With their playoff aspirations effectively on the line, the Giants erased a 15-point third quarter deficit to knot up the Cowboys with 4:45 remaining. Unfortunately, they left themselves zero margin for error – both in the game and on the season – and could not seal the deal. At 4-7 with two defeats at the hands of division rival Dallas, the postseason is once again miles away from being palpable.
The Giants ran the ball for a season-high 202 yards on 30 carries at a clip of 6.2 per rush. The offensive line opened up huge holes resulting in a sizable 11 rushing first downs. Andre Brown consistently carved out healthy gains behind his patient style (127), and Brandon Jacobs looked fresh as a daisy bouncing runs to the outside (75). Jacobs’ 37-yard run in the second quarter was the Giants first running play to surpass 20 yards this season.
With Hakeem Nicks sidelined, Rueben Randle played 69 of 70 offensive snaps. Randle made a difficult catch on a high ball over the middle and continues to rack up yards after catch when given opportunities in space (23 YAC on three receptions).
On the defensive side – Cullen Jenkins twice got pressure up the middle to bring down Romo, doubling his sack output for the year. Terrell Thomas limited Dez Bryant to one catch (1 target) for five 5 yards, albeit, he was beaten by Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown.
The miscommunications between Eli Manning and his infrequently utilized wide receivers were plenty, with a few coming on critical third downs. With your season hanging in the balance, you can’t throw away downs without giving yourself a half-chance to make a play.
Victor Cruz fumbled (literally) a chance to carry the Giants depleted WR corps. Orlando Scandrick covered him up all afternoon long, holding him to two receptions (4 targets) and 27 yards. One of those catches resulted in him coughing up the football while battling for extra yardage – and you know the rest…
The Giants missed nine tackles, their highest number since week six at Chicago (10). DeMarco Murray broke away from five on his own.
The third-down defense was stellar all game long – until it mattered most. The Giants D allowed a trio of third and medium-to-long conversions on the final drive: 3rd and 7, Dez Bryant for 19; 3rd and 5, Bryant for 8 yards; 3rd and 10, Cole Beasley for 13 yards. The defensive front shriveled in obvious passing situations and Antrel Rolle was abused in coverage, looking like he was on ice skates.
A pair of debilitating penalties from Matthias Kiwanuka cost the Jints dearly. His Roughing the Passer penalty early in the third quarter erased a forced fumble on slot wideout Cole Beasley. Four plays later, Jason Witten waltzed into the end zone to put the Giants behind 21-6. Later in the third quarter, an Unnecessary Roughness penalty from Kiwanuka gave the Cowboys a free first-down in Giants territory. To make matters worse, MK earned a -1.8 pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus. It’s been an all-around hideous campaign for the eight-year DE from Boston College; but never worse than Sunday.