In any NFL game, one can point to a lot of plays that make the difference. Especially a one-point game where the lead changed hands six times.
The post game analysis is fairly easy in some respects. The Giants came away with touchdowns all three times they were in the red zone, while Dallas settled for field goals two of three times. The only time they punched it in was an eight-yard TD run by Ezekiel Elliott.
- Dallas dominated time of possession — 36:43 to 23:17.
- Dallas forced the only turnover in the game, a Brandon Carr pick that led to Dallas’ only touchdown.
- Dallas got the only two sacks in the game.
- Dallas out-gained the Giants 328 to 316 yards.
Yet Dallas came up short.
Dropped Passes Really Killed the Cowboys
To my mind, the two most important plays of the game were catches that Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant failed to make.
Beasley dropped a pass that was above his head, but in his hands, that kept Dallas from scoring a TD on its opening drive. Prescott was 4-4 at that point, and should have been 5-5.
Dez lost a catch that was firmly in his hands when he hit the ground on the Cowboys third drive. It was originally called a touchdown, but the reversal was in this case correct.
If the veterans make those plays for Dak, the Cowboys are up 17-7, not 9-7, and the game would likely have been won.
Terrence Williams Has To Know Better
The third most critical play was Terrence Williams not trying to get out of bounds on the game’s last play. That should remind us of this story from training camp, as told by Peter King of Sports Illustrated.
This story from training camp reflects that: In an 11-on-11 period late in practice, the offense had 10 seconds left to score, and Prescott was the quarterback with the first unit. He passed to Dez Bryant, and Bryant was supposed to out of bounds immediately so the clock would stop or go to the ground so the offense could call a timeout. But Bryant tried to score instead, was stopped, and the clock ran out. Prescott ran to him and said words to this effect: We know you’re the best receiver in the world and you MIGHT score, but we can’t take that chance. You gotta use your head and get the clock stopped. That’s a rookie, talking to Dez Bryant. And Bryant, to his credit acknowledged Prescott was right. Prescott grew a lot in the eyes of the starting offense, and the coaches, that day.
What About the Coaching?
This is more difficult to put your finger on. Without knowing the defenses the Giants were in, it’s hard to know whether Dak could have taken more shots down the field.
What I noticed was that the Cowboys relied too much on the short possession game, and didn’t really get the ball to their playmakers in space.
Lance Dunbar, for example, didn’t receive a pass until the last drive of the game, but he immediately began to terrorize the Giants secondary for a 16-yard gain. Ezekiel Elliott was targeted with one pass, and a failed screen play, for -1 yard. There didn’t seem to be any deep crossing patterns, or at least almost none were completed. And other than a couple of deep attempts to Dez, there weren’t many shots down the field. Also, Elliott was used mostly on inside the tackle runs instead of trying to get him outside, where he was so effective against the Seahawks.
This might have been the conservative play calling we are used to from Jason Garrett coached teams. Or, it could have been Dak being a rookie QB not wanting to risk some of those throws and taking what was open.
Dak Prescott wasn’t able to pull out this game. Nor was Tony Romo, who lost his debut to the Giants at home as well. But what did you think? Did Dak let the team down, or did the team and coaching tend to let Dak down?