EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 06: Domenik Hixon #87 of the New York Giants returns a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown as he gets a block from Derek Hagan #80 against Sam Hurd #17 of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter at Giants Stadium on December 6, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
After two offensive no-shows against Green Bay and Washington, the big play returned to the Cowboys' offense with a vengeance on Thanksgiving Day, as the team rolled over the Raiders with 24 points and 494 yards of offense. Marion Barber, Miles Austin and Jason Witten each had a catch for 40 plus yards; Tashard Choice added a 66-yard run, and Felix Jones a 46-yarder for a score.
The big play was back, and dangerous as ever.
On Sunday, though, the proverbial worm turned, as New York gave Dallas a taste of their own medicine.
Dallas controlled the ball for nearly eight minutes longer than New York, and were still beaten in the second half with relative ease; the reason for this, of course, was the quick strike. Eli Manning was only 11 for 25 for 241 yards--but 74 of those came on a catch-and-run by Brandon Jacobs that would give the Giants the lead after half.
New York would cushion the lead, taking the game out of Dallas's reach for good, as a lapse in punt coverage allowed Domenik Hixon to take a Mat McBriar punt 79 yards for a devastating score. Dallas would eventually bring the deficit to seven, but with less than a minute remaining, these two big, quick and demoralizing plays served as the deciding factor in another December loss.
"We gave up explosive plays defensively," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "That was the main thing that got us. We played solid, but you can’t give up explosive plays in this league. That’s one of the things we did today and it ended up hurting us real bad."
For the Cowboys, the road only gets more difficult after watching another late-season game slip away. In the next two weeks, Dallas will play San Diego and New Orleans, two teams adept at the so-called quick strike. As of yesterday, though, the team was left to sit and wonder what might have been.
"That’s the outcome of the game," said head coach Wade Phillips. "The game’s 60 minutes and we pretty much controlled the first half and they came back and controlled the second half. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. And they finished a lot stronger than we did today."