There were two streaks heading into Sunday night’s prime time game – the Giants’ 4-0 record in the Cowboys’ new AT&T Stadium and Dallas’ 5-0 regular-season opening record in head-to-head matchups. But for most of the game, it looked as if only one of those teams was ready to start the season, as the Cowboys downed the Giants, 36-31.
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The Giants started the game on a sour note when Eli Manning was picked off by DeMarcus Ware on the opening play. Things didn’t get much brighter immediately for Big Blue as they never appeared to get into synch – until Manning almost showed more late-game heroics. Alas, Big Blue fell just short of a great comeback, as the Cowboys took advantage of nearly every mistake made by the Giants throughout the game.
Dallas won the all-important turnover battle, 6-1.
Manning had very few highlights early, but he got hot late and managed to connect with Victor Cruz on three scores — 70 yards, 18 yards and 10 yards — and finished 27-of-42 for 450 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
The defining play of his night, however, was an interception returned for a touchdown by veteran cornerback Brandon Carr for 49 yards to salt away the game.
His counterpart, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, was gritty in going 36-of-49 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Romo, who is often criticized for high-profile errors, was under siege often — including a moment when he was sandwiched between defensive linemen Justin Trattou and Mathias Kiwanuka as they both met at the quarterback’s ribs with 38 seconds remaining in the first half. The $108 million quarterback only had the wind knocked out of him. He dusted himself off to knock out the Giants by leading the Cowboys on three scoring drives (two touchdowns) in the second half to stave off the hard-charging visitors.
What we learned ...
1. Fumbled away
Giants running back David Wilson started his career in the doghouse by fumbling against the Cowboys in the opener last year, and ironically he continued that tradition by fumbling twice Sunday night. Wilson, though, was merely a rookie back trying to find his way and was perhaps overcome by nerves last season. This campaign is different, considering the explosive back is now the undisputed starter. Lightly used backup Da’Rel Scott relieved Wilson of his duties for the rest of the evening, so the young franchise back will definitely need to show he can be trusted, going forward.
2. Not too special
Even Big Blue’s special teams couldn’t shake the fumble-itis, as cornerback Trumaine McBride fell victim. The Cowboys recovered a muffed punt when the ball caromed off McBride as he was attempting to block a Cowboys’ special teamer. Dallas’ ensuing drive started at the Giants’ 16-yard line and it ended two plays later when Romo connected with Witten for a four-yard touchdown, giving the Cowboys a comfy 27-10 lead.
3. The longest yard
The Giants’ short-yardage woes reared its head again, as numerous times they couldn’t convert. The most troubling instance came when the game was still early and in doubt, as Big Blue couldn’t make the Cowboys pay for their mistakes. Safety Ryan Mundy, filling in for the injured Stevie Brown (ACL), made an immediate impact when he picked off Romo and raced 91 yards to the Cowboys’ one-yard line. The Giants couldn’t punch it in despite Mundy’s great interception return, and could only muster a short field goal, cutting the deficit to 6-3. Although it was an early miscue, it foreshadowed things to come and ultimately proved to be a microcosm of the Giants’ night.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.