Looking back at game film of the drive that won the Giants game:
The Giants had just tied the game with a drive that physically beat up this Cowboys defense, and Jason Garrett had a decision to make: does he take the conservative route with the ball on his own 20 and the Giants holding three timeouts, or does he rely on his playmakers to step up and find ways to drive this ball in to field goal range and kill this last 4:45 in the game?
Garrett took one look at his defense and knew he couldn't just sit on the ball and hope for the best. Even on the plane home, Nick Eatman asked Barry Church if he thought the defense was going to have to go back on the field one more time. Church's answer was a simple "Yes".
Jason Garrett did his defense a favor, because he trusted his players. Garrett and Bill Callahan opened the series in "11" personnel, which really has been their bread and butter personnel group when they want to move the ball. But what was different is that Miles Austin was in the slot instead of Cole Beasley and to the same side as Dez Bryant, which meant that Bryant was in single coverage to that side.
Garrett put Romo in the shotgun and ran a play that had been pretty good for them, with the inside handoff to Murray coming left. At the snap, Jason Witten was able to kick Mathias Kiwanuka outside, while Tyron Smith and Ronald Leary were able to double Mike Patterson down inside and Mackenzy Bernadeau came pulling right to left to lead on Jacquian Williams.
The play opens just perfectly, but Smith is a tick late coming off the block to try and grab Jon Beason, who is there to meet Murray in the hole as Murray spins for three yards.
2nd and 7 on the Cowboys 23: Garrett and Callahan get into "12" personnel, but this time they run a bunch formation to the right with Bryant, Witten and Escobar. At pre snap, Witten breaks to his left across the formation, moving him to Austin's side, slot left.
At the snap, Bryant explodes inside with Escobar behind him. Rolle is in man coverage while Escobar is trapped by Bryant's upfield move. Romo is able to get the ball above Jason Pierre-Paul, who is rushing on Doug Free, and into the flat to Escobar, who makes the catch, getting up the field for a five yard gain and out of bounds.
The first 3rd down of the series finds Garrett only needing two yards, but execution on third downs has been difficult the last three weeks. That problems rears its head again when Tyron Smith gets a false start penalty and sets the offense five yards back. It is now 3rdand 7 with 3:56 on the clock.
Garrett and Callahan once again get in a bunch formation, and this time they flip it from the right side to the left with Witten, Austin and Bryant to that side. Austin, instead of motioning across the formation, breaks to the outside.
Romo is looking right at Austin to see how the Giants are going to play the coverage. Prince Amukamara goes with Austin, and Rolle has Bryant in the slot. Romo signals Austin, then accepts the snap. Austin drives hard inside as Bryant works hard to his left. Romo could fire it inside to Austin on the move for the first, as Rolle and Amukamara fight to stay with their men.
Bryant is now up the field on Rolle and sees the ball is going to be underthrown and begins to adjust. Rolle doesn't have a chance and tries to adjust back to Bryant but Bryant has already turned his body to cradle the ball in his stomach. In the pocket, the Giants rush five and there is a solid blitz pickup from Murray in the middle of the pocket that allows Romo all the time he needs to allow the route to develop.
Now with a fresh set of downs, Garrett and Callahan go back to "12" with Witten inline left and James Hanna as a wing to that side. To the top, Austin is inside of Bryant, who once again has single coverage. At the snap, Romo looks to his left but knows exactly where he is going with the ball – it's Bryant working against Terrell Thomas. Bryant drives Thomas out of his pedal, then hits the brakes for a five yard completion.
2nd and 5 with the clock running just under 3:00, Garrett and Callahan stay in "11" with a bunch formation again to the left, but this time they put Dunbar and Beasley in the game. Terrance Williams breaks the bunch and motions to his left, and Romo again sees the Giants' adjustment.
Beasley slow-plays his route, allowing Witten to clear, then drives hard inside and back out. There is a moment of space, but Jacquian Williams is quicker to read the route than Beason and drives underneath to knock the ball away -- just an outstanding play on his part.
3rd and 5 and 2:30 on the clock, and Garrett and Callahan go to one of my favorite formations: "01" with Witten tight left and Bryant outside of him with Williams far left. With the Giants spread out across the field, Rolle has to take Bryant out of the slot.
Romo sees the space, as does Bryant, as he works to his left getting Rolle to widen, then breaks inside to this right. Romo fires the ball in the direction of Bryant, who makes the snatch catch with Rolle arriving late. In the pocket, the Giants try to rush three but all accounted for.
1st and 10 at the 2:00 minute warning and the Cowboys are on the Giants 45. After the first down, Garrett and Callahan go back to "12" like they did after the previous 3rd down conversion. With Murray in the backfield to his right, Romo sends him to the right to create an empty backfield.
At the snap, Austin drives to his left out of the slot about four yards up the field. Romo lets the ball fly but it's high and Austin has to adjust by jumping, but the ball bounces off his hands for an incomplete pass – one he should have caught.
2nd and 10, Cowboys go back to "11" with Witten, Austin and Bryant all lined up to the right.
At the snap, Murray moves from his left to right across the pocket to help pick up the blitz coming from that side. The Giants are in man coverage as the routes begin to develop. Romo sees Witten go up the field with Austin breaking behind him at the sticks.
Rolle is trying to cover Austin, but he is not even close as Austin turns his body to face Romo and secure the ball. In the pocket, Murray once again has a solid pickup on safety Will Hill, but we see an even better block by Travis Frederick, holding up one-on-one with Linval Joseph and working him away from Romo.
1st and 10 with the ball now on the Giants 29. What I had learned from watching pregame warm up, in the direction that the Cowboys were going, that for a solid field goal attempt by Dan Bailey, they needed to get to the Giants 20 or inside of that. Also with the catch by Austin, the Giants were forced to start using their timeouts, which later would be key.
Garrett and Callahan bring Escobar and Hanna back onto the field with "13" personnel. Garrett hands the ball to Murray coming left with Hanna and Witten pushing at the point. Instead of pressing the hole between Smith and Leary, Murray comes to a stop and loses his momentum and is stopped for no gain.
On the run, the Giants burn their second timeout.
Now facing a 2nd and 10, Garrett and Callahan go back to "11" with Witten slot left. The tight end motions to his right to make a bunch formation with Austin and Williams. On the bottom of the formation is Bryant against Amukamara.
At the snap, Romo play actions to Murray going right, and Bryant has beaten Amukamara inside and past safety Ryan Mundy, who was playing underneath. Romo puts the ball in a perfect spot and Bryant is able to snatch it with Amukamara on his back. On the coaches' tape, I honestly don't know how that is not ruled a catch, and from my view on the field, the field judge, Buddy Horton is running in to say catch, back judge, Billy Smith was doing the same and no fumble because he was down by contact.
What was even more surprising is that the booth did not even take a look at it with Garrett calling a time out to try and give them an opportunity to do so. I was standing behind the referee who handles the calls from up above and the only reaction I saw him give was a thumbs up to Walt Anderson, which surprised me. The film looked like it was a catch and a football movement but Mike Wimmer, the replay official, did not feel the same way.
Now comes Garrett's decision that won the game. With his offense facing a 3rd and 10 , does he run the ball and try for field goal range and make the Giants burn their final timeout or does he go for the first down? [embedded_ad]
Coming out of the timeout, Romo and Garrett have a discussion about the play call and the coaches send Beasley onto the field. The personnel group is "01" with Beasley in the slot inside of Bryant on the left side.
This formation once again spreads the Giants out forcing Rolle to have to carry Beasley out of the slot, which he has no chance of doing. At the snap, the Giants rush four, as Beasley gives Rolle a shutter move that gets him off balance. Rolle is now in a bad trail position as the safety over the top is looking at Bryant on the outside.
Beasley is now at the sticks and breaks hard to his left. Rolle is now on the ground and Beasley is in space and he is able to secure the ball without any issues, diving forward for the first and forcing the Giants to use their final timeout.
It was a drive that went 14 plays for 64 yards and went exactly 4:45, which is where they were when they started the possession. There were some clutch calls and clutch plays throughout the drive but the best call of them all was Jason Garrett deciding that he was going to win the game.
To his credit, he did.