Dallas 33, N.Y. Giants 20: More Than Just a Pulse
The Cowboys could have shown they had some life in them just by playing a competitive game against the red-hot Giants. Even the most optimistic fan had to start thinking, “Here we go again,” when the Giants kept making a game of it on Sunday. Even if New York had won, most would have praised Jason Garrett for the team’s fight in an uphill battle.
But every time the Giants looked like they would assert their dominance over Dallas, the Cowboys responded. The Cowboys played their most inspired football since beating the Texans in week 3, and Dallas came away with the improbable 33-20 win.
1st Quarter: The Cowboys held the Giants on New York’s first drive, but then the Dallas offense stalled. The Giants drove for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, and it was hard to forget how the Cowboys laid down in the past couple of weeks. Instead, Jon Kitna threw deep to Dez Bryant and hit the rookie receiver on a 45-yard play. One play later, Bryant made a sensational catch in the front corner of the end zone to haul in a 13-yard touchdown that gave Dallas a lead the team would not relinquish (even when David Buehler saw his extra point attempt tipped).
2nd Quarter: The Cowboys held a 9-3 lead thanks to a Buehler field goal, but the Cowboys’ offense had been stalled inside the one. In the wake of the Cowboys’ missed opportunity, the Giants drove down for what appeared to be the go-ahead score. Instead, on third-and-goal from the 2, Eli Manning looked for Hakeem Nicks on the slant only to find rookie free agent corner Bryan McCann, who jumped the route and picked the pass off one yard in the end zone. McCann had nobody in front of him, and he raced the distance for a touchdown. It was a 14-point turnaround in what turned out to be a 13-point game. Losing Mike Jenkins to injury suddenly became much less of a concern.
Later in the 2nd Quarter: The Cowboys increased their lead to 19-3, but it was hard to forget that Dallas held a 20-7 lead against the Giants just three weeks ago. The Giants drove to the Dallas 7 with less than two minutes left in the half, but Dallas held and forced a field goal. It was still a 19-6 game at halftime.
3rd Quarter: The Cowboys opened the second half with two plays that went nowhere. Dallas failed to convert a third down in the first half, but on third-and-10, Kitna threw a nice screen pass to Felix Jones. The Giant defense stacked to the Cowboys’ right, and Jones had a seam to the left. He darted up that seam and went 71 yards for a touchdown to increase the Dallas lead to 26-6.
Midway Through the 3rd Quarter: The Dallas kickoff team yet again gave up a long kickoff return, giving the Giants the ball at their own 42. Nine plays later, it was a 26-13 game. All season, Dallas has folded in these circumstances. The Dallas team that showed up on Sunday drove 85 yards for a touchdown. Key play #1 was a 46-yard pass to Bryant. Key play #2 was a 27-yard completion to Roy Williams on 3rd-and-22. One play later, Kitna found Miles Austin for a 24-yard touchdown that increased the Dallas lead to 33-13.
Holding on to the Lead: The Giants struck again quickly. A pass interference penalty on McCann gave the Giants the ball in Dallas territory. Manning then hit a wide-open Kevin Boss on a 35-yard touchdown. There was still 5:19 left in the third quarter, and it was once again a 13-point game at 33-20. Early in the fourth quarter, the Giants drove to the Dallas 42 but faced a 4th-and-1 (thanks to a nice catch in coverage by Boss on a 3rd-and-20). New York ran left with Brandon Jacobs, but the Dallas line got a push, and Bradie James crashed right into Jacobs to make the stop.
Overcoming Mistakes: It looked as if the Cowboys might put it away on the next drive when Kitna appeared to hit Bryant inside the New York 10. However, the Giants challenged the play, and it was reversed. Kitna was eventually picked off in the end zone. On the next drive, Manning hit Nicks on a deep pass that would have cut the Dallas lead to 6. The play was called back because of a hold, though, and on the next play, Manning couldn’t grab a low snap, and Dallas recovered. Dallas was ready to increase the lead to 16 points, but Buehler pushed the kick to his right.
Big Stop: The Giants still needed two touchdowns even after Buehler’s miss. New York drove to the Dallas 17, but on 3rd-and-10, Manning misfired over the middle, and Alan Ball came up with his first career interception to seal the win for Dallas.
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Most interesting comment I heard on the postgame show: Kitna referred to Bryant as a “violent” receiver. He may not have started tonight and only had three receptions, but Bryant certainly looked more like a #1 receiver than Miles Austin has recently.
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That burst that Felix Jones showed on his touchdown reception has been missing all year. He and Marion Barber combined for 97 yards. This isn’t great, but its much better than recent efforts. As for Tashard Choice… ?
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David Buehler needs to be released. Period. Sure, his extra point was tipped at the line, but he badly missed on a 34-yard field goal that would have all but secured the win for Dallas. Oh, he’s a kickoff specialist? In nine games, the average length of his kickoffs is 61.4 yards, ranking 30th among those with at least 25 kickoffs this season. His average in 2009 was 67.4 yards. The league leader in kickoff yardage is former Dallas kicker Billy Cundiff, who has averaged 72.4 yards per kickoffs and who has recorded 25 touchbacks this season for Baltimore. Buehler has six.