|No, no, no, Dan Bailey!|
Scheme has its limits.
The Cowboys learned this the hard way tonight, surrendering two late touchdowns in a see-saw 37-34 loss to the New York Giants. They saw a safety corps which has played good but not great football all year unravel. Blown coverages, a litany of penalties and several cases of being overmatched put their team in peril and will likely add a few pounds to Rob Ryan’s stress-eating fortified girth.
- A 3rd-and-goal holding penalty on Gerald Sensabaugh overturned an Eli Manning give up pass out the back of the end zone early in the 2nd quarter. Instead of kicking for an 8-7 lead, the Giants got first-and-goal at the one, and scored seven on the following play.
- Both Cowboys safeties Abe Elam and Barry Church blitzed on New York’s second 2nd-half drive, leaving slot recevier Mario Manningham uncovered for an easy 47 yard touchdown pass.
- Frank Walker was flagged for holding on New York’s final touchdown drive, putting a 3rd and 10 situation at the Dallas 24 into a 1st-and-10 at the Cowboys 19. Eli Manning got 18 on the next play and the Giants scored two plays later.
The miscues let the Giants offense add points to their total and keep pace with a Cowboys offense which overcame a serious injuries to DeMarco Murray and Phil Costa. Tony Romo got solid protection, ripping the Giants secondary for four touchdown passes. He got an inspired assist from Felix Jones, who had 22 touches for 137 combined yards.
The defensive play followed a script we’ve seen since the great escape in Washington almost a month ago. The defense could make big plays early, holding two first half red-zone drives for field goals and making some key 3rd quarter stops. The pass defense, however, again got weaker as the contest progressed. Dallas felt the stinger which plagues DeMarcus Ware. He reinjured his shoulder early in the contest and left the field with his weakened arm hanging at his side. Ware returned, but he’s not 100%. He doesn’t appear close and no other Cowboy could make big plays.
Ryan resorted to blitzing to knock Eli Manning off rhythm, but he found what several other DCs have learned — Manning is very good at beating pressure with last-instant passes. With Terence Newman having more 4th quarter coverage issues and Alan Ball playing extensive time for the nicked Mike Jenkins, there were no play-makers in the Dallas secondary.
Victor Butler and Sean Lee combined to make a huge play mid-way through the 4th and appeared to turn the game their way. With New York driving to wipe out a 27-22 Cowboys lead, Manning attempted a flanker screen to his left. Butler leapt and knocked the ball off a Giants lineman. Lee grabbed it off the lineman’s shoulder and wound his way to midfield.
Manning then led a nine play drive, completing it with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ballard. 3:41 remained and Dallas needed to keep possession. A five yard Felix Jones counter started the drive. On 2nd down, Jason Garrett called bend-L, sending Jones right, then left behind Tony Fiammetta. Fiametta was thrown aside by the dazzling Jason Pierre-Paul, who held together his defense almost singlehandedly. Pierre-Paul dropped Jones for a one-yard loss, setting up the game’s pivotal play.