EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In some ways Sunday against the Giants, quarterback Matt Cassel gave the Cowboys exactly what they were looking for when they promoted him to starter over the bye week.
He threw a critical touchdown pass that tied the game at 20 apiece midway through the fourth quarter, and he managed an offense that dominated time of possession by 16 minutes, due in large part to Darren McFadden's terrific 152-yard rushing day.
The Cowboys led 13-10 at halftime, but Cassel's three interceptions over the final two quarters – including a pick-six by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – led to 10 New York points in a 27-20 loss to the Giants at Metlife Stadium.
"Turnovers is what killed us today, and it lies on my shoulders, obviously," Cassel said afterward. "I've got to correct those things and give our team a better opportunity to win, because if you don't take care of the ball in this league it's tough to win."
[embeddedad0]Add Cole Beasley's fumbled punt return in the final two minutes that erased a chance to drive for the tying score, and the Cowboys overall didn't get out of their own way enough on Sunday.
The Cowboys announced during last week's bye that Cassel, acquired in a trade with Buffalo a month ago, would replace Brandon Weeden as Tony Romo's injury replacement against the Giants. Romo (fractured collarbone) is eligible to be activated from the Reserve/Injured-Designated to Return list in time for the Nov. 22 game against the Dolphins.
In the meantime, Cassel's experience – 73 starts over 11 NFL seasons – is a plus, as well as his history leading several different offenses. Sunday he completed 17 of 27 passes for 227 yards, but three interceptions reduced his passer rating to 62.3.
"I thought he did a lot of good things in this game," head coach Jason Garrett said. "I thought he handled himself well, was poised, composed, executed well in the run game, executed well in the passing game.
"Obviously the three big plays for him were the interceptions. We can analyze each of those and try to explain why they happened, but you can't turn the ball over."
Two of Cassel's three picks went to Rodgers-Cromartie, the first a comeback route on the right sideline intended for Terrance Williams that the veteran Giants cornerback returned 58 yards for a touchdown and a 17-13 lead early in the third quarter.
The second was a deep ball thrown toward the end zone and grabbed by safety Brandon Meriweather, Cassel's former teammate in New England.
"It came out of my hand funny and it was a bad ball," Cassel said.
After his final interception to Rodgers-Cromartie – thrown deep middle intended for receiver Brice Butler – Cassel did lead the offense 80 yards in nine plays for the tying touchdown pass to receiver Devin Street, who showed great balance getting both feet inbounds in the corner of the end zone. Dwayne Harris scored the deciding touchdown for the Giants on the ensuing kickoff.
But clearly, Cassel would like to have those other three plays back.
His teammates showed support after the game.
"He's a great quarterback," Williams said. "His experience showed, and it's just one of those days that things just weren't falling for us."