all season. The Giants certainly can’t get any worse and they actually had a chance for Win #3 before the Cowboys scored 20 points in the fourth quarter. It would be nice to see the coaching staff take some chances, like Al Pacino’s character learned to do in Any Given Sunday.