It has been a long time since the unpleasant task has rolled around of awarding a Dallas Cowboys game ball in a loss. The eleven-game winning streak was great, but it is finally over (which was sort of inevitable, after all). What really hurts in these kinds of awards is recognizing someone who clearly put it all on the field. If a few more had played to his level, the New York Giants would not have slipped away with a narrow victory.
Sean Lee had one of the best games of his career, accumulating a phenomenal 18 tackles, many of which got the team off the field. He was cutting behind blocks all game and stopping the run, and had many devastating tackles. He added a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery as well. It is tragic that the team did not support his superb effort more, failing to get any points on three turnovers, and missing on other interception opportunities (two of which were drops by Barry Church, who was playing with a cast on his broken arm).
This has been a remarkable year for Lee, who has played in almost every defensive snap for the Cowboys all season long. He has so far avoided the injuries that have cropped up so often in his career (knock most vigorously on wood) and simply is the best defensive player on the team this season. And that is by a pretty wide margin. He has been in on 112 tackles for the season, and has reached double digits in eight of the thirteen games played.
The failure in the game was mostly on the offense. Any time you hold a team with the weapons the Giants have to just 10 points, the defense has done its job. They got three sacks of Eli Manning, forced two fumbles from him (one of which was credited as a team sack by ESPN), and Anthony Brown came up with his first interception in his career. But the offense did exactly nothing with those opportunities. The only offensive player who had a good game was Ezekiel Elliott, who managed 107 yards rushing, but he was hardly enough.
It is encouraging that the defense is stepping up, having now had two good games in a row, but it is equally discouraging that the offense has fallen precipitously off. That is something that the coaches have to get figured out, and in a hurry, but you cannot take anything away from what Lee has done, especially in this painful loss. But there are still a lot of reasons for hope, not the least of which is that a playoff spot is already locked up, and two wins in the last three games will still get the Cowboys home field advantage through the playoffs.
The player nicknamed the General will be doing his part. Let’s just hope it is not in any more futile team efforts.