N.Y. Giants 31, Dallas 24: Gutless Performance Despite Lofty Statistics

On many of the message boards this year, two distinct types of fans (there
are other types, of course) have emerged.

The first gave up on the Cowboys after the team’s loss at Denver, saying that
Wade Phillips should have been fired then.

The second type weren’t ready to give up on the Cowboys, though most positive
comments were tempered with the phrase "…but let’s wait until we see what
happens in December."

There is no need to summarize the Cowboys’ December woes, given that nearly
every story about the Cowboys last week focused on those woes. But I’m going to do it anyway. What has tended
to happen in December?

(1) The Cowboys’ fundamentals fly out of the stadium. The team misses
tackles, blows assignments, misses key blocks, and you name what else.

Example: Allowing the Baltimore Ravens to score on two long runs to close out
the final game at Texas Stadium in 2008.

(2) The Cowboys’ offense makes key mistakes at the worst possible moments.
This might be an interception or a fumble, or it may just be a bad read.

Example: Tony Romo throwing a pick against the Steelers, which Pittsburgh
returned for a touchdown in a 20-13 Steeler win in 2008.

(3) When something positive happens for Dallas, the opposing team very
quickly erases any momentum that the Cowboys might have gained.

Example: The Cowboys eating up nearly all of the second quarter of their 2007
playoff game against the Giants and taking a 14-7 lead, only to watch the Giants
easily march down the field to tie the game before the half.

The Cowboys incorporated all of these miscues into their miserable, gutless
loss to a Giants team that provide it knew better than the Cowboys how to win.
The game had a feel much like the Cowboys’ 21-17 loss to New York in the 2007
playoffs; in fact, the Giants at one point led 21-17 on Sunday. The game was
likewise much like the Cowboys’ 20-13 loss at Pittsburgh in 2008, which began a
1-3 month of December that ended the Cowboys’ playoff hopes. Like the Cowboys’
loss at Pittsburgh, it was hard not to have the impression that Dallas would
find a way to lose the game.

At one point in the game Sunday, the Cowboys had outplayed the Giants and had
taken a 10-0 lead. In fact, Dallas took advantage of an Ahmad Bradshaw fumble to
score a touchdown with 3:14 remaining in the first half. The Giants had not yet
moved into Dallas territory, and it looked as if the Cowboys might start running
away with the game.

Then came three consecutive 16-yard gains by the Giants, including a pass
where Eli Manning should have been sacked but was able to flip the ball to tight
end Kevin Boss. With relative ease, the Giants scored on a 21-yard touchdown
pass when Terence Newman tried to make a play on the ball but missed, and Hakeem
Nicks pulled in the pass to score.

Dallas began what looked like a nice drive into Giant territory, but Mathias
Kiwanuka stripped Marion Barber on a screen pass, and Osi Umenyiora picked up
the ball and raced to the Dallas 28. The Giants again scored rather easily and
took a 14-10 lead.

Thus, what looked like a very promising first half falls apart thanks to all
three of the miscues noted above. The rest of the game was not pretty for Dallas
fans, even with some positive plays thrown in the mix.

The Giants opened the second half by moving the ball effectively yet again,
but from the Dallas 25, Manning lofted a pass that Mike Jenkins intercepted.

The teams then exchanged three-and-out drives before the Cowboys got rolling
again. Dallas moved the ball 56 yards in eight plays, capped off by Tony Romo’s
second touchdown pass to Roy Williams. Dallas had the momentum again, along with
a 17-14 lead.

The momentum lasted for 19 seconds on the game clock. On the Giants’ next
drive, Manning hit Brandon Jacobs in the flat, and Jacobs outran Anthony Spencer
and Bradie James and broke an attempted tackle by Gerald Sensabaugh to go 74
yards for a touchdown.

It was all but over for the Cowboys after that, even though it was only a
four-point game. Dallas managed to move to the Giant 24 with 10:50 remaining,
but on a third-and-seven play, Romo missed Tashard Choice on what might have
been a touchdown pass. Nick Folk then completely blew a 41-yard field goal
attempt.

The Giants responded with a drive down to the Dallas 5, but the Cowboys held.
With a Lawrence Tynes field goal, the Giants extended their lead to 24-17.

With the Cowboys needing some heroics, Romo managed to commit an intentional
grounding penalty, and the Cowboys had to punt. The stellar punt return team had
several shots to bring down Domenik Hixon, but Hixon broke several arm tackles
en route to a 79-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys had a chance to close the gap to seven with just over four
minutes to play, but Romo’s pass to Williams went way too high. Dallas failed to
convert a fourth down and turned the ball over.

Romo hit Miles Austin on a 22-yard touchdown pass with just under a minute
left to cut the lead to 31-24, but the Cowboys failed to recover the onside
kick.

At least

one blogger
gave the Cowboys credit for their performance today, but it’s
hard to believe that this season will turn out any better than previous years.
The Cowboys that played today are no different than the Cowboys who could not
finish out the season in previous years.

As for numbers, Tony Romo was a fine fantasy quarterback today. He completed
41 of 55 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns. Jason Witten had a huge game
with 14 receptions for 156 yards, while Austin had 10 receptions for 104 yards
and a TD. Williams had his first multiple touchdown game since 2007.

  • Darren Robinson

    I don’t know about you, but I have been a fan since I was 10 years old. I know that things did not look good, but I have to wait until after next week. If they beat San Diego at home, I believe that they will upset the Saints in the dome on the 19th. I’m not just going to give up on the team because of a loss to the Giants. Let’s let the season play out and then we will see. I know that Wade is gone whether they make the playoffs or not. I think that the only way he returns is if he takes the boys to the NFC championship game, minimum. Just enjoy the game and wait and see.
    Go Cowboys!!!

  • Darren,

    I have been a fan since I was six years old and have now followed this team for 32 years. I appreciate your optimism. I believed that this team had better leadership with Brooking on defense, and I liked what I heard from Romo, Wittten & Co. last week. None of it mattered.

    I don’t put all of this on Wade, because we’ve had similar problems for many years now. But Wade’s inability/unwillingness to crack the whip isn’t helping matters at all. I don’t believe that this team will go 3-1 to finish the season, meaning that the team is probably just hoping for a wildcard berth. I also have a hard time seeing the team winning a playoff game on the road, and if this is a one-and-done season, there is now way Wade comes back next year.

  • Rick

    Yesterday was a complete debacle. It is not good enough for the players to just be happy with a win; the fact is is that players get ahead 10-0 and they think they have the win. There is no fire in the belly with this team and, sometimes, when they are playing a third tier team, they can pull off a win. At least Flozell called someone out from NY. Please don’t give me the “well if you were down there blocking Tuck” argument. Losing, under any circumstances, particularly to an NFC East team, should be unacceptable. You can justify this loss any way you want but it was a complete lack of leadership and lack of desire that continues to plague this team.

  • Mac

    It’s hard to win (remember Baltimore ’08) when your defense and special teams are giving up big plays. And some stupid penalties when you are trying to advance the ball just burn up whatever momentum you are experiencing on a drive. Whats up with Marty ‘B? He had a nice ball thrown right to the numbers that he dropped on an important 3rd down. If he wants the ball more, he’s gotta do something with it when his number is called. Preseason doesn’t count. Just 5 or 6 plays really made the difference here. Maybe they’ll win in San Diego – we’ll just have to wait and see what unfolds. But what happened Sunday is not at all encouraging.

  • Fred

    Romo is another Danny White. Great stats – no rings. I’m waiting for the next Aikman.
    This team is too fat and happy with their paychecks. I don’t think they WANT to play after December!!

  • Eddie O

    The question should be why this team can not win big games what ever ther month is , It get tiredsome to go for these guys in big games and time and time again get let down then after hear some bad excuse on what they failed to do. They are not coached well and they should have beaten the Giants I was there and there were a lot of Cowboy fans there I would say 30% at least and again a big let down. Lets see what happens but I am not getting my hopes up !!!

  • Mike Little

    I wish i could say, How bout them Cowboys!,but instead,they were who we thought they were,and we let ’em off the hook! If Dallas wins against the Chargers we are back to square one Cowboy sheepful,so there is one thing to brighten up this day.The NFL is a bad leauge with two pretty good teams in the Colts,and Saints.11 wins should do it right? Win at home twice Chargers & Eagles.Win against Washington and loss at Big Easy makes it a piece of cake,and if if’s and but’s were candy,and nuts we would all have a Merry Christmas.

  • David

    This is a depressing loss because statistically we played well but we allowed them back in the game. I am a big fan but it seems like we don’t play with a lot of emotion. We have good players on the team but I don’t see them overpowering and taking over games. You’re right, gutless.

  • Richard

    Wow.
    Just watched the game against the Chargers. Just wow.

    You all still feelin optimistic?
    So ridiculous.