Big Blue Gave Fans Hope For Much Of Sunday's Game Against Cowboys, Before The Wheels, Predictably, Came Off

By Jason Keidel
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For three quarters on Sunday afternoon, the Giants stuck right with the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite 12 games of epic injuries and incompetence, which had left several vocational corpses in its wake, from fired head coach Ben McAdoo to just-as-out-of-work general manager Jerry Reese, Big Blue was right with the superior Cowboys, who have more to play with and play for.

Then the fourth quarter started and a taut 10-10 tie morphed into a 30-10 rout. There was nothing fancy about the way Dallas did it, either. Simply, the Cowboys had an extra gear and the Giants didn’t.

Even without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys (7-6) had more than enough to vanquish the downtrodden Giants. Take future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, for example.

Witten doesn’t catch that many passes anymore, but when he does he seems to do it in the end zone. To give his career some context, consider this: Of Witten’s 1,141 career receptions, 154 have come against the Giants.

New York Giants fans

New York Giants fans look on during the 30-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 10, 2017. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

For a Cowboys team almost impossible to root for, Witten is the rare ray of sunshine for a franchise that always goes dark well before the Super Bowl. If you don’t know his story, Witten had a rather turbulent childhood that eventually morphed into a stellar professional career that will almost certainly land him in Canton some day.

There were no such heartwarming narratives on the other sideline. The Giants (2-11) are an absolute, abject mess. It felt like they were a unit on Sunday for about 45 minutes, as they traded blows with the Cowboys, using a stout defense and an occasional passing game that had been taped together with retreads and neophytes. It wasn’t a matter of coaching, of tactics or execution on Sunday, the Giants just stink right now.

You saw the fourth-quarter wreckage. Someone named Rod Smith — not the great former Broncos wideout, mind you — gallop for a long touchdown. Quarterback Dak Prescott seemed to have his way with Big Blue’s defense from there, tossing two of his three TDs in the final quarter. Prescott finished with 332 passing yards, completing 20 of his 30 throws (66 percent), for a robust 137.1 rating.

Smith didn’t just have the 45-yard scoring run. He also had an 81-yard scoring reception. Of Smith’s 160 total yards, only 47 came on the ground. He was Dallas’ leading receiver on this day, besting even Dez Bryant, who had a 50-yard highlight-reel catch-and-run TD of his own. In all, eight Cowboys caught passes.

On the other side, Wayne Gallman led the Giants in rushing with a pedestrian 59 yards. Evan Engram led Big Blue in receiving, with four bland catches for 54 yards, including 35 on one grab.

Making matters worse for Big Blue was the fact that Cowboys’ all-world linebacker Sean Lee was everywhere. As if there were two of him on the field, Lee had 18 tackles, and seemed to amaze fans, friends, and FOX’s broadcast duo.

In a painful reminder that the Giants’ season has melted into indifference and ignominy, there were thousands of Cowboys fans in the stands. When Witten scored his touchdown, it almost sounded like the game was being played in Dallas.

And, of course, we had Eli Manning, who was coming off the epic embarrassment of being benched after 210 straight starts. And it was done for no other reason than McAdoo and Reese feeling like they had nothing else to do. I mean, benching a potential Hall of Famer for Geno Smith? Why not?

No, Manning didn’t come back with a bang. He didn’t short-circuit the scoreboard. But it was hard to expect much from him without his two best receivers, little to no running game, and a patchwork offensive line. Still, it was good to see Manning under center, where he belongs, where he had been every week, every game, every snap since 2004.

The Giants don’t belong in the playoffs, or in contention, but at least they didn’t embarrass themselves … for three quarters, anyway.

Please follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel