A few more seconds and we all would be singing a different tune. That’s all the Cowboys would have needed to have time to spike the ball in order to set up a game winning field goal attempt from Dan Bailey. Terrance Williams was tackled at the Giants 41-yard line, which would have set up a 58-yard FG attempt. Bailey had already hit a career long, 56-yarder earlier in the game. Would he be able to do it again? We’ll never know.
So before we revisit the game, let’s address the elephant in the room. Would the Cowboys have been able to win if Terrance Williams would have gotten out of bounds? Probably not. Here, you decide…
Williams would have only been able to get to the 45-yard line, which would have set up a 62-yards attempt by Bailey. As great as he is, Bailey is probably not making that kick.
Red Zone Woes
But how did the Cowboys get in that situation in the first place? The offense did a great job moving the ball, but had to settle for field goals. Twice in the first half, they would drive the ball inside the Giants 10-yard line, but they just couldn’t score touchdowns. Despite holding the ball 22 minutes in the first half, the Cowboys only came away with nine points. It took the winds out of the Cowboys’ offense. They had a real shot to make a statement on the opening drive of the season. Prescott hit Cole Beasley over the middle for what looked like a sure touchdown, but Beasley just couldn’t hold on. In the second quarter, Dez Bryant had a catch overturned as he couldn’t maintain possession as he slid out of bounds. There’s another touchdown that wasn’t. The Cowboys had to keep settling for field goals.
Giants Shut Down Zeke
Credit the Giants defense for standing their ground. They were committed to putting resources in the box to stop the Cowboys young running back, and it worked. Ezekiel Elliott would have a rough debut as he only had 51 yards on 20 carries for a measly 2.5 yards per carry. Strangely, Alfred Morris wouldn’t have that problem as he rushed for 35 yards on seven carries for a 5.0 average. Did Morris have more running lanes against the defense or did he do a better job of finding them?
Cowboys’ Offense Didn’t Make Splash Plays
It shouldn’t surprise people that the Giants came out trying to stop Zeke. What is surprising though, is that the Cowboys could not make them pay. The Cowboys offense struggled making big plays. Geoff Swaim’s 21-yard catch was the Cowboys biggest play of the game. For a team that was selling out to stop the run, the Cowboys needed to find ways to get the ball to other skill players.
As well as Dak Prescott played, he started being more conservative and hitting his safety blankets – Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Witten had 14 targets, and Beasley had 12. No one else had half that. Dez Bryant finished the game with one catch for eight yards. And that 3rd and 20 screen play to Witten was a complete give-up play. Scott Linehan should never call that play again. Ever. Sure, those types of situations aren’t likely to be converted, but at least put the ball in someone's hands that has a chance. With Jason Witten – there is no chance.
Prescott showed a lot of poise and did a good job of going through his progressions, but the offense just couldn’t cash in on all their good work.
Giants’ Offense Did Make Splash Plays
While the Cowboys couldn’t muster up any big plays on offense, the Giants didn’t have the same problem. They made the most of their plays. They would have three passing plays over 20 yards and one running play over 15 yards. Even though Eli Manning would have fewer passing yards (207) than Dak Prescott (227), he got his yards in spurts.
Poor Run Defense
The Cowboys defense was hit and miss all day. They’d make some stops, but then just looked terrible at times. Late in the fourth quarter when the Giants were trying to run out the clock, the defense struggled stopping the run. New York would keep running the ball up the middle and the defense was nowhere to be found. The Giants got two first downs before the Cowboys were finally able to finally force them to punt. Those precious seconds would have really came in handy at the end.
It was good to see a sign of some of last year’s issues not be present. For example, the Cowboys would win the turnover margin battle, 1-0. The offense had a clean game and Brandon Carr was able to get in front of an Eli Manning pass to jump-start the second half. That pick led to the Cowboys only touchdown of the game when Zeke ran it in from eight yards out.
The Cowboys also won the sack battle, 2-0. Free agent, Benson Mayowa got his first sack as a Cowboy and Orlando Scandrick got credit for a sack because the referees ruled that Eli had lateraled the ball. Despite getting two sacks, the Cowboys weren’t able to get any real pressure on Manning. But on the flip side, the Cowboys offensive line did a great job protecting Dak.
Orlando Scandrick went into the locker room with a sore hamstring, but was able to return to the game. Tyron Smith came out of the game with a neck injury, but he was also able to return. Cole Beasley also got hurt at the end of the game, but Jason Garrett said in his press conference that he’s going to be okay.