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Giants-Cowboys: 5 plays that led to New York’s loss

Giants had their chances on Thursday, but couldn’t get the job done

NFL: NOV 24 Giants at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving by a score of 28-20. The injury-riddled Giants’ defense made a key stop on fourth-and-1 and also intercepted quarterback Dak Prescott twice in the first half. Despite the early success, the Giants were only able to lead Dallas by six heading into halftime.

Dallas scored three consecutive touchdowns in the second half, while the Giants' offense turned the football over on downs on two of their first three drives in the second half. New York managed a late touchdown pass to Richie James, but the game was realistically out of reach by then.

The Giants' offense had opportunities during the second half, but they were unable to connect on those, and Dallas’ offense matriculated the football down the field successfully.

New York has a mini-bye week before hosting the Washington Commanders; they’ll need to heal up, regroup, and try, for the third straight week, to earn their eighth win of the season. Here are the five plays, or sequence of plays, that led to the Giants’ 28-20 loss.

Play 1: Huge missed opportunity

The Cowboys opened the second half with a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended in Dalton Schultz’s first of two touchdown catches. With the score 14-13, Dallas, the Giants faced a fourth-and-1 at their 45-yard line.

Mike Kafka dialed up an excellent play design that crossed Barkley to the field side, running against the direction of two receivers to that side, which created extra traffic for Leighton Vander Esch (55) to sift through. Barkley had leverage to the outside, but Daniel Jones threw the football to his near hip, and Barkley could not adjust to the off-target throw.

The football is very catchable, but it is not optimally placed; it’s difficult to ask any receiving player - especially a running back - to adjust to a ball thrown behind him in that manner. This is a sure got-to-have-it type of moment for the Giants’ offense, and they weren’t able to connect.

Play(s) 2: Cowboy tight ends against the Giants

Historically speaking, the Cowboys' tight ends enjoy playing against the New York Giants. Unfortunately for New York, Dallas remembered this fact in the second half, as Dalton Schultz caught two touchdown passes, third-string tight endPeyton Hendershot rushed for a 2-yard score, and second-string tight end Jake Ferguson leaped over Jason Pinnock for a 30-yard catch-and-run.

The first touchdown pass to Schultz was on a third-and-goal at the 15-yard line after a 14-play drive. Dallas suffered two false start penalties, but the Giants' defense could not capitalize on the Cowboys’ mistakes.

Here is Schultz’s second touchdown pass after a six-play, 44-yard drive, after the turnover on downs on fourth-and-1 by New York. Hendershot’s touchdown seemed like the knockout blow after a 10-play, 80-yard drive from Dallas.

Above is the 30-yard catch by Ferguson at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which helped set up Hendershot’s 2-yard rushing touchdown.

Some things never get old; death, taxes, and the Giants struggling to defend Dallas' tight ends. Somewhere ... Jason Witten is smiling.

Play(s) 3: Third down woes

The Dallas Cowboys offense was 7 of 11 on third-down conversions. New York had some great early pressure designs to force incompletions early in the game, but Prescott calmed down in the face of pressure and stabilized throughout the game.

Michael Gallup (13) made two critical third-and-short catches - in tight coverage - on the Cowboys' first touchdown drive that was ended by an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown. Elliott added a third-down conversion off a quarterback option of his own on that drive on Dallas’ 47-yard line.

CeeDee Lamb

Lamb had a big day with six catches for 106 yards, but two clutch third-and-long conversions proved to be a sharp dagger for the Giants in the second half.

Prescott connected with Lamb on this third-and-twelve play that set up Schultz's touchdown in the third quarter. Before this play, Dallas was bailed out by a phantom defensive holding penalty against Darnay Holmes, but the Giants’ defense could not come up with this big stop; what made the situation worse was the Giants surrendered the third-and-15 touchdown to Schultz that we saw in Play 2.

With the Giants down by eight points, Prescott found Lamb on third-and-11 to set up the jet-sweep Peyton Hendershot touchdown we saw in Play 2. The Giants’ secondary was overmatched by the wide receivers of Dallas, and the Cowboys were just too efficient in high-leverage situations with their passing attack.

Play(s) 4: Turnovers on Thanksgiving

The Giants’ defense kept the score close with three turnovers in the first half (one was a turnover on downs). Dallas was cocky to start the game; head coach Mike McCarthy decided to keep the offense on the field during a fourth-and-two.

Jaylon Smith made a sensational fill on the fourth-and-2 to give the Giants’ offense the football at the Dallas’ 40. The Giants ultimately gained one yard after an Isaiah Hodgins touchdown was nullified, and Jones’ took an intentional grounding penalty that forced Graham Gano to kick a 57-yard field goal.

The Giants matched their team interception total in the first half after Rodarius Williams intercepted Dak Prescott along the sideline. Later, Darnay Holmes (30) disrupted a throw to CeeDee Lamb (88), which was intercepted by Julian Love (20).

These turnovers stole offensive opportunities from Dallas, forcing them to have only seven points at halftime. Still, despite the injured Giants’ defense forcing three turnovers, the Giants only entered halftime with a six-point lead.

Eventually, the state of the Giants' roster caught up to the defense, and Dallas’ offense was able to exploit the bruised defensive unit of New York.

Play 5: Another ‘got to have it’ missed

After the Giants’ first interception (Rodarius Williams), the offense went three-and-out with this poorly-placed third-and-4 miss by Jones. Richie James (80) ran a quick out route with an inward stem off the line of scrimmage to create more defensive back hesitation; he creates solid distance between himself and Trevon Diggs (7), but the throw goes a little wide, and the Giants have to punt the football right back to Dallas’ offense.