The New York Giants' dream of making the playoffs after an 0-6 start is mathematically alive, but in reality the Dallas Cowboys dealt the Giants a death blow Sunday with a 24-21 victory at MetLife Stadium.
Dan Bailey of the Cowboys hit the game-winning 35-yard field goal as time expired. The Giants are 4-7, having had their four-game winning streak snapped. Dallas and the Philadelphia Eagles are both 6-5. Dallas is 4-0 in the division, the Eagles are 3-2 and the Giants are 1-3.
"We knew we had to win this game to keep the dream alive," said Giants' cornerback Terrell Thomas. "We just didn't make enough plays."
After the Giants had tied the score at 21-21 with 4:45 left the Cowboys killed the Giants slowly, with a methodical march down the field. The Cowboys (6-5) drove from their own 35-yard line, three times converting third downs, two on on passes to Dez Bryant and one to Miles Austin.
"You knew that something had to happen right away for us to get the ball back again and we just weren’t able to do it at that time," Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin said.
The Giants trailed at the half, 14-6. Dallas scored on a 50-yard return of a Victor Cruz fumble by Jeff Heath and a 20-yard pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten. The Giants twice settled for Josh Brown field goals after getting inside the Dallas 10-yard line.
After the game Coughlin was still upset about the Cruz fumble, feeling the wide receiver should have been ruled down.
"I don't know what the officials saw. There were four guys battling one guy and he's up in the air. He's still spinning. You can look at it either way. We started the year off knowing full well that the officials were going to blow the whistle this season for every play. You hope that the whistle should blow. For them to have a touchdown on a play like that is just unbelievable," Coughlin said.
Things really began to unravel for the Giants in the third quarter. After the Giants failed on 4th-and-6 at the Dallas 35 the Cowboys went 65 yards in 10 plays, ending with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Witten. The Giants trailed, 21-6, with 6:54 left in the third quarter at that point.
The drive was helped by two penalties on the Giants, including a Mathias Kiwanuka roughing the passer penalty that negated a fumble recovery by Will Hill. The GIF below from SB Nation clearly shows that Kiwanuka's hit is a penalty. It is late, and around Romo's neck.
The Giants got back in the game quickly, going 67 yards on six plays with Manning hit Brandon Myers for a 27-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-2. Myers made a leaping catch at the 8-yard line, then got up and scored when two Dallas defenders failed to touch him. That made the score 21-13 with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
The Giants tied the score with 4:45 left. Manning capped an 8-play, 58-yard drive by hitting Louis Murphy Jr., yes that Louis Murphy Jr., with a 4-yard scoring pass. The Giants made it 21-21 when Andre Brown ran the ball in on a shotgun draw.
Boxscore stuff: Manning finished 16-of-30 for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Brown ran 21 times for 127 yards, and Brandon Jacobs ran 9 times for 75 yards. For Dallas, Romo completed 23-of-38 for 250 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. Bryant caught 9 passes for 102 yards.
Next for the Giants: The Giants face the Washington Redskins next Sunday at FedEx Field in the Sunday Night Football game.