By Paul Dottino
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Let’s make this as simple as possible.READ MORE: Brian Laundrie's Remains Found In Florida Nature Reserve, Officials Say
The Dallas Cowboys out-rushed the Giants, 156 to 104. You can start there, because everything else is lower on the list of factors as to why the Cowboys came away with a 31-21 victory.
It was the running game — DeMarco Murray carried 28 times for 128 yards and a touchdown — that allowed Dallas to control the ball for nearly 34 minutes. Did we mention that Murray ran seven times for 26 yards on the clinching field-goal drive that chewed up 4:29 and left the Giants with just 59 seconds to play?
Or how about how the Cowboys’ time of possession allowed them to keep their suspect defense off the field, as has been their game plan all season?
Or how about how the ground attack often set up Dallas for manageable third down situations: They were 9-of-14 for the game.
Or how about how the Giants’ failure to establish a running game ruined their chances of taking control of the game while it still was in the balance?
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Offense-WR Odell Beckham. He caught four passes for 34 yards and two TDs. He ran sharp routes to make nice scoring catches, starting with a 9-yard TD that tied the game at 7 early in the second quarter. He also gave the Giants momentary life with a 5-yard TD grab in traffic on fourth-and-goal with 5:28 remaining in the game.
Defense-DE Jason Pierre-Paul. This is the stat line you are used to seeing from the former Pro Bowl lineman: six tackles (all solo) with two sacks and three quarterback hits. He was active and did his best to distrupt QB Tony Romo, in addition to helping out against Murray, who at least had to work hard for his yardage.
Special teams-KOR Michael Cox. He raced 40 yards with the second-half kickoff to the Giants’ 35 with the game tied at 14. It was a spark that should have ignited the offense into taking a lead, but the drive stalled in Dallas territory.
Offense-TE Larry Donnell. It’s understood that he caught all seven passes thrown his way — and he had to reach for a few of those — for 90 yards. But as coach Tom Coughlin always says: Ball security, ball security, ball security. Trailing 21-14, the Giants were starting a drive at their own 11. On third-and-8, Donnell caught a 7-yard pass and — while wrestling for an additional yard — had the ball stripped by S Barry Church. LB Justin Durant recovered at the Giants 27 with 11:05 left and, four plays later, Murray’s 1-yard TD run made it an unmanageable 28-14. We won’t even talk about Donnell’s inconsequential fumble with 35 seconds left.
Defense-CB Chandler Fenner. This is so unfair, but Fenner — making his NFL debut — was targeted by QB Tony Romo for what may have been the Giants’ most critical defensive breakdown of the game. Tied at 14 midway through the third quarter, the Cowboys converted a third-and-6 from their own 11 when WR Dez Bryant (matched up against Fenner in the left slot) was able to beat the rookie on the left side for a 44-yard gain. Three plays later, TE Gavin Escobar hauled in a 26-yard TD pass over CB Zack Bowman and the Cowboys took the lead for good.
Special teams-None. This unit played its best game of the season. The Cowboys were held to six yards on two punt returns. PK Josh Brown had touchbacks on all four kickoffs. P Steve Weatherford punted five times for a 44.8 avg. and a 39.6 net. And Cox (3-29 KOR avg.) and Beckham (2-10.5 PR avg.) were fine.
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