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Good teams don’t make these plays.
On fourth and one, a good team’s offensive line won’t jump offsides. Trailing by seven in the fourth quarter, a good team’s tight end won’t fumble a ball after picking up a first down deep inside their own territory.
A good team’s tight end won’t fumble again with under a minute to play.
A good team won’t claim a game as a ‘Must Win,’ then get gashed for more than 400 yards on defense, including 156 on ground.
Maybe the New York Giants are what the preseason expectations stated they were: An average, to slightly below average, football team.
Sunday afternoon, the Giants lost their fourth game of the season – second in a row to a divisional opponent – falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-21. The loss dropped New York’s record to 3-4, 1-2 in the NFC East and 2-4 in the conference.
“We had opportunities,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We couldn’t stop them when we had to stop them.”
In the first half, New York looked to be ready for the divisional fight many expected. After Dallas took the lead on a first quarter touchdown pass from Tony Romo to tight end Gavin Escobar, the Giants scored 14 unanswered points.
Quarterback Eli Manning marched the Giants 71 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive off on a nine-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. After a Prince Amukamara interception got the Giants the ball back five plays later, Manning took just one play to get New York back in the endzone.
At the Dallas 27 yard line, Manning rolled out on a play fake and found tight end Daniel Fells for the score. Manning finished 21-of-33 for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the third straight game Manning did not turn the ball over.
But the Giants lead was short lived. On the ensuing possession, Tony Romo hit Terrance Williams for a 18-yard touchdown to tie the game. In the second half, Dallas snapped the 14-14 tie when Romo found Escobar for a 26-yard touchdown past Zack Bowman.
With the Giants down seven, Manning looked to march the team on a game-tying drive, but quickly the one-possession game turned into two. Facing a third and 8, Manning fired a pass over the middle to Larry Donnell.
As Donnell fought forward for the first, the tight end fumbled the ball. Dallas recovered and four plays later, DeMarco Murray ran in from a yard out to put Dallas up, 28-14. After allowing LeSean McCoy to rush for a season-high 149 yards, Murray tallied 128 on the ground against New York.
Murray has now tied an NFL record with seven 100 yard rushing games in a season, and set the NFL record for most 100 yard rushing games to start the year.
With Dallas leading 28-14, Manning marched the Giants 80 yards in 11 plays, taking 3:43 off the clock, before finding Beckham for his second touchdown of the game.
Facing a fourth and goal at the five, Manning hit Beckham on a slant. Beckham finished with four catches four 34 yards and two touchdowns.
With New York back in the game, it turned to its defense to get a stop and give Manning the ball back, but those hopes never materialized. Romo took Dallas on a 10-play drive, eating up 4:29 of the clock. Dan Bailey capped the drive with a 49-yard field goal, putting Dallas up 10 with under a minute to play.
With little hope left, New York fumbled away its final chance when Donnell was stripped for a second time.
New York (3-4) will have a bye next week while Dallas (6-1) will host the Washington Redskins (2-5).