The problems that occurred for Dallas during the 1st quarter of Sunday’s contest with the New York Giants were enough to make a San Diego Chargers fan wince (which is especially significant considering that the Chargers just lost to the Cleveland Browns 7-6).
The Giants scored a touchdown and kicked three field goals on all four of their drives in the 1st quarter, while the Cowboys’ spent their time on the field giving the ball back to them.
Dallas QB Tony Romo threw an interception on the first drive, he threw an interception on the second drive, and they punted it on the third drive. The mistakes bled into the 2nd quarter as Romo immediately threw his third interception on a screen pass intended for Felix Jones. It was the first career interception for Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul… it was also a terribly easy pick six as he only had to run 20 yards to paydirt.
It got so ridiculously bad that midway through the 2nd quarter—with the Giants shutting out the Cowboys 23-0—that television announcers Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman were wondering aloud if head coach Jason Garrett should bring in backup QB Kyle Orton. Sure enough, the enigma that is Tony Romo made its way into the fray as the Cowboys suddenly woke up and marched down the field—72 yards on 8 plays—for their first touchdown as Felix Jones punched it through a crowded mid-field for the score.
The problems that seem to occur every week for the Dallas Cowboys are completely enigmatic. Sure, they make a routine of being undisciplined and it’s ultimately their biggest problem; but more often than not the thin line between winning and losing seems to be a matter of choice. It’s almost as if these Cowboys can do great things, but only when they feel like it.
The Giants started to lose some steam toward the end of the half, as they weren’t converting as many easy first downs and QB Eli Manning was developing some issues reading the Cowboys defense. You can always tell when Eli Manning is frustrated because he looks as if he throws his arms in the air and looks at whoever’s fault it is, like it’s a schoolyard game. A couple of great plays later and the Cowboys found themselves in scoring position again. One field goal later and all of the sudden it’s a two-score game with Dallas only down by 13 points.
This is what the Dallas Cowboys do. They don’t really find ways to lose as much as they find ways to make it extra difficult to win. Other teams capitalize on early mistakes and the Cowboys fight an uphill battle for the remainder of the game. They did it against the Seattle Seahawks in week 2 and against the Baltimore Ravens in week 6. Both were crushing losses that, for all points and purposes, the Cowboys should have won.
It’s odd enough that the Cowboys play the Giants twice before they play anyone else in the division, and it’s even more odd that the team that showed up in week 1 to face the Giants in New York has completely disappeared from the face of the Earth. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has had his side of the ball in-line pretty much all year, but the offense that lit up the defending champions in week 1 hasn’t showed up since, and the Cowboys walked into this contest with a .500 record as a result.
Per usual, the Cowboys created their own headaches, and Tony Romo was once again the deciding factor.
The Cowboys would stage a comeback by dropping two touchdowns on the Giants in the 3rd quarter. The first touchdown was a 4th down goal line conversion that capped a drive in which the running attack was completely stuffed; Romo would end up running it in for the score. The second touchdown was a pass to TE John Phillips that put them up by 1. The Giants, however, would kick two more field goals to go up by 5 points.
The only turnover by the Giants was an interception by Cowboys safety Danny McRay in the 4th, who captured the ball as it bobbled off of Victor Cruz’s body. The drive would end with the Cowboys punting it away. A few plays later Felix Jones would fumble the ball with 6 minutes left on the clock.
As time was winding down in the 4th quarter and Tony Romo was clearly becoming competitively desperate he threw interception number four (team turnover number 6), but the Cowboys defense once again bailed out the offense by forcing the Giants to punt.
Had Romo simply not thrown two interceptions on the first two drives of the game then the Giants wouldn’t have converted for those first two field goals. That alone would have put them up by 1 in the final minutes, but you can’t ask these Dallas Cowboys not to stab themselves in the foot whenever possible. Because, they will.
Romo showed promise and ability on the last few drives, but it simply wasn’t enough to make up for the complete ineptitude he exhibited in the 1st quarter. A would-be legendary completion to WR Dez Bryant in the endzone with 6 seconds left was called back because as Bryant landed his fingers were the first part of his body to touch the ground and they touched the backline. Literally… inches away from sweeping the defending Super Bowl champions.
Alas, it was not meant to be. With TE Jason Witten getting monster targets all day, and WR Miles Austin creating the tandem with Bryant that was always supposed to be a cornerstone of this offense, the Cowboys had three receivers catch for 100+ yards. It’s the first time that has happened since 1963, when the franchise was just 3 years old. Regardless, it was all for naught, as the Giants went on to improve to 4-0 in Cowboys Stadium.
And, that’s probably the sharpest edge of the knife from this loss: The idea that the New York Giants are undefeated on the Dallas Cowboys’ home turf. That’s got to hurt.
It doesn’t get any better for the Cowboys either, as next week they travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons, the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL. They’re certainly capable of giving Atlanta its first loss. The question, of course, will always be… will they feel like it?