Stat worth noting: The Giants really never gave themselves a chance, losing the turnover battle, 2-0. Eli Manning threw two INTs.
Stat worth noting II: The Cowboys, who averaged 5.8 yards per snap, were more than two yards per play better than New York (3.6).
Turning point: The Giants had not only the game’s momentum but history on their side as well late in the fourth quarter. Trailing 14-8, New York needed only to stop Dallas on a third-and-nine play from near midfield and they’d get the ball back with more than two minutes to play. However, Eli Manning never got the chance to work his late-game magic. Tony Romo lofted a perfect pass to Jason Witten, who had a step on Giants safety Michael Johnson. Witten lunged for the final couple yards and got the game-sealing first down.
Play to remember: The Giants recorded a safety when they absolutely, positively needed the defense to step up and make a play. They sure delivered. Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka broke through the line and combined to drop Tony Romo in the end zone for two points midway through the final period. On the play, during which it appeared the left side of the Cowboys offensive line was unaware of the snap count, the Giants regained the ball, and the game’s momentum, at least for the moment.
Play to forget: Talk about rubbing salt in the wound. The Cowboys had just converted the game’s turning point we just mentioned. But they weren’t satisfied. Dallas rookie running back Tashard Choice, whom the Giants just could not stop when they needed to, ripped right through the middle of Big Blue’s deflated defense for a 38-yard TD that forged the game’s final score of 20-8.
What went right
Derrick Ward (64 yards, 4.6 yards per carry) and Domenik Hixon (six catches, 60 yards) both did a very admirable job of replacing Brandon Jacobs and Plaxico Burress, respectively.
As usual, Terrell Owens failed to back up all his talk. TO, who was booed by the hometown fans when he took the field before the game, dropped Tony Romo’s third-down pass on a play that should have gone for a big gain, but instead ended Dallas’ first drive. For the game, Owens only caught three passes for 38 yards.
Late in the first quarter, the Giants pass rush assaulted Romo. On consecutive plays, Dallas’ pretty-boy QB was dropped by Renaldo Wynn and Jay Alford for a total loss of 13 yards. Alford’s sack was even more impressive since he was held on the play by Dallas G Leonard Davis. New York ended up sacking Romo four times in the game.
Certainly lost in this awful performance was the excellent job done by punter Jeff Feagles. He had a net average of 43 yards and downed three of his seven punts inside the Cowboys 20-yard line.
What went wrong
The Giants failed to wrap up a coveted playoff bye for the second consecutive week. Believe it or not, after an 11-1 start, the Giants could possibly still have to play on Wild Card weekend. If New York loses to Carolina and the Vikings beat the Falcons next week, and then Minnesota knocks off Big Blue in the season finale, it would be Minny – and not New York – enjoying a week off before its first playoff game.
The Giants vaunted running game was unable to get going against the Cowboys, rushing for only 72 yards.
Unfortunately New York’s first offensive snap was a portent of bad things to come. Eli Manning dropped back to pass and was leveled by Dallas DE demon DeMarcus Ware, who had little trouble running right around Giants LT David Diehl. Ware forced a fumble that Rich Seubert was able to recover.
RT Kareem McKenzie was injured and was forced out of the game. His replacement, Kevin Boothe, probably did as well as you could expect, but it was obvious that he was out of his league. LG Rich Seubert was also later forced from the game due to illness.
2 – Consecutive losses by Big Blue, the first time that’s happened in 2008
3 – Number of times the Giants were able to convert out of 13 third-down opportunities
8 – Number of times Dallas sacked Eli Manning; DeMarcus Ware had a hat trick
“We just have to get back on the right track. We know the talent we have on this football team and we just have to start showing it again.” – Giants DE Justin Tuck
“I really give credit a lot this week to Wade Phillips and the coaching staff and TO and Jason for drumming this whole thing up just to take away from the pressure of the game. I thought it was really intelligent of them and I’m proud of them. It’s a good job.” – Dallas QB Tony Romo