By Paul Dottino
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Mark this one down as one of the Giants’ most painful regular season losses in recent memory. Tony Romo directed the Dallas Cowboys on two 70-plus-yard TD drives over the final eight minutes to steal a 27-26 home win from the Giants in Sunday’s season opener.
Perhaps the worst part for the Giants is knowing how many ways the outcome could have been reversed, but they failed to execute in many of the numerous opportunities they had to seal the game. The result is a fifth straight loss to the rival Cowboys that will force the Giants to regroup quickly. Let’s get to our weekly review:
Offense — RB Shane Vereen. In a limited amount of touches, he showed his ability to be an all-around weapon. He caught four passes for 46 yards and ran three times for 14. In most of these instances, he got a few more yards either after contact or with a shifty move. The Giants will want to get him more involved in the offense in the future.
Defense — Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. Although the Cowboys completed a few passes his way, DRC played well. He was in on six tackles and had a 57-yard fumble return for a TD that put the Giants up 10-6 with 56 seconds left in the first half.
Special teams — K Josh Brown and P Brad Wing. We don’t usually hand out more than one accolade per unit, but this duo certainly deserves it. Wing, in his Giants debut, posted a gross of 44.8 and a net of 45.5 — this is not a misprint — with three of his four punts downed inside the 20. He also held placements as Brown went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 50-yarder on the Giants’ first drive to tie the game at 3.
Offense — WR Preston Parker and QB Eli Manning. Once again, it is impossible to leave out either player, given their mistakes in key moments. With 1:43 to play, Manning threw away a third-down pass rather than take a sack deep in Dallas territory. The Cowboys had no timeouts left and watched Brown’s 19-yard field goal leave them with a manageable 26-20 deficit and 1:34 on the clock. As for Parker, he failed to come up with three third-down passes (grade at least two of them as drops) that prompted the Giants to settle for three field goals. Those missed opportunities shortchanged drives and allowed the Cowboys to remain within striking distance.
Defense — MLB Uani Unga. He did so many things well, but it was a rookie mistake that burned him at the end of his NFL debut. He got caught backpedaling to the end zone on Jason Witten’s winning 11-yard TD catch over the middle, allowing the tight end to set up on the goal line and score with seven seconds left in the game.
Special teams — DE Damontre Moore. Moore gets named because he was flagged for holding on a second-quarter punt return that moved the Giants from their own 7-yard line to the 3. You could also complain about the lack of punt return yardage, but Dwayne Harris really had no room to run, and the coverage teams were outstanding.