And with that, the 2020 season comes to an end.
In order to win the NFC East and earn a spot in the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys came into this last day of the regular season needing both a win over the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team to lose in its Sunday night matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Unfortunately, it never got that far. The Cowboys were unable to hold up their end of the bargain, losing to their long-time rivals, 23-19, to wrap up one of the most difficult seasons in franchise history on a disappointing note.
On a cold and rainy day, the Cowboys offense couldn't do much of anything in the first half, totaling only 113 yards of offense with 36 yards rushing. Quarterback Andy Dalton, who had been solid during the team's last three wins, struggled mightily early on, although he improved over the final two quarters to finish the day with 243 passing yards, despite being sacked six times and having his right hand injured when it was stepped on in the third quarter.
Seven different receivers caught passes, including Amari Cooper, who topped 90 receptions for the season, and Dalton Schultz, the tight end hauling in a game-high seven, which pushed him over 60 catches for the campaign. But the team's running game was unable to contribute much, Ezekiel Elliott finishing with just 42 yards on 14 carries to fall only 21 yards short of 1,000 for the season.
Ten of the Cowboys' points came courtesy of turnovers, the defense continuing its impressive run. After recording only 11 turnovers in the first 12 games of the schedule, Dallas took away 12 more over the last four outings.
But it wasn't enough, as New York ran for 125 yards on the ground with wideout Sterling Shepard proving especially tough in the passing attack with eight catches for 112 yards and both a rushing and receiving touchdown as well.
The Giants made it look easy on their first drive as they needed just six plays to march 78 yards to the end zone. Quarterback Daniel Jones had passes of 14 and 16 yards, but it was a 23-yard end-around by Shepherd that got them on the board, the Giants missing their extra-point attempt to take a 6-0 lead.
But the Dallas defense set the Cowboys up for their first points with yet another turnover, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie falling on a muffed handoff to give his side the ball at the New York 27-yard line. That resulted in a 38-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein.
Shepherd continued to be a thorn in Dallas' collective side as the game continued, hauling in one catch for 21 yards during the Giant's second drive of the quarter before then taking a 10-yard pass across the goal line to give New York a 10-point lead.
Dalton and company would respond with the quarterback completing 4-of-6 pass attempts for 43 yards before Zuerlein came out for a 46-yarder. And he would then follow that up with an impressive 57-yard field goal as time ran out in the second quarter.
But in between those two kicks, the Giants added another touchdown. Helped by two Dallas penalties, New York went 75 yards in 4 plays to pay dirt. This time wideout Dante Pettis got the honors with a 31-yard touchdown catch, the Giants going into the break with a 20-9 advantage.
What a difference a half makes. Looking like a new team, the Cowboys added another turnover to their column when Jones' throw on the Giants' first possession of the second half went through the hands of tight end Evan Engram and into the waiting arms of safety Donovan Wilson.
And the Cowboys took advantage. Working quickly, Dalton completed all six of his passes for 48 yards, including a pretty 21-yard completion down the right sideline to rookie CeeDee Lamb. Elliott eventually capped off the drive by bullying his way in from the 1-yard line, the extra point narrowing the score to 20-16.
But the Cowboys were on the move as the clock ticked over into the fourth quarter. Dalton continued his hot streak, completing five passes for 48 yards while also scrambling 13 yards for a first down. Despite reaching the Giants' 10-yard line, however, the Cowboys had to settle for a 36-yard field goal from Zuerlein to narrow the deficit to just one point.
Which was then matched by the Giants. New York completed a 10-yard pass on third-and-16 at the Dallas 42 that, if challenged, might have possibly been overturned. Instead, New York was able to attempt a 50-yard field that split the uprights.
That, unfortunately, would prove to be the difference.
With more than six minutes still remaining and now needing a touchdown, the Cowboys took over at their own 25-yard line and began a long, methodical march down the field that included three third-down conversions and a fourth-and-2 conversion at the New York 34-yard line.
And then it all fell apart. Facing first-and-goal at the Giants' 7-yard line, the Cowboys suffered a 10-yard sack, a dropped pass from Lamb and then Dalton, under pressure, lofted a desperate pass into the end zone that was intercepted. In one last glimmer of hope, Dallas appeared to have possibly recovered a fumble with only 1:09 remaining, but the runner was ruled down, Giants ball.
Meaning the Cowboys season was officially over, the team overcoming the lack of an offseason, injuries and even tragedy, but coming up short in their goal of reaching the playoffs.