Report Card: Numbers mask ugly duckling
No wonder Jason Garrett didn't have any confidence to run the ball when the Cowboys needed a yard to extend a potential game-winning drive. With DeMarco Murray sidelined, the Cowboys gained a grand total of 19 yards on 17 carries. Felix Jones had all 19 yards on 13 carries, running tentatively after being bothered all week by a bruised knee. He lost a fumble caused by center Ryan Cook's butt. Third-string tailback Phillip Tanner got stuffed at the goal line on his only two carries of the day. The Giants' front seven dominated the line of scrimmage all day.
The Dallas passing game produced a lot of pretty numbers. Tony Romo threw for a career-high 437 yards. Jason Witten had a franchise-record 18 receptions, more than any tight end in NFL history. The Cowboys had three 100-yard receivers for the second time in franchise history with Witten (167), Miles Austin (133) and Dez Bryant (110). But all the pretty numbers were outweighed by a butt-ugly stat: Romo's four picks, including one returned by Jason Pierre-Paul for a touchdown. The turnovers put the Cowboys in a 23-point hole, forcing Romo to throw a franchise-record 62 times while trying to lead a comeback, making all the meaningless, pretty numbers possible.
The Giants struggled to run the ball effectively despite stud inside linebacker Sean Lee being out for the season and fill-in starter Dan Connor leaving the game with a strained neck. The Giants averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw (22 carries, 78 yards) never got rolling. Reserve running back Andre Brown was more effective, accounting for 21 yards and a touchdown on his three carries, running through Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff once. However, Ratliff was a force for the majority of the afternoon. He finished with five tackles, highlighted by one when he tracked down Bradshaw behind the line of scrimmage and outside the numbers to kill a Giants drive.
This is about as good as it possibly gets. The Cowboys kept an elite quarterback from making an impact on the game. Eli Manning completed only 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards and no touchdowns. Danny McCray came up with an interception when strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh delivered a hit on Victor Cruz that would have made Darren Woodson proud -- a clean but vicious blow that separated Cruz from the ball on a third-down throw over the middle. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick made Cruz (two catches, 23 yards) and Hakeem Nicks (four catches, 46 yards) nonfactors.
The Cowboys had a catastrophic special teams mistake in a loss for the third time this season. Dez Bryant was responsible for this one, losing a fumble on a reckless punt return that was doomed from the moment he failed to field the ball cleanly. That gifted a field goal for the Giants. There were several bright spots for the Cowboys' special teams, saving Joe DeCamillis' units from another failed grade. Dan Bailey hit a 51-yard field goal. Lance Dunbar had a 44-yard kickoff return. Brian Moorman averaged a net of 41.0 yards on four punts, three of which pinned the Giants inside the 20.
The Cowboys continue to be a dumb team. Ivy League-educated Jason Garrett can't escape the blame for that. His message about the importance of protecting the ball obviously isn't getting through to his team, which committed six turnovers in this loss. This is twice in the last three meetings against the Giants that the Cowboys looked woefully unprepared, putting themselves in huge holes. And Garrett's pass-happy play-calling when the Cowboys failed to pick up 1 yard on three downs with a little more than a minute to go gave ample opportunity for second-guessing.