If the Super Bowl endgame scenario looked familiar to Cowboys fans, it may be because the Giants' Week 14 victory in Arlington played out in similar fashion to their come-from-behind win over New England on Sunday night.
At the two-minute warning on Sunday, the Giants had the ball at the Patriots' 18-yard line, with New England holding two timeouts and leading by two points. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was faced with a huge decision - whether to play the scenario straight up, hoping for a turnover or a missed field goal by the Giants, or to let New York score the touchdown and leave time for Tom Brady to drive for a winning score of his own.
Ultimately, Belichick did both, but the Giants ticked off a precious minute of clock time and forced the Patriots to call their second timeout before Ahmad Bradshaw reluctantly scored the go-ahead touchdown when New England's defense made no attempt to stop him. As it turned out, one minute and one timeout wasn't enough for Brady to work with, and the Giants won their fourth Super Bowl.
Similarly, Jason Garrett has choices to make at the end of the Week 14 Sunday night game at Cowboys Stadium. Had the Cowboys won in Week 14 to go up by two games in the NFC East, it's fair to say the NFC playoffs would've looked quite a bit different this year.
In that game, New York trailed 34-29 at the two-minute warning, but was driving in Cowboys territory. With roughly 1:15 to play, Eli Manning hit tight end Jake Ballard on a crossing route that got the ball down to the Cowboys' 1-yard line.
Rather than stopping the clock immediately, Garrett allowed it to run down to exactly 1:00 to go before calling his second timeout. And then, instead of letting the Giants into the end zone on their first play from a yard out, so as to preserve as much time as possible and a timeout for Tony Romo, the Cowboys loaded up to stop Brandon Jacobs. Sean Lee tackled him short of the goal line on first down, and the Cowboys were forced to call their final timeout. When Jacobs scored on the very next play, a tough situation had formed for Romo and the offense, taking over with only 46 seconds to go, and no timeouts.
A couple days after the game, Garrett admitted to second-guessing himself.
"When you look at that situation, we probably could've taken that (timeout) a little bit quicker," Garrett said. "I could've been a little quicker on the draw on that. But we did handle the situation well after that. We did bang the timeouts.
"Someone asked me after the game 'Did you consider letting them score.' We did have that discussion, and what we decided to do was see if we could get a stop, stranger things have happened, and use our timeouts."
The Cowboys offense did the best it could with so little time, getting Dan Bailey in position for a 47-yard, game-tying field goal attempt, but it was blocked. Likewise, Brady guided the Pats into position for a Hail Mary try, but Rob Gronkowski couldn't come down with it.
In both cases, a matter of mere inches meant the difference in the ending. And, in both cases, precious seconds ticked off the clock when Belichick and Garrett could've handled their timeouts differently, or allowed the Giants to score sooner.
Give the Giants credit. With their backs against the wall all season long, they handled situational football better than anyone else.