Mathias Kiwanuka knew what kept him from making that play on DeMarco Murray – fundamentals.
Nearing the end of the third quarter on second-and-three, Kiwanuka beat the Cowboys' second-year running back to the edge while engaged with right tackle Doug Free. Making contact, Murray lowered his head into Kiwanuka's shoulder and bounced off, reversing direction and slipping another would-be tackler in Justin Tuck.
When Murray was done making his highlight, the Cowboys were 48 yards downfield and knocking at the Giants' door.
"I'll look at the film," Kiwanuka said after the 24-17 loss. "I know regardless of if people were hanging on me – that's football, that's how it goes. You've got to go back to fundamentals, keep your head up, see what you hit, wrap up, make sure he's on the ground before anything else happens. So I'm not going to take credit away from him. That was a phenomenal run, but if I went to my basics…I would have gotten that stop."
While the drive amounted to just a field goal (the Cowboys took a 17-10 lead, the same margin by which they won), it was a deflating moment for the Giants defense in a second half filled with lulls.
"Kiwi did a great job of shooting the gap on the run," Tuck said. "He couldn't get a wrap up on him. He bounced around, I got hands on him, he bounced around, showed great balance and our defense was kind of out of whack at that point. He hit the sideline, and he's an explosive back. Up until that point, we did a good job of kind of keeping him contained. But we've just got to do a better job. One play can change the whole atmosphere of a football game, and I think that was a big one in the game."
Before the play, Murray's longest run was nine yards while the defense got to him in the backfield twice for losses. However, Murray, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the first half of the teams' first meeting last season, finished the game with 131 yards on 20 attempts.
"We definitely stumbled out of the gates, there's no doubt about that," Kiwanuka said. "The good thing is we see them again and we have a lot of football left to play. For us to get down on ourselves is not going to be effective, it's not going to be productive at all. What we have to do is look at it with the open mind and understand, OK, we have to take our lumps in the meeting room, look each other in the eye as men and say 'I messed this up' and make sure those same issues don't come back up during the season."