Sundays important divisional matchup at the Meadowlands left the Giants still searching for that definitive statement of their status as a contender. A victory against the visiting Dallas team would have put the Giants in a tie for first place in the NFC East with a record against divisional opponents that matched the Cowboys. Defeating Dallas would also would have gone a long way towards answering criticism that the Giants schedule through 9 weeks this season has been too soft to allow them to swagger over their 6-2 record; going into the Dallas game the Giants had collected 4 of their 6 wins against teams with a combined record of 5-27, including a slim 13-10 defeat of the winless Dolphins in which Giants QB Eli Manning passed for a scant 49 yards and no touchdowns.
While their loss to Dallas did not provide the much needed affirmation that the Giants could repeat a critical victory against a tough division opponent as they did in Week 3 against the Redskins, neither did it show that they were without the tools needed to accomplish such a victory. The contest was also not a very flattering portrayal of the Cowboys abilities, at least not in the first half during which time two Dallas penalties that occurred after plays were whistled dead accounted for critical yardage that set up more than half of the Giants points.
The Cowboys struck first on a touchdown pass from Dallas quarterback Tony Romo to wide receiver Tony Curtis that followed a relatively short drive. Dallas had received good field position after a 25 yard kickoff return from WR Miles Austin, and running back Julius Jones ripped off another 20 yards on the Cowboys first play from scrimmage. But the first Cowboys touchdown in my opinion should have been called back for an illegal forward pass. Romo appeared to be clearly past the line of scrimmage when he released the football, and had the officials made the correct call it would have resulted in a five yard penalty and loss of down for Dallas. I have heard some folks claim that the passers entire body must be across the line of scrimmage in order to for the pass to be considered illegal, but I have read the text of the NFL rule and I believe that they as well as Giants coach Tom Coughlin are wrong when they say it was a legal pass. In any case, Dallas managed only a 17-17 tie at halftime based on a field goal after a failed drive off an interception, a decent touchdown drive inside the two minute warning, and a ridiculous taunting penalty following the touchdown that put the Giants in position to score the tying field goal.
But the fourth quarter belonged to Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens who scored all the Cowboys second half points on two touchdown catches, one for 25 yards and another for 50 yards. Both plays owed their success to the experience and athleticism of T.O. who easily disengaged from the chuck blocks at the line of scrimmage, beat the coverage cleanly and got wide open behind the Giants secondary. Behind pretty good protection Romo only had tp loft the football for a couple of easy touchdowns.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning did not pass particularly poorly, but he was under a lot of pressure from the Cowboys defensive line getting sacked 5 times. A further problem is that he showed a lack of leadership in some instances, taking delay of game penalties for example at critical times on 2 different drives, delays that probably cost the Giants some much needed points.
At the end of the day the Cowboys were the better team both offensively and defensively. Their record goes to 8-1, and a bye week for Dallas in the playoffs is looking more and more likely.