Tom Coughlin was both redundant and correct when he said the Giants' production on offense and defense was "too little and not enough" Sunday in AT&T Stadium.
The Giants had vowed all week to prove that their unsightly shutout loss in Philadelphia was an aberration, that they are a much better team than the one that played that night. And they did just that against the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants scored three more touchdowns than they did against the Eagles. They neutralized Dallas' very good special teams and made a few big defensive plays.
But not nearly enough plays were made by a team very much in need of a victory. The Giants came up short too many times in too many areas and lost to the Cowboys, 31-21. A second NFC East road defeat in as many weeks dropped the Giants to 3-4 heading into their bye. They are three games behind first-place Dallas (6-1) and 2.5 in back of Philadelphia (5-1).
"I thought we played better than we did last week, obviously," quarterback Eli Manning said. "It is tough, tough when we lose division games, especially two in a row. We have to keep fighting. The good thing is we still have three more division games to play down the road (all of them at home). We have a little break from the division these next weeks. We've got to figure out a way to get better, to eliminate the mistakes and the little things so we can execute better and find a way to sustain more drives and to be more effective offensively."
"We came out and tried to get a win at all costs," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I feel like we came out and, overall, I thought we played with a lot of passion. Unfortunately, we just got the short end of the stick today. Nobody loses it for you, so we can't make excuses. We need to get better as a team and that's it."
The Giants have a tough road ahead. After taking next week off, they will host Indianapolis on a Monday night,
fly cross-country to face defending Super Bowl champion Seattle and play home games against San Francisco and Dallas. Combined record of those four teams: 18-9.
"We've lost a couple of important games in a row," Coughlin said. "We have a lot of games to play and we're going to have to do something about it. We have nine games, we certainly have to get some Ws, and we have to get going in that area. Our consistency's got to be there."
It was not there against the Cowboys. Going without a huddle most of the game, the offense had its moments. The Giants led in the second
quarter, 14-7, after Manning touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and tight end Daniel Fells, his team high-tying fourth of the season. The Giants needed just one play and seven seconds to score after Prince Amukamara intercepted a Tony Romo pass and returned it 38 yardss.
But Dallas responded with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that concluded with Romo's scoring pass to Terrance Williams
that left the teams tied at halftime, 14-14.
The Giants were unable to regain the momentum in the second half. They took the second-half kickoff and drove to the Dallas 35-yard line. But Andre Williams lost three yards and fellow rookie Weston Richburg was penalized for a false start. The Giants didn't gain another yard and punted.
Dallas capitalized by marching 93 yards in only six plays, including, in rapid succession, Romo passes of 44 and 17 yards to Dez Bryant and a 26-yard touchdown to Gavin Escobar, his second of the game, giving the Cowboys a 21-14 lead.
On their next possession, the Giant had a first down at the Cowboys' 40. But the drive stalled when Rueben Randle was penalized 10 yards for holding, leading to another punt.
"We had opportunities," Coughlin said. "In the second half, the first drive we drive down into their territory and then go backwards. The second time we had it down there, the same way, we were in field goal range and went backwards. There's no excuse for that."
The worst was yet to come. After forcing a punt, the Giants took possession at their own 11, hoping the series
would end with the tying touchdown. But a third-down pass to Larry Donnell that would have given them a first down ended badly when Donnell was separated from the football by Barry Church. It was recovered by Justin Durant.
"I was just trying to get a couple more yards and he made a good play," said Donnell, who later lost another fumble on the Giants' final offensive play. "He put his hat on me, I was just trying fight for extra yards and I didn't cover the ball like I needed to.
"It's terrible. Especially when the first one, you had a chance to go down the field and tie the game up. Got some momentum, the defense made a stop. When that happens, it's something to think about."
Dallas took advantage of the short field they received from Donnell's gift, covering the same 27 yards the Giants had previously. It took them four plays, but Demarco Murray's one-yard touchdown run increased the Cowboys' lead to 28-14 with 9:11 left.
Manning rallied the Giants and his five-yard touchdown pass to Beckham cut the deficit to seven points with 5:28
left – plenty of time to make a stop and drive for the tying touchdown.
But the defense couldn't complete the job, concluding a day in which, among other transgressions, left Escobar uncovered on the game's first touchdown.
"Busted coverage, there was a guy left wide open in the middle of the field," Rolle said. "That shouldn't be. We've got to get back and fix that and critique guys and coach them up."
The defense couldn't slow down Murray, the NFL's leading rusher (28 carries for 128 yards) or Bryant (nine catches for 152 yards). And on that final Dallas drive, the Cowboys ran nine plays and took more than four minutes off the clock before Dan Baileys 49-yard field goal with 59 seconds left put the game out of reach.
"We couldn't stop them when we had to stop them to get the ball back," Coughlin said.
It was that kind of day.
"We're 3-4, we go into the bye week," Coughlin said. "We've got to come together here and try to figure out a way to get some of these things done that are most frustrating right now."
View the best photos from the game vs. the Cowboys