Hindsight is 26-20.
That's the score the Giants would have liked to fly away with from Arlington, Texas. Instead, clock management grounded them on Sunday night.
In the NFC East rivalry game that is always high drama, the offense left too much time for Tony Romo and the Cowboys to lead a late game-winning drive, and the defense was unable to stop it as Big Blue fell 27-26 in the season opener at AT&T Stadium.
After a 16-yard catch by Odell Beckham Jr. set up a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, the Giants, leading 23-20, ran two running plays to Rashad Jennings with the Cowboys using up their second and third timeouts of the half. That led to a third down with 1:43 remaining at the 1-yard line, where the Giants called a pass play and Eli Manning threw the ball out of the end zone to stop the clock. Josh Brown kicked his fourth field goal to put the Giants up by six, but after the ensuing kickoff, Dallas took over with 1:29. With seven seconds to spare, Romo led a six-play, 72-yard drive in 1:27 that resulted in an 11-yard touchdown to tight end Jason Witten. Ball game.
"It's my fault at the end of the game," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "There's nobody else to blame but me. The decision to throw the ball there on third down was not a good decision, and it should have been a run, whether we scored or not."
Manning also took responsibility for the late decision-making.
"[I] can't afford to throw it away," Manning said. "I've got to sit in there and take the sack and then run off the 40 seconds.
"I've got to know the circumstance and just don't take a chance and take that sack and go on to the next -- get a field goal and leave just a little bit of time left on the clock."
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS
For the fifth year in a row, the Giants dropped their season opener and will once again start from a 0-1 hole. This was also the third time in four seasons they did so against the Cowboys, who are looking to defend their NFC East crown. Coughlin, who notably preached "finish" during the 2011 Super Bowl season, will have to take a page from that notebook and deliver it to the team. Despite the heartbreaking finish, there was plenty to build on, especially for a defense making its debut with Steve Spagnuolo back as defensive coordinator.
"They played hard, came on the road, they worked their tails off, they put themselves in position to win," Coughlin said. "We didn't win. I take full responsibility for it, because the strategy was obviously wrong at the end."
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE COWBOYS
In a division that hasn't produced repeat champions in a decade, Dallas began its title defense with a win in the NFC East while Washington lost its Week 1 matchup with Miami and Philadelphia plays Atlanta in the early Monday night game. Romo got off to a big start with 356 yards passing, three touchdowns, and two interceptions, but All-Pro wide receiver broke a bone in his foot with an initial recovery time set at four-to-six weeks, according to coach Jason Garrett.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
For the Giants, it was a three-way tie between linebacker Uani 'Unga and cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride. After sweating out roster cuts a week ago, 'Unga started at middle linebacker in place of Jon Beason, who was out with a knee injury.
The former undrafted BYU product led the Giants with 12 tackles (10 solo) and also grabbed an interception late in the second quarter. The turnover deep in Cowboys territory led to a short field goal by kicker Josh Brown to give the Giants a 13-6 lead at halftime. On the drive before, Rodgers-Cromartie scooped up a fumble and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. The player who stripped it was McBride, who later grabbed his own interception midway through the fourth quarter that was tipped by Brandon Meriweather.
For the Cowboys, Witten, a perennial Pro Bowl tight end, produced in the biggest moments, catching two touchdowns in the fourth-quarter comeback. He finished with eight receptions for 60 yards.
Photos from the Giants Week 1 matchup with the Cowboys