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Giants-Cowboys play of the game: Reviewing Terrance Williams’ blunder

Let’s look at the play, and the reaction

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
The Giants tackle Dallas receiver Terrance Williams on Sunday’s final play.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Could Terrance Williams have gotten out of bounds on what turned out to be the final play of the New York Giants’ 20-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday? If he had, could Cowboys’ placekicker Dan Bailey have made a field goal from around 63 yards or so to send the Giants home with another season-opening defeat?

The answer to the first question is “maybe.” The answer to the second question is that after watching Bailey make field goals of 54 and a career-long 56 yards earlier in the game, the Giants have to be glad they didn’t need to find out.

Let’s review the play

With 12 seconds left, Dallas faced third-and-10 at their own 46-yard line. It is important to remember that the Cowboys were out of timeouts. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw the ball to Williams outside the numbers, and as you can see there were 10 seconds left in the game when Williams caught the ball.

The Dallas receiver is about four yards shy of the first down, and you can see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Giants angling to the sideline to try and cut him off. Williams goes for the first down, which he gets at the 40-yard line, but the Cowboys don’t have enough time to spike the ball and get Bailey on the field for a 58-yard attempt to win the game.

Now, look closer at the photo

Could Williams have gotten out of bounds? Probably, if he was willing to run pretty much straight to the sideline and not gain more than another yard or two, which might have left Bailey with something akin to a 64- or 65-yard try at a game winner, well beyond anything he had ever made in a game. If Williams tried to get to the 45 or inside of it while aiming for the sideline, DRC probably tackles him in bounds.

What they’re saying


“I was telling myself that I can’t let him get out of bounds. They had the play designed. I was just straddling the sidelines hoping that he didn’t come that way.”

Blogging The Boys

A few more seconds and we all would be singing a different tune. That’s all the Cowboys would have needed to have time to spike the ball in order to set up a game winning field goal attempt from Dan Bailey. Terrance Williams was tackled at the Giants 41-yard line, which would have set up a 58-yard FG attempt. Bailey had already hit a career long, 56-yarder earlier in the game. Would he be able to do it again? We’ll never know.

So before we revisit the game, let’s address the elephant in the room. Would the Cowboys have been able to win if Terrance Williams would have gotten out of bounds? Probably not. Here, you decide…

Williams would have only been able to get to the 45-yard line, which would have set up a 62-yards attempt by Bailey. As great as he is, Bailey is probably not making that kick.

Dallas coach Jason Garrett

“It was a poor decision on his part. We talked to him about that. He understands that. His instincts took over and tok him inside instead of to the sidelines, and we’ll all learn from that situation.”

Terrance Williams

I was just doing my best to get the team in position to kick a field goal, but obviously I should have just followed the rules and gotten out of bounds. In my mind, I was just trying to get a first down and then dive out of bounds. But it just didn’t go as planned.

“It was just a “bang bang” moment. Now that I’ve had a chance to sit back and think on it, I should have just gone out of bounds. Looking back, I’ll never do that again.”

Final thoughts

My son is the starting goalkeeper for Hilbert College, a DIII school in Western New York. He and I have had the “situational awareness” discussion many times over the years, and had it again Saturday after his team lost a 2-1 game where yours truly felt there were miscues (not by him) players at that level shouldn’t make.

I am constantly amazed at how experienced players in any sport, especially players like NFL guys at the top of their profession, so often make these “situational” mistakes. I also have coached CYO basketball for roughly 20 years. You expect those kids not to understand “clock and score,” and the idea that based on those things you must react or play differently. You do, however, expect college and especially professional players to understand “clock and score.”

I do realize that players are human, which Williams proved again on Sunday. The “situational” mistakes, which we see consistently — and we saw a bunch from the Giants a season ago — are just difficult for me to fathom from players at the highest levels of their sport. In this case, the first down Williams said he was seeking was inconsequential. All that mattered for Dallas was stopping the clock so they could try a field goal.

This one worked out in the Giants’ favor. It still, however, left me shaking my head.