EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In a game for all the marbles, the Cowboys just stumbled out of the gate and never recovered. There were big plays throughout the game that changed this one, like a 74-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz for the first touchdown.
But like always, there were plays that might not be as memorable but still changed the outcome of the Giants' 31-14 win, which sends them to the playoffs at 9-7 and sends the Cowboys home with an 8-8 record.
1. Pascoe Hurdles Newman – On the Giants' second possession of the game, the offense was pinned back for a third-and-9 on their own 5. Facing a heavy blitz, Eli Manning dumped it off to tight end Bear Pascoe way short of the sticks. But Pascoe, who also served as the fullback for this game, hurdled cornerback Terence Newman and got 12 yards for a first down. Just three plays later, Victor Cruz took a crossing route and raced 74 yards for a touchdown for the game's first points. That missed tackle would've given the Cowboys the ball around midfield.
2. Ball escapes Ball– After the Cowboys were forced to punt for the third time in the first quarter, and already trailing 7-0 with momentum getting away from them, it appeared they would get the break they desperately needed. New York returner Will Blackmon muffed the punt at the Giants' 41 and it looked like Alan Ball would be able to recover. But Ball couldn't handle it as well and Giants LB Greg Jones finally corralled it at the 32. With the ball back, the Giants drove 68 yards for another score and a 14-0 lead.
3. Illegal pass & touch – On two straight plays, the Cowboys threw the ball and then touched it illegally, wiping away chances for momentum. The Cowboys were down 14-0 but on the move for the first time in the game midway through the second quarter. Tony Romo had the chance to run five yards for the first down, but instead opted to throw it to Dez Bryant, although he was already well past the line of scrimmage. That penalty and loss of down forced a punt, in which Alan Ball downed the ball inside the 5 again, but this time he was flagged for illegal touching since he went out of bounds and was the first player to touch it, resulting in a touchback. The Giants marched the field and scored for a 21-0 lead.
4. Romo's failed sneak – With a little bit of life and looking for another score, the Cowboys had fourth-and-inches on the Giants' 10 and tried for a quick count and quarterback sneak with Tony Romo. But Romo was hit over the top by a leaping Giants defender for no gain, although he argued for a better spot. The Cowboys trailed by two touchdowns and a field goal would've cut into the lead, but more than anything the change of possession stopped the Cowboys' momentum.
5. Deep to Cruz– The Cowboys had trimmed the 21-0 lead to 21-14 and had Manning staring at a third-and-7 at the Giants' 28 with 9:22 left. More than anything, Manning was nearly sacked and looking for room to throw when he spotted Cruz running deep with Orlando Scandrick down the field. Cruz found the ball and made the catch for 44 yards, switching the field position once again. The Giants added a field goal to give them a 10-point lead and would never look back.