Postgame: Dallas #2, L (21 – 24)

The glimmer of playoff hope the Giants kept alive during their 4 game win streak is no more. With Dallas and Philadelphia tied at the top of the division, and their two games against one another still to be played, the G-Men are all but mathematically eliminated from contention. There are still plenty of reasons to keep eyes on our team, but first here’s a recap of what was the most gut wrenching loss of the season:

RECAP

There was a slow start in Met Life Stadium, as each of the teams ended their first two possessions with punts. Over those drives, the Giants accumulated four penalties, and began what would become a dreaded “penalties” story line. Two plays into Dallas’ third drive, Romo threw a pass over the middle to Dez Bryant, who had the ball go off his hands into Antrel Rolle’s and stayed on the ground injured after the play. This was one of those spark plays that the Giants had relied on their defense to provide over the win streak. On the ensuing NYG possession, our running game got going with two consecutive long rushes (of 14 and 10 yards) by Andre Brown.

But on the third play, 1st and 10 from the NYG-45, Manning completed a short pass to Victor Cruz, who fumbled the ball after being swarmed by three Cowboys and seemed to have had his forward progress stopped. No such luck, as the whistle didn’t sound and safety Jeff Heath returned the ball for a defensive touchdown. The Giants responded immediately with a 21 yard field goal; they got help in the form of two Cowboys penalties, one of which kept the drive alive on a third down when we were still on our own 28. Some eyebrows raised on the decision to hand the ball off out of the shotgun when it was 3rd-and-goal on the DAL-7. Brown picked up only 4 yards, and the Giants picked up only 3 points. And before we could even appreciate them, DeMarco Murray and Romo drove Dallas 80 yards in 5 plays, ending with a 20 yard Jason Witten touchdown grab. Cowboys up 14 – 3.

There were plenty of nerves in the air as we began our next possession, and things got way worse when Andre Brown fumbled on the very first play. Again, we were bailed out by a Cowboys penalty, this time an illegal contact on Brandon Carr, who was nowhere near the play. Lucky. We went from the NYG-35 to the DAL-4 without throwing a pass, thanks in large part to a 37 yard rumble from Brandon Jacobs. Then a loss of six on a run play, incomplete pass intended for Brandon Myers, and it’s 3rd-and-goal on the DAL-10. “BOO”s rained from the crowd as Andre Brown ran 5 yards out of a shotgun set, and New York settled for another field goal after another third down run inside the 10.

Three more punts ended the half, but some poor clock management prevented the Giants from having another field goal opportunity. Not only had we wasted our first timeout one play before our first field goal, but we also let seconds tick off the clock while Dallas was in fourth down. Obviously we’ll never know if those 3 extra points would’ve translated into a win, but considering how close the finish was I think we were wrong not to be more aggressive at the end of the half.

The opening drive of the 3rd quarter has the Giants going from their own 34 to the DAL-35, all on the ground. We turn the ball over on downs with an incomplete pass on 4th-and-6. The following drive contained the game’s most controversial play, when a Cole Beasley fumble recovered by Will Hill was negated by a “roughing the passer” on Mathias Kiwanuka. It won’t be easy to find anyone who agrees with the call, especially around New York. To make matters worse, Antrel Rolle gets slapped with a similarly controversial “unnecessary roughness” call on the next play when he pushed DeMarco Murray after he (arguably) stepped out of bounds. It was certainly close, but there isn’t the complete uproar from the crowd if a fumble isn’t erased by a bad call seconds earlier. It takes the Cowboys 3 plays to go the final 6 yards, but once more Jason Witten ends up with the ball in the endzone. The Giants now trail 6 – 21 and hope is dwindling fast.

The response is a — much needed — 6 play, 2:21 touchdown drive. Quick and effective. The best part is that Brandon Myers should have been downed around the DAL-10, but two Cowboys defenders neglect to touch him while he’s on the ground and he gets up and scoots in for the score. On the kickoff, we try to surprise the return team with a booch kick to an offensive lineman, who muffs a fair catch but is able to recover the ball. Rats. They punt, we punt, they punt, we punt, they punt, all on very short lived possessions.

Alas, with 8:58 left in the game, we have the ball and let our Brown/Jacobs tandem go to work. On a crucial 3rd-and-8, Cruz reels in a 22 yard pass over the middle to bring us to the DAL-5. Of all people, Louis Murphy makes the touchdown grab, one week removed from causing a red-zone interception on his only offensive snap. Everyone in the stadium knew the 2 point conversion was going to be a run out of the shotgun. There may have been riots if it failed, but it succeeded, and the crowd went wild. Tie game, 21 – 21, with 4:45 left to go.

This is the hard part. Romo and the Cowboys offense really pull through in the clutch, and milk the entire clock while getting into field goal position. They convert a 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-5, and 3rd-and-10, to Bryant, Bryant, and Beasley, respectively. Not much else to talk about. Don’t point at our defense for the loss, though; just like the first six weeks, our offense’s tendency to give up free points and inability to get touchdowns from the red-zone plagued our team.

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