Monday, December 12, 2011

Giant collapse: Dal 34, NYG 37

How does this keep happening?!?

The most disturbing statistic that emerged from the wreckage of last night's Cowboys loss: the team has blown five leads of 12 points or more in franchise history. The first two occurred between 1960-2010, and three have come this season.

Dallas managed to capitalize on a pair of touchdown drives to open the fourth quarter, taking a 34-22 lead before the New York Giants scored 15 points over the final four minutes in New York's 37-34 victory that kicked every Cowboys fan between the legs and crippled even the strongest allegiance of backers of the blue star.

The Cowboys now trail the Giants for the NFC East lead, but with both teams tied at 7-6 and one game between them left on the schedule, each team still controls its own destiny. For Cowboys fans, don't worry about it though. That game, this season, should tell you all you need to know. Dallas had every opportunity to shut the door on the Giants and the rest of the division with a win. Sunday's game had many remarkable moments, and they will all be forgotten like Josh Hamilton's 10th inning home run in Game 6 of the World Series (yeah, remember how the Rangers had a lead in extra innings). Dallas entered this season projected to be around 8-8. If not for heartbreaking losses at the New York Jets and at home against the Detroit Lions leading to a 2-2 start, the team could be in contention for a first-round playoff bye. Instead the team may be saying bye to the playoffs before the first round arrives.

In the fourth quarter, Tony Romo connected with Laurent Robinson on a 74-yard pass to set up a six-yard TD pass to Miles Austin, giving the Cowboys a 27-22 lead with just under 13 minutes left in the game. On the Giants ensuing drive, the Cowboys defense did nothing to inspire confidence in an imminent Dallas victory. The Giants ran 10 plays starting from their own 20 yard line, including converting on 4th & 3 from the Dallas 37 on a 15-yard pass from Eli Manning to Mario Manningham. But on the 11th play of the drive with New York facing 3rd & 9 on the Dallas 21, Victor Butler tipped Eli Manning's pass and it somehow landed in the hands of Sean Lee. The second-year linebacker returned the pick to midfield, and two plays later the Cowboys were in the end zone when Dez Bryant defined wide open with a 50-yard TD reception.

34-22, Dallas. 5:41 left in the fourth quarter.

And yet, it's as if people pretend Eli didn't already lead a comeback drive in the Super Bowl against an undefeated New England Patriots squad that was destined to be known as the "Greatest Team Ever." Not to mention the fact that Manning did this just last week against the undefeated Packers only to leave too much time on the clock for Aaron Rogers to eek out a win.

Everyone knows the prevent defense "only prevents you from winning" but why do people keep going to it?

The Cowboys should be embarrassed by these losses. The loss to the Jets in New York was asinine, blowing the first 14 point fourth quarter lead in franchise history, but ultimately it had been pencilled in as a loss to begin the year. The collapse against the Detroit Lions seemed to be the result of something in Romo's brain "going rogue" in the second half. But this loss to the Giants, this reason for defenestration (yes, the English language has a word meaning "to throw yourself out of a window", from the french for window: fenetre), is the most disappointing of them all.

With a chance to all but close out the division (the magic number would have been 1 -- either one more Cowboys win or one more Giants loss) with three weeks left in the season, Dallas couldn't get it done. And everyone is responsible.

The Dallas offense put up great numbers. The team converted when it needed to on 3rd down. Romo & Co. was even able to get into field goal range with :46 seconds on the clock to set up a game-tying field goal (more on that later), but the offense had a chance to ice the game needing just two first downs when leading by five points with 3:41 on the clock. Instead, Dallas went three-and-out and gave the ball right back to Big Blue. Third down and five, Dallas opted to throw, which is fine despite the fact that an incompletion stops the clock. The risk-reward of that situation is :20 extra seconds for the Giants or a dagger in the heart of New York's playoff hopes. But when Dallas really, truly needed its offense to carry the load (because the defense clearly hasn't been able to do so), Romo lofted a ball over the outstretched arms of Miles Austin. It's being called a ball that was lost in the lights, but it sure looked like a blatant overthrow to me. Either way, it's unacceptable and it could have won the Cowboys the game.

Speaking of potential game-winning plays, Terence Newman dropped what could have been a tone-setting interception with nothing but open field in front of him. I understand the old saying of "if he had better hands, he'd be a receiver, not a cornerback, but there comes a point where you have to catch the ball and make the play. Rob Ryan's defense has certainly generated more turnovers than during the Wade Phillips era, but that's one pick the Cowboys had to have.

So many other Cowboys thoughts still to get to, but I need to let this simmer for a bit. More later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Big Josh,

Certainly a hard loss for the Cowboys to take. Not out of it though, so important to remember that.

What I would like to know however is that if it doesn't end well this year, will the Cowboys make a knee-jerk reaction to the shortcoming? The nucleus seems to be there to form a consistent playoff team, but will the demands of Cowboys fans and JJ's penchant to for winning result in a hasty personnel move that does harm to the team's long term prospects?

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