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5 game-changing plays in Giants’ loss to Cowboys

Let’s take one more look back at the game’s key plays

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Week 5 was a tempestuous game for both the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. The former, despite getting a divisional win, lost their star quarterback to a gruesome ankle injury, and the latter lost another winnable game on an Andy Dalton led final drive to give Greg Zuerlein the opportunity to seal the game with a field goal.

Dallas’ defense ranked dead last in points allowed per game (36 PPG), and the Giants had every opportunity to bury Dallas, but they couldn’t finish long drives with six. New York settled for field goals on a 12-play drive, two nine-play drives, and a 10-play drive. Their red zone effectiveness under Jason Garrett has not been ideal, and Daniel Jones hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since week one.

New York’s defense was solid against the high powered offense, but couldn’t clamp the vice grips down hard enough when the game really mattered. The injury to Lorenzo Carter forced Markus Golden to play 57 snaps and Kyler Fackrell to play 67 (both season highs), with no one to substitute. With the injured offensive line of Dallas, New York was only able to get two sacks.

In every game, there are several plays that help swing the tide of the contest. Some may be innocuous, and others may be blatant. In this game, the momentum plays were pretty noticeable, so here are the top 5 game-changing plays in the Giants’ Week 5 matchup against the Cowboys.

Play 1 — Kyler Fackrell’s pick 6

The Giants had an early 7-3 lead after scoring on an end around to Evan Engram with their first possession, and then the defense was able to force Dak Prescott into throwing a bad pass. Credit should be given to the backend coverage and to Kyler Fackrell. He showed good concentration pulling in a tipped pass here. He also flowed with Ezekiel Elliot on the route, watched Prescott’s eyes, made the pick, used a Derrick Henry type stiff arm, and then did his best John Elway to dive into the end zone for a touchdown. This gave the Giants a 14-3 lead on the road against a division foe.

Play 2 — Daniel Jones fumbles again

After a nice gain to Golden Tate that moved the sticks, the Giants come out in play action on first down. Andrew Thomas’ feet look very slow as he attempts to block Demarcus Lawrence, who had more pressures against the Giants than he did in his previous four games. Thomas is beaten around the edge; Jones can’t even hit his back foot before attempting to flee. He’s hit, the ball comes out, and, of course, the ball just bounces ever so nicely right into the arms of Anthony Brown who trots into the end zone. It reminds me of Henry Winkler going over film in “The Waterboy.” This is one reason why deep shots are more of a rarity. Dallas calls a boundary corner blitz on this play that allows Lawrence to go wide up the arc as well. Thomas has to adjust and adapt to pass rusher’s path, and he just didn’t. This tied the score at 17.

Play 3 — Dak catches a TD pass

New York did end up driving down the field and put three on the board (I’ll get into the big play that transpired on that drive a bit later), but then the Cowboys were able to put themselves into position to score at the end of the first half. A few passes to Lamb and an unnecessary roughness call on Adrian Colbert put Dallas into the position you see above. Dallas using the Philly Special against the Giants is not something any Giants’ fan wants to experience. This play made the score 20-24 Dallas going into halftime.

Plays 4 — Vanishing touchdowns

Yes, plays, plural.

Joe Judge goes into his special teams trickery just to have it negated because Cameron Fleming is not set at the snap. This is a game changing play by Judge that would have put the Giants up 24-17 before the Philly Special drive. It would have been a huge momentum swing. Fleming has to know that the Giants are being deceptive, and that the snap was going to be made in a hasty manner. He just seems a bit lethargic when getting down, and it cost the Giants here. No Dallas Cowboys recognized Engram who was just outside the numbers. These types of plays are the Joe Judge wrinkles from New England, but this was, yet another, missed opportunity from the Giants.

There’s another nullified touchdown on the very next Giants’ drive to open the second half. Dallas is in man coverage, and the Giants are in a tight BUNCH inside the numbers. There is no BANJO call from Dallas; Darius Slayton, who is on the line of scrimmage, runs a wheel to the outside, Ratley runs a quick spot from the outside of the BUNCH, and Golden Tate runs a deep rounded out route to occupy the safety’s attention. With the BUNCH, and Dallas playing man coverage, it’s almost inevitable that traffic may impede the coverage, and it does. Ratley releases outside and goes back inside where he is run into by Slayton’s coverage defender. This is called an illegal pick, but I’ve seen a lot worse this season. As Tony Romo stated, Ratley releases outside at the line of scrimmage and doesn’t run directly at Slayton’s defender. It’s a pretty ticky tack type of call that removed another touchdown for the Giants. It’s a good play design by Jason Garrett against this man, middle of the field closed, defense, but the contact by Ratley was enough to warrant the flag in these officials’ eyes.

Plays 5 — Gallup-ing away

New York’s last offensive possession was one of their worst; a five-play, 15-yard drive within the two-minute warning that gave Dallas the ball back with about a minute left on the clock. Before these plays, backup quarterback Andy Dalton found Amari Cooper over the middle of the field and Blake Martinez took a bad angle on a second and 10 play that gave Dallas the confidence to keep driving downfield. If the tackle is made by Martinez, Dallas would have been in a third and 6(ish) with time winding down, and Mike McCarthy may have chosen to just go to overtime, but that did not happen.

Credit has to be given to Dalton and Michael Gallup for fantastic plays and rising to the occasion. Yes, in the first play there’s an egregious missed call by the officials on a well executed stunt from Markus Golden and B.J. Hill. If you’re going to call soft penalties all game and then swallow your whistle on this play, then you may need to reevaluate your officiating skills. Consistency is paramount and there’s no excuse for that no call. Even so, this missed holding call is not the reason why the Giants lost this football game. There were many mistakes and a ton of opportunities throughout the game that led to New York falling short once the time hit triple zeros.

Final thoughts

Every week it seems like the Giants are “this close” or they “just missed on that one play,” and this week is similar, but teams that are not good will fail to execute when it matters most. New York had a realistic shot to propel itself into serious playoff contention if they won this game against the Giants (I know, the NFC East is sad). The 2-3 Cowboys now lead the division without their star quarterback, and the other three teams can’t seem to get out of their own way. The Giants joined the Jets and the Falcons at 0-5, and they will host the Washington Football Team next week in a very winnable game.