The opening weekend of the NFL featured many surprises and shocking performances, and Sunday night was no different, as there were many head-scratching decisions and occurrences. Nothing, however, could match the unreal circumstances in the Giants’ 27-26 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys.
New York (0-1) managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as they blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and let the Cowboys (1-0) get back into a game that was seemingly going to be handed to the visitors.
Big Blue entered the game undermanned, but they used grit and a defense that was opportunistic and stingy – until the final 90 seconds.
What we learned
1. End zone still unfamiliar territory
Much was made about the trouble that the Giants’ starters had in getting into the end zone during the preseason, and that malaise reared its head again at the most inopportune moment. Running back Rashad Jennings scored the only offensive touchdown for Big Blue, and that didn’t come until the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Giants also had a chance to seal the win when they had first-and-goal from Dallas’ one-yard line and up 23-20, but had to settle for a field goal. Dallas was forced to use its remaining timeouts on that short drive, but were aided by New York’s failure to punch it in, as well as perhaps the biggest play of the game when Eli Manning’s throwaway on third-and-goal out of the back of the end zone from the one-yard line stopped the clock and set up Tony Romo’s clutch six-play, 72-yard game-winning touchdown drive. The Giants’ failures in the final 90 seconds could be something that haunts them for the rest of the season.
2. Big Blue left battered and blue at the worst moment
Many pundits predicted the high-powered Cowboys’ offense to run roughshod over the diminished Giants’ defense. And while Dallas did rack up some impressive numbers, Big Blue’s defense always managed to bend but not break – until it mattered most, that is. The Cowboys tallied 436 total yards, and held the ball for 38 minutes, as they managed to overcome three turnovers to steal the win. New York self-destructed on the final drive, as they allowed Romo and Co. race down the field in a drive that lasted 1:26. Linebacker Unai’ Unga, how started for the injured Jon Beason, was the unfortunate victim of brain lock, as he allowed savvy tight end Jason Witten slide in front of him at the goaline and slip into the end zone for the game-winner.
3. Victor Cruz, come back soon
Sans their veteran star wideout, the Giants’ receiving corps was underwhelming. Not even Odell Beckham Jr. was able to shine, as he finished with just five catches for 44 yards. Rueben Randle, who is in his contract season and expected to finally get over the hump, added just 33 yards on three catches. Perhaps the biggest spotlight of all the underachievers was on Preston Parker, who had three costly drops – all on third down. Parker, who was hoping to fill the void as the No. 3 receiver until Cruz’s calf could heal, only contributed two catches for 26 yards – not a noteworthy night at all for a guy who some on the coaching staff figured he’d take the leap this season.