The season opener didn’t have the ending Dallas Cowboys fans had hoped for Sunday afternoon against the New York Giants at AT & T Stadium in Arlington, as the Cowboys fell to their NFC East Division rivals 20-19.
With just 12 seconds remaining and no time outs left, Williams caught a Prescott pass, broke free from the nearest defender, and had an easy path to head out of bounds and give Dan Bailey a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, Williams made a horrific choice and decided to cut back into the middle of the field thinking he had a clear shot to the end zone, but instead was tackled in the middle of the field and time expired before the ‘Boys could spike the ball to get a chance for the victory. IF Williams had just headed out of bounds! But, as an old Cowboy “Dandy” Don Meridith used to say, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.” What could have been an exciting victory instead was just another loss without Romo at the helm.
Dallas won the toss and elected to receive to begin the game. Their first drive was an omen of what was to pretty much the benchmark of the entire game. The Cowboys held on to the ball for 8:25 and moved 70 yards in 14 plays, only to have to settle for a Dan Bailey 23-yard field goal with 6:35 left in the opening quarter.
The Dallas defense kept the Giants off the board, and with 11:09 left in the first half, Prescott and the offense moved the ball well, but bogged down again. They held the pigskin for 7:58 and moved 52 yards in 15 plays, but were forced to bring Bailey out again. He connected on a 56-yard field goal, and the lead was a mere 6-0.
The Giants took a 7-6 lead before the half when Eli Manning hit Odell Beckham, Jr. from 45 yards out, capping a 4-play, 75-yard drive that took only 1:33 off the clock. Randy Bullock nailed the PAT, and New York led 7-6.
Dallas responded later in the quarter with another lengthy drive, but after 11 plays and 68 yards and milking 5:34 off the clock, the drive stalled and Bailey came in to hit a 25-yard field goal that temporarily put the Cowboys back up, 9-7.
New York struck again before the half when Manning hit Sterling Shepherd from 9 yards out, giving the visitors a 13-9 lead. Bullock missed the extra point.
The half ended with the Giants on top 13-9, despite having the ball only 7:56 compared to Dallas’ possession time of 22:04.
Dallas took the lead back on the opening drive of the second half thanks to an interception by Brandon Carr off of Manning at the New York 35. It took 7 plays and 3:27 to cover the 35 yards, but Ezekiel Elliott scored his first TD in the NFL with 10:47 left in the third quarter on an 8-yard run. Bailey split the uprights for the extra point, and Dallas led 16-13.
The final Dallas score came in the fourth quarter, but once again a promising drive stalled after 5:01 and 11 plays and 39 yards, and Bailey was called on yet again. He hit from 54 yards out and the Dallas lead extended to 19-13.
Everyone in the stadium knew it was not good to allow the Giants to hang around, and sure enough, with 6:13 left in the game, Manning capped off a 9-play, 54 yard drive that took 3:59 with a 3-yard scoring toss to Victor Cruz. Bullock’s extra point was true, and New York took the 20-19 lead that held up for the victory.
After the disappointing loss to open the 2016 regular season, Head Coach Jason Garrett was asked about Williams’ decision to try to score rather than head out of bounds on the game’s final play.
“Really what he needed to do there was simply run out of bounds. It was a well-practiced situation; we’ve been in that situation a lot and his instincts took him inside and obviously, with no time outs and twelve seconds to go he needs to catch that ball and immediately get out of bounds, and then we reassess the situation there as to whether or not we kick it from there or try to get a little closer.”
Despite the disappointment with the lack of judgment Williams showed on the game’s last play, Garrett had praise for rookie Dak Prescott and the way he handled himself in his first NFL start. “Really liked his poise, his composure, decision-making throughout and how he handled a lot of different situations in the game. I thought he threw the ball well. He made a lot of plays inside the pocket and a lot of plays outside the pocket. He made plays with his feet; he made a lot of smart plays, and handled different situations that came up over the course of the game very well. (He) came back from adversity during the ball game when drives didn’t go well and we got behind the chains. He did all that really well and gave us a chance to win the ball game at the end.”
We asked Prescott was asked if he felt good about his performance in his first NFL start when he faced the media shortly after the game’s conclusion. “Yeah, for the most part. There’s some things I want back, some plays I want to re-do, I guess you could say. I felt like I was prepared, but we’ve got to score touchdowns down there in the red zone. We were down there the first three drives of the game and we just had to settle for field goals. That’s 21 points you’d rather have than 9.”