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Cowboys @ Giants: Five Critical Plays That Shaped The Game

Five plays that shaped the Cowboys 10-7 loss to the Giants.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Each NFL game is made up of about 125 to 135 plays, usually the ones that get all of the attention are the headline-grabbing touchdowns or game-deciding plays in the last few minutes, but what about all of the crucial plays that led up to those moments? What about the overlooked plays that had a significant bearing on the direction of the game but are usually forgotten in favor of flashy highlights? Here is a look at five plays that may get lost in the wash, but ultimately were critical in shaping the Cowboys 10-7 loss to the Giants.

Play: Ezekiel Elliott 2-Yard Rush

Situation: Fourth and 1 from the Dallas 42

Score: Tied 0-0

Time: 7:31 remaining in the first quarter

Impact: Jason Garrett has made a habit of going for fourth downs early in games this year and it paid off yet again here. On just the second offensive drive of the game the Cowboys were faced with a fourth and inches, maybe half a yard at most, inside their own territory. This early in the game it’s almost an automatic punt, but Garrett had faith in his offensive line and Elliott who made a great jump-cut to avoid what likely would’ve been a tackle for loss. He found a hole on the right side of the offensive line and plunged forward for the conversion. Six plays later Dak Prescott capped off the drive with a 31-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams.

Play: Dak Prescott Sacked for 8-Yard Loss

Situation: Third and 11 from the New York 32

Score: Cowboys lead 7-0

Time: 4:54 remaining in the second quarter

Impact: Clearly within field goal range the Cowboys were faced with a third and long as they hoped for more than just three. Prescott had plenty of time but couldn’t find an open receiver, choosing to scramble instead of throwing the ball away. Inexplicably, Prescott chose to backtrack to his left, despite the fact that there was open space to his right, and he more or less ran right into a sack that took the Cowboys right out of field goal range. It was a terrible decision by Prescott, and even worse pocket presence, and in many ways it was a harbinger of things to come. It didn’t seem like a huge deal at the time, but throwing away an opportunity for a Dan Bailey 49-yard attempt ended up being a killer considering the Cowboys inability to score throughout the rest of the game.

Play: Holding Penalty on Byron Jones

Situation: Fourth and 5 from the New York 15

Score: Cowboys lead 7-0

Time: 3:10 remaining in the second quarter

Impact: It looked like Cole Beasley had set up the Cowboys offense inside the Giants 35 with a great punt return near the end of the first half. Instead, thanks to a holding penalty by safety Byron Jones who seemed to be nowhere near the actual play, the Cowboys got the ball at their own 33. The penalty was only 10 yards of course, but the shift in field position was about 30-35 yards. Instead of almost a guaranteed three, or even seven, the Cowboys would only move the ball to the Giants 46 before punting.

Play: Barry Church Dropped Interception

Situation: First and 10 from the New York 19

Score: Cowboys lead 7-0

Time: 13:51 remaining in the third quarter

Impact: There isn’t really much that needs to be said about this. On the Giants first play of the second half Eli Manning threw a horrific pass that hit Church right between the 4 and the 2, he had the ball resting in his arms as he fell out of bounds, only to lose control as he hit the ground. This would’ve set the Cowboys up right around the Giants 30, and it’s quite possible that a subsequent touchdown from the Cowboys offense would’ve created an extreme amount of pressure on the Giants. Of course the Dallas offense never got that opportunity as Church dropped perhaps the easiest interception he’ll ever get in his life. (We must note that Church is playing with a cast on a healing broken arm).

Play: Odell Beckham Recovers Muffed Punt

Situation: Fourth and 1 from the Dallas 18

Score: Cowboys lead 7-0

Time: 10:50 remaining in the third quarter

Impact: Yet again the Giants attempted to give the Cowboys the game early in the third quarter, and yet again they did not seize that opportunity. Beckham allowed the Chris Jones punt to bounce right in front of him, which ended up hitting him in the legs, resulting in a scrum for the all. Despite the fact that several Cowboys surrounded Beckham he managed to recover it, and instead of the Dallas offense starting a drive in Giants territory, it was the Giants offense who had great field position near midfield. This drive eventually resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal and the first New York points of the night.

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