While the world was fixated on a Patriots vs Cowboys Super Bowl, the Cowboys forgot to do one thing – take care of business in the NFC Divisional round against the Giants. Sunday in Dallas, the Giants, with a banged up secondary, took care of the Cowboys holding them to three points in the second half to stun the #1 seed in the NFC 21-17 and move on to the NFC Championship game in Green Bay next Sunday.
The Cowboys seemed to have everything going their way in the first half, as they were running all over the Giants with a huge first half from Marion Barber, who ended the day with 129 yards on 27 carries. The Cowboys had two huge drives in the first half, one of 9 plays for 96 yards to tie the game at seven when Tony Romo hit Terrell Owens from five yards out, then another drive of 20 plays, 90 yards and over 10 minutes of possession to take a 14-7 lead.
The game changed on the next drive though, as the Giants took the ball and marched 71 yards in just :46 seconds as Eli Manning was on target, hitting Amani Toomer from four yards out with seven seconds left in the first half to tie the game at 14. Dallas again put a solid drive of 14 plays and 62 yards together in the third quarter, but could not covert it in the end zone and had to settle for a Nick Folk 34-yard field goal to make it 17-14.
After the teams traded a few possessions, the Giants held Dallas and got the ball back in great field position after a punt and solid return. They went to work with a six-play, 37-yard drive that ended as Brandon Jacobs went in from a yard out with 13:29 to play to make it 21-17 Giants. The fourth quarter was a struggle for Dallas, as the Giants put the pressure on with their front four, and on their final drive had a shot but Romo was picked off in the end zone with seven seconds left to seal the deal at 21-17.
The Cowboys folded when they had to, as they were unable to move the ball much at all in the second half, with Romo not able to find his wide outs despite the fact that the Giants were playing with a patchworked secondary. New York was able to get to him with pressure, and the Cowboys could not overcome it. Plus Dallas all day killed itself with penalties, as they had 11 for 84 yards while New York had 3 for 25.
This overshadowed the fact that the Cowboys were a staggering 10-of-16 on third downs, going 5-for-5 in the second quarter as they had their two long drives. Dallas also outgained the Giants 336 to 230, but in the end, were not able to get the ball close enough on key drives to put up either field goals or touchdowns.
It was a far cry from a Cowboys team that beat the Giants twice in the regular season. The first game in Dallas they scored 45 and shredded the Giants defense all night long. Now, they will have all offseason to think about the mistakes that cost them a shot at the Super Bowl. For the Giants, it’s off to Lambeau Field and a meeting with the Packers in what should be an interesting NFC Title game next Sunday night.