Dallas needed to convert third-and-10 from their own 46-yard line with 12 seconds left.
The good: receiver Terrance Williams caught a 14-yard pass from quarterback Dak Prescott to keep the drive alive.
The bad: Williams chose to cut inside at the Giants 45-yard line rather than duck out of bounds and kill the clock. The offense couldn't get to the line in time, and the game clock expired with the Giants winning the 2016 opener at AT&T Stadium, 20-19 over the Cowboys.
"It doesn’t bother me,’’ Williams said of the heat he's going to catch because he didn't duck out of bounds with a tick left on the clock to allow Dan Bailey a chance at a game-winning 62-yard field goal. "I’m used to people blaming me, anyway. So it’s not something new. I know what type of guy I am. I know how I work. Hearing different people talk about me, that’s not going to bother me.’'
Actually, though, his own coach is among those "talking about him.''
“What he needed to do there,’’ coach Jason Garrett said, “was simply run out of bounds. It’s a well-practiced situation. We’ve been in that situation a lot and (Williams’) instincts took him inside. Obviously, with no timeouts and 12 seconds to go (when the third-and-10 play started at Dallas’ 46-yard line), he needs to catch that ball and immediately get out of bounds.’'
But as always, this isn't about a T-Will failure. There were failures across the board.
Dallas falls to 0-1 for the 19th time in club history. They also blew a six-point fourth quarter lead, the last thing defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli wanted to do after his unit came up with a Benson Mayowa sack and a Brandon Carr interception in the third quarter.
After trading possessions early in the fourth quarter, the Giants took over at their own 46-yard line with 10:12 left in the game. New York melted 3:53 of game clock in a nine-play drive that culminated with a three-yard touchdown catch on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line (and accompanying salsa dance). It was Cruz's first action in 700 days since he tore his patellar tendon against the Eagles in October, 2014.
A holding penalty on La'el Collins on first-and-10 from the Dallas 36-yard line sent the Cowboys back 10 yards and gave them 20 yards to gain, a total they could not even chip into in the series' impending three plays. After punting it away with 3:57 left, Dallas burned all of his timeouts and needed the two-minute warning to get the ball back with 1:05 left for Prescott, who went 25/45 for 227 yards, to win the game.
Dak Prescott, the rookie fourth-rounder out of Mississippi State, posted a 104.5 passer rating. On his first drive of his career Prescott went 6/7 for 49 yards. On a first-and-goal from the Giants 10-yard line, receiver Cole Beasley dropped a pass that assuredly would have been a walk-in touchdown. Instead, Dallas had to settle for a Dan Bailey field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The defense did its job and got the Giants off the field and returned the ball to the offense. The offense gets somewhat of a pass as they weren't ever in the red zone. So, a 56-yard field goal by Bailey to increase the lead to 6-0 didn't seem so bad.
What does it profit a team to have all the time of possession if they can score no points? After Bailey booted a touchback, the Giants flew 75 yards across the field in four plays to take a 7-6 lead on tight end Larry Donnell's 15-yard touchdown catch. The play was set up by Odell Beckham, who finished with four catches for 73 yards, and blew by cornerback Orlando Scandrick a play earlier with a 45-yard catch.
The Cowboys regained the lead superficially as they settled again for a Bailey field goal, this one of 25 yards to go up 9-7. Dallas once again had a red zone trip that went as far as the Giants 13-yard line and netted no touchdowns. A play from the 24-yard line on first-and-10 actually left the Cowboys sour as Bryant, who only caught one pass for eight yards on the day, appeared to make a spectacular catch on defensive back Landon Collins only to have the ball bobble loose as he landed in the back left corner of the end zone.
New York took the scenic route on their ensuing drive rather than express lanes. The Cowboys defense, missing Scandrick who headed to the locker room with a knee and hamstring injury, had no answers for the Giants as they plodded 75 yards again down the field for a score, this time in 13 plays. The Cowboys got a bit of a break as Bullock missed the point after attempt.
The Cowboys got a turnover when Manning, who went 19/28 for 207 yards, and three touchdowns, threw an interception straight into the waiting arms of Brandon Carr. Ezekiel Elliott cashed in on the turnover with an 8-yard touchdown gallop and posted 51 yards on 20 carries for the afternoon.
But most everything Dallas did well, New York did better.
'We did a lot of things right, we just fell short,'' said Dez Bryant, who nearly grabbed a spectacular TD catch but otherwise was held to one reception for eight yards. "This is gonna be a helluva football team.''
Maybe so. But the Giants have more reason to feel the same way about themselves ... and have a 1-0 record to prove it.
The Cowboys now face Washington next week on the road. The Cowboys have not fallen to 0-2 ever in the Garrett era and would not to like to make that a new tradition now that the old one of vanquishing the Giants on Opening Day is now a memory.
1st Q -- Dan Bailey hits a 23-yard field goal with 6:37 to go. 3-0 Cowboys
2nd Q -- Bailey hits a 56-yard field goal with 11:14 to play. 6-0 Cowboys
2nd Q -- Larry Donnell catches a 15-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 9:41 to play. 7-6 Giants
2nd Q -- Bailey nails a 25-yard field goal with 4:08 to go. 9-7 Cowboys
2nd Q -- Sterling Shepard catches a 9-yard touchdown pass (PAT failed) with 0:07. 13-9 Giants
3rd Q -- Ezekiel Elliott rushes for an 8-yard touchdown with 10:53 to go. 16-13 Cowboys
4th Q -- Bailey nails a 54-yard field goal with 14:04 remaining. 19-13 Cowboys
4th Q -- Victor Cruz catches a 3-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning with 6:19 left. 20-19 Cowboys
*B-Carr picked off Manning today. The last time Carr had an interception was on Thanksgiving 2013 against the Raiders against rookie quarterback Matt McGloin.
*Speaking of ex-Raiders, defensive end Benson Mayowa got his first sack of the season today. If he gets his second this year, it will double his career total.
*The last time Bailey hit two 50-plus-yard field goals was Dec. 15, 2013 against Green Bay, which was incidentally another one-point loss at home.
*Prescott's 104.5 passer rating is the second-best by a Cowboys rookie quarterback on Opening Day. Rooks are now 1-3 under center on Opening Day, though.
Said Dez of Dak: "He's only gonna get better. He's the ultimate competitor. He's gonna be a monster. That's what we all believe."
*Zeke Elliott had a TD ... but with only rushing for 51 yards, it means that Derrick Lassic still holds the Cowboys rookie running back Opening Day record at 75 yards.
*This is the eighth time in Bryant's career that he has been held to just one catch or fewer in a game.
*This is the eighth time the Cowboys have lost a season opener at home. Only 3/8 of such seasons ever resulted in a playoff berth.
THE FINAL WORD
"They ran what we thought they were gonna run. We just gotta execute better. We didn't finish when we got in the red zone." - Ezekiel Elliott.