Thoughts from the film room at Valley Ranch:
• When you have faith in your quarterback, you allow him to make decisions that can directly impact the outcome of the game. With the Cowboys facing a third-and-1 from the Giants 19-yard line, head coach Jason Garrett was in a situation where he had an opportunity to allow his quarterback to call a running play or check out of the situation on the look and throw the ball to try and get the first down.
Pre-snap, the Giants gave Romo six in the box with safety Stevie Brown cheating inside of tight end Jason Witten, but still deep enough. With Witten inline, the Cowboys had the ability to get a hat on a hat and have things blocked.
With Romo looking at Brown and where he was playing in coverage on Witten, he decided to bring wide receiver Kevin Ogletree down inside a couple of steps and try to work him on the fade up the right sideline against cornerback Prince Amukamara one-on-one. At the snap, Ogletree was able to get up the field on Amukamara, who had to extend his arm to try and hold off Ogletree. Romo was correct that Brown wasn't going to be helping on the route because he was doubling Witten.
On the backside, Miles Austin was in the slot, working one-on-one against rookie Jayron Hosley, who had not been good in coverage all day. Austin was able to get inside easily on Holsey and was dragging across the middle with no problems. But, Romo made the commitment to Ogletree and the ball fell incomplete.
• You could not have had a worse start than what Garrett and this offense endured on Sunday against the Giants. The first turnover of the game, the pass to Dez Bryant, had the appearance of a poorly run route on his part.
The design of the play is a quick strike inside off of play-action, and in breaking down the play over and over, Bryant is really sloppy in his approach to get where Romo delivers the ball. At the time, I thought Romo was expecting Bryant to run the "4" or the "In," but there is no sharpness to his route, and where Bryant gets into trouble is when he drifts in his pattern.
When Bryant starts the route up the field, it's like he lost where he was depth-wise and where he needed to make his break. As he is trying to complete the route, instead of driving through the break to cross safety Stevie Brown's face, his path takes him up, which allows Brown to drive underneath him instead of having to drive through Bryant to get the ball.
Romo had a clean pocket and look to deliver the ball so that was not the problem. The problem was that Bryant didn't give his quarterback a chance on the throw.
• Through my many years in the NFL, I have learned that outstanding players make outstanding plays. If your players are better than their players, you have a really good shot to win a lot of games during any given season.
The Giants have an outstanding player in Jason Pierre-Paul, and both Tyron Smith and Doug Free were going to have their hands full at the tackle positions in dealing with him. There are players that have all the talent in the world, but have no awareness, and it kills them every week. Jason Pierre-Paul is one of those players who has talent and awareness. There are interceptions like we have seen that are on the quarterback or the receivers, but in the case of Pierre-Paul's pick six, it was his talent and awareness that made the difference.
On the play, Smith is in great position on Pierre-Paul to keep him from Romo and you can tell that he knows it. On the inside, Nate Livings is struggling with Chris Canty, who flashes right in front of Romo's face. Witten comes open on the route, but Romo has to react in a way that doesn't give him a shot to get Witten the ball. Felix Jones quickly makes the choice to try and get out in the route to Romo's left, but Pierre-Paul reads this decision by Jones and positions himself between the two. Romo, feeling Canty, then tries to flip the ball to Jones on the move, except Pierre-Paul goes up in the air, securing the football and heading for the end zone.
If you want to blame the interception on the inside pressure you can, but from what I saw, it really was a heck of a play by a talented, aware football player.
• The catch that wasn't. I really like the call by Garrett here because it put your best receiver in the air with a chance to come down with the ball and win the game. For all the things that happened to Bryant during the day, he almost came up with an unbelievable finish.
On the play, the Giants are in their nickel package with a four-man rush. To the left side of the formation, Bryant is lined up against Corey Webster with safety Tyler Sash helping to the inside. Bryant starts up the field and, with enough time on the clock, runs an out and then up, which gets Webster to hesitate, allowing Bryant to get about 2 yards of separation.
Romo has plenty of time in the pocket as Witten stays in to help with the rush. Romo pump fakes on the out and launches the ball down the field. Bryant goes up as safety Michael Coe crosses in front of him trying to knock the ball down, but he misses. Webster is in no position to help on the ball because his momentum carries him past the receiver.
As the ball settles in Bryant's hands, he is so high in the air that he is in an awkward position, and as a natural reflex, puts his hand down to break his fall. It was such a bang-bang play that the official has no choice but to call it a touchdown. Unfortunately, when replay takes a final look at it, we all know the result.