You know the old cliche, football is a game of inches. That couldn't be any more true than in the second game of the season between the Giants and Cowboys. Dallas once again managed to give a game away because of their own mistakes, but they nearly pulled out a miracle with just seconds remaining. As a result, it's a loss fans will remember for a very long time.
If you throw away the first quarter, where Tony Romo threw two costly interceptions, the Cowboys actually played a solid football game. The defense was really put into a difficult position after the turnovers and were given a short field to work with, but managed to hold New York to FG's instead of TD's. Rob Ryan has put together two very good strategical games against Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
If there is one positive to take away, it's that Dallas stayed in this game and fought back. I know there aren't moral victories in losses like this, but the Cowboys did manage to make a game out of it.
The offense still isn't back to performing at the level that I thought they would this season. They struggle inside the red zone and the receivers have committed terrible mistakes and drops. Turnovers and mistakes really prevent this team from winning games, and that is unfortunate because the Cowboys are talented.
During the first quarter, Romo just didn't look himself. The first interception wasn't totally his fault: We can criticize Dez Bryant for running the wrong route on the interception to Stevie Brown. Bryant didn't dig in on the route and cut inside. Instead he kept going up the field and was out of position for the Romo throw.
The second interception, however, was just a terrible throw. He chucked it up to Miles Austin, who was surrounded by Corey Webster and a few other Giants. But despite two costly turnovers, the Cowboys were only down 13 points. The defense was extremely solid against the Giants when they had their backs against the wall.
The worst interception of all was where Jason Pierre-Paul intercepted an errant throw by Romo and returned it for a 28-yard touchdown. I can't even begin to contemplate what Romo was thinking there. It's plays like that where you wonder if he even thinks before he makes a decision.
Romo wasn't very accurate either, missing a lot of wide open receivers. This has actually been a continuing theme for him this season. He missed a wide open James Hanna in the end zone, but also under threw Dez Bryant, who probably could have ran in for a long touchdown, on a big reception in the second half.
The red zone was where Romo really failed to come up with a good throws on Sunday. On fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter, he failed to make a throw and started dropping backwards. His throw to the sideline was picked off by Stevie Brown, who had a heck of a game by the way.
Jason Witten has totally turned his season around. Witten didn't look the same when he was recovering from a serious spleen injury. He was dropping passes, which he never does. But, in the past few weeks, Witten has gotten back into a grove and has been the most consistent player on the Dallas offense.
His performance today nearly won the game for the Cowboys. Witten had a career-high 18 catches for 167 yards. When Romo and the Cowboys needed a big play or conversion, they looked to Witten. The Giants had no answer for him.
Unfortunately, because it occurred in a loss, it's a performance that will get thrown to the side and forgotten. That is really a shame because Witten was one of the best players on the field today.
Dez Bryant Nearly Saves The Day
Dez Bryant nearly made one of the most amazing and memorable touchdowns in Cowboys history. It's unfortunate that Bryant's hands grazed the white line out of bounds. His effort was outstanding on that play. Had Bryant made that amazing catch, the Cowboys probably move onto 4-4 and have a huge momentum swing going forward in their season.
The Cowboys have a special talent in Dez Bryant, but he is still learning the game of football. He still needs a lot of work on his route running. His lack of crispness in that area is preventing him from becoming a dynamic and consistent wide receiver. Bryant also takes too many chances on punt returns and looks for the big play. If Bryant can learn to control himself, he will become one of the NFL's elite players.
The Defense Forces Eli Manning Into A Quiet Day
Eli Manning moves to 4-0 in Cowboys Stadium, but he wasn't the factor in the game that I had expected him to be. A lot of that came from the duo of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, who continue to be one of the NFL's best CB tandems. Due to their coverage on Sunday, Manning was unable to hookup with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. When you hold him to 192 yards passing and zero touchdowns, you did a very good job on defense.
Jay Ratliff also had one his best performances in a very long time. He consistently got into the backfield and made Manning hurry his throws. Since his return, Ratliff looks like the All-Pro nose tackle he used to be.
The defense, as a whole, played one of their best games of the season. Rob Ryan put his players in a position to succeed, and his guys made plays. Sean Lee is still a huge loss for the Cowboys, but for this game he wasn't the loss I thought he would be. Dan Connor missed most of the game with a neck strain injury and was replaced by Orie Lemon. Ernie Sims managed to make some positive plays in his first game as a Dallas Cowboy.
It Doesn't Get Easier For The Cowboys
In my opinion, the NFC East still remains the hardest division in all sports. While the Giants move into a commanding lead of first place, there is still a remote chance that the Cowboys or perhaps another team in the division can contend for a playoff spot. It's really going to be difficult for the Cowboys to get into the playoffs now. Of course the Cowboys can still make a playoff run, but sitting at 3-4 their chances don't look so great.
So what's next for the Dallas Cowboys? They travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the 7-0 Atlanta Falcons. I can't see the Cowboys beating a team as hot as the Falcons, but they did knock off the undefeated New Orleans Saints back in 2009 when nobody expected them to. Are the Cowboys up to the task? We will find out soon enough.