The New York Giants gave fans a fun ride.
New York showed plenty of heart in rallying back from 0-6 and getting to within just two games of first place in the NFC East standings. It all came to a crashing halt on Sunday, when the Giants were unable to get the job done in what was essentially a home playoff game against hated rivals the Dallas Cowboys. Now sitting at 4-7 and with no tiebreaker over Dallas in hand, the G-Men will need multiple miracles in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Don't hold your breath.
Cowboys beat Giants: The penalty
Much was made by fans and analysts alike about the Roughing the Passer penalty called on New York's Mathias Kiwanuka, one that turned a Dallas turnover into a first down that ultimately resulted in the Cowboys finding the end zone. What was said about the controversial call made during last week's New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers game remains true today:
You can't make contact with the head of a quarterback when he is in the pocket. At all. Accident or not.
Those who follow and love the game may hate the rule. That's fair. It is what it is, however, and refs are obligated to throw the flag in such a scenario or face some sort of punishment from the league. This is how it's going to be until the NFL changes the rule.
Cowboys beat Giants: Blame
There's plenty of blame to go around for what will likely be the loss that ends New York's pursuit of the playoffs. I'm looking at defensive coordinator Perry Fewell immediately after the loss. Fewell elected to put single coverage on Dez Bryant during the final drive of the game, and Bryant twice made the Giants pay. Then, on a pivotal third-and-ten, the Giants sent only a three-man pass rush, thus giving quarterback Tony Romo all of the time in the world to complete a dagger pass.
One drive does not win or lose you games, as I'm going to point out in the next section. Nevertheless, careers are made in the final minutes of contests. Just ask Eli Manning. Fewell and his d' didn't get the job done with the game on the line, and that's a symptom of a team that doesn't deserve to play past the end of December.
Cowboys beat Giants: Why?
New York offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride also earned himself plenty of scorn on Sunday. The Giants went with a shotgun draw, a Gilbride trademark, on third-and-goal at the Dallas seven-yard line in the second quarter, forcing the hosts to settle for a field goal. New York also curiously abandoned the run game, one that picked up over 200 yards on the ground against the Dallas, several times in the second and third quarters.
I have, through the years, been quick to defend Gilbride to critics. It's unfair to him to suggest that those two Super Bowl victories were only the result of Manning heroics and great play on the defensive side of the football. There's little good to say about his tactics following Sunday's result, as he didn't get much right until New York's final offensive drive of the game.
Cowboys beat Giants: Next
The Giants cannot afford to treat the 2013 campaign as a lost cause. After all, the NFC East is still filled with average and below-average sides. New York turning an 0-6 start into an 8-8 or even a 7-9 season would have to be considered an achievement.
Even if it maybe wouldn't feel like it.