This year for Halloween, instead of playing on current trends like the Presidential race or zombies, the Cowboys decided to dress up like something tried and true: the Dallas Cowboys. In a game that bordered on parody, the Cowboys went to their old bag of fail and pulled out a gut-melter. It wasn't enough to be knocked completely through the mat early on; they had to come back to within a literal fingertip of a miraculous victory, only to be overruled back to reality.
If you want to pour a little optimism into the glass, you can look at the fact that the Cowboys didn't fold up shop once they were down 23-0. They continued to battle, even though their ineptitude proved to be their undoing in the end. Another bright spot was the dearth of penalties, as Dallas only had three yellow flags thrown on them for ten yards.
Six turnovers should never have a team even close to a win, and that's really the main issue. The Cowboys can't ever get out of their own way, even in victory. This team's identity is to play like they don't know how to win, and they executed it perfectly on Sunday. Let's delicately delve into the belly of this beast.
Where were the scorecards and the run-laughing? Once it became clear to Fox that the Cowboys likely had no shot in the game, they decided to turn the broadcast into a dunk contest. Jason Pierre-Paul's post pick-six celebration got more airtime than Felix Baumgartner. Sure it was an impressive capper to an amazing display of athleticism, but it's not like guys haven't dunked on uprights before. Maybe next time Fox should just roll out a tiny sedan and let JPP go ham.
This Defensive Performance Was a Wasted Masterpiece: Rob Ryan's crew put on one of the finest displays by a Cowboys defense in a long time. Holding Eli Manning and company to under 300 yards was an impressive feat, but to hold them to 22 points (not counting the Pierre-Paul pre-dunk touchdown) was dominant, considering the injury Sean Lee. It's even more amazing considering the five other turnovers gifted by the Cowboys, a couple of which setup the Giants on the doorstep of the end zone.
Bruce Carter looks to be a real stud in the middle, filling in capably as field general for the absent Lee. The Cowboys corners played nice, tight coverage for the most part, limiting the Giants to only a couple explosive plays. This defense, despite all the injuries, has fought back to establish itself as a championship-caliber unit. If only they weren't pushed to the edge of the cliff so often by their teammates, they would get more public adoration.
Somebody's been checking their email: Looks like someone in the promotions department may have stumbled on to something. Prior to this week's tilt, the team sent out an email to season ticket holders instructing them to get up and cheer on defensive third downs. Apparently, not everyone dragged that message to the trash bin, as there was a distinct clamor on the money downs. Who would have thought that mid-air go-go dancers and biblically huge video boards weren't the way to get fans involved in the game? After this week's performance, the Cowboys will be sending an email to Romo asking him to quit throwing interceptions, we'll see if that takes hold.
Let's hand out some bittersweet awards.
Tight End Of The Millennium Award (Part One): Jason Witten. When number 82 decides to hang up the cleats for the last time, he should take the tape of this game and throw it in the mail to Canton. If he hadn't made it brutally evident that his early season yips were a fluke, Witten showed the Cowboys fanbase how tough it's going to be when he's not moving the chains around here anymore. While Romo had a tough time finding a rhythm early, Jason was there to clean up the mess with catch after catch, including an insane one-handed of a Romo missile. Witten's 18 grabs set a franchise record, and outnumbered the entire Giants receiving corps' production by three.
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Adrian Beltre Off-Mic Cursing Award: Jay Ratliff. Just before halftime, a seemingly innocuous play was given a little extra flavor courtesy of the big defensive tackle. The Cowboys had just made a big stop on second and long, but Demarcus Ware had jumped offside. The ref turned on his mic just as Ratliff was growling out a surly "FUUUUUUCK!" encapsulating the precise feelings of everyone rooting for the guys in white at that point in time.
When he wasn't perking up the ears of every 10 year old in front of a television, Ratliff was a terror on the Giants offense. Shedding blockers with astounding efficiency, Jay blasted running plays and freed up his fellow lineman on the pass rush. On the sidelines, Ratliff was shown giving his guys the business when the defense wasn't performing up to par, which wasn't often. With Sean Lee in warm-ups and Demarcus Ware more of a "leader by example", Ratliff's vocal presence on and off the field is tremendously key.
Tight End Of The Millennium Award (Part Two): Gerald Sensabaugh's Hind Parts. It's well-known that the Cowboys don't have a knack for forcing turnovers. In what was one of the oddest plays in recent memory, safety Gerald Sensabaugh's keester made what could have been the biggest play of the game. After knocking salsa-aficionado Victor Cruz into an alternate reality, Sensabaugh's rump clutched the ball long enough for fellow safety Danny McCray to stick his nose in and pull out an interception. McCray's return into Giants territory was overturned as video replay indicated that Cruz's catatonic leg jittered just enough to touch McCray while he was down. With the Cowboys up by 1, it should have given the team enough momentum to extend the lead. Instead, the offense responded by allowing a 12-yard sack on the way to a three and out.
This week the Cowboys head to Atlanta to face an undefeated Falcons team in a night-capper. If Dallas can limit their own mistakes, they could keep it interesting, as long as they can keep their fingers in bounds.