Terrance Williams made a terrible decision with time winding down, and the Dallas Cowboys lost their 2016 season opener to the New York Giants, 20-19.
With 1:05 to play, and no timeouts remaining, the Cowboys got the ball back needing to drive for a game-winning field goal. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott completed passes to Lance Dunbar and Cole Beasley, to put the Dallas offense at their own 46-yard line with 12 seconds to play.
Prescott hit Williams on the right flat. Williams elected to turn upfield for more yardage, rather than making an effort to get out of bounds. It was, unquestionably, the wrong call. Time ran out as the Cowboys scrambled to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball to stop the clock.
"What he needed to do there was simply run out of bounds," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after the game. "It's a well-practiced situation. "
Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant was waving at Williams to run out of bounds.
"We've been in that situation a lot, and his instinct took him inside," Garrett continued. "Obviously, with no timeouts and 12 seconds to go, he needs to catch that ball and immediately get out of bounsd and we'd reassess the situation from there, as to whether or not we kick it from there or try to get a little closer."
Williams immediately knelt on the field, and was patted on the back by Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and his teammates.
"I was just doing my best to get the team in a position to kick a field goal, but obviously I should have just followed the rules and gotten out of bounds," Williams said afterward. The Cowboys wide receiver was swarmed after the game, and answered questions from the media for several minutes.
"In my mind I was just trying to get a first down and then dive out of bounds,but it just didn't go as planned," Williams continued. The Cowboys wideout said he did think he had an angle to get out of bounds. But he didn't take it quickly enough. "It was just like a 'bang bang' moment. Now that I've had a chance to sit back and think on it -- I should have just gone out of bounds... looking back, I'll never do that again."
The Giants exacted a measure of revenge for last year’s season-opening loss at AT&T Stadium, walking out of Arlington with a 20-19 win over the Cowboys, to start their 2016 season.
BOX SCORE: Giants 20, Cowboys 19
Eli Manning led a 9-play, 54-yard drive in the fourth quarter, to give the Giants a 20-19 lead, with 6:13 to play. Victor Cruz utilized a pick play that got Cowboys corner Brandon Carr caught up in the wash, and found himself wide open in the endzone as a result. Cruz’s first touchdown (and salsa dance) since returning from injury gave the Giants the late lead.
The Cowboys ensuing drive was completely ineffective. Six plays, netting a total of eight yards. A holding penalty aided in the disaster. With just over four minutes to play (and three timeouts in their back pocket), they punted the ball back to the Giants.
They didn’t get the ball back until there was 1:05 to play, and couldn't quite set up the game-winning field goal.
Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott led three first half field goal drives, as the Cowboys offense looked strong between the 20s, but couldn’t get untracked in the red zone. Dan Bailey kicked field goals of 23, 56, and 25 yards.
The first field goal drive was the result of a drop by Cole Beasley on first and goal. Beasley could have scored, had he hauled the pass -- that was marginally high -- in. Later, Dez Bryant had a chance in the corner of the end zone, on a play that was initially ruled a touchdown. But he didn't complete the process of the catch, and it was ruled incomplete.
Prescott finished with 227 yards passing on 25-45 passing. No touchdowns for Prescott. No interceptions.
"Really liked his poise, his composure, his decision-making throughout," Garrett said. "I thought he threw the ball well, made a lot of plays from the pocket, made a lot of plays outside the pocket, made plays with his feet, made a lot of smart plays, handled different situations that came up over the course of the game very well, came back from adversity in the ballgame when things weren't going well... handled all of that really, really well, and gave us a chance to win the ballgame at the end."
What Prescott didn't do well enough -- getting the ball to Dez Bryant. The Cowboys premier offensive threat caught only one pass, for 8 yards. Bryant was targeted 5 times. Jason Witten was targeted 14. Cole Beasley was targeted 12.
"He's a real, live competitor," Bryant said of Prescott afterward. "All of the guys love him, and we're going to stay behind him."
Prescott's preseason prowess was tested in his first regular season game. The vanilla defenses were decidedly more "rocky road" like, this time around.
"Certain downs and distances, it did [look different than preseason]," Prescott said. "When they blitzed a little bit, maybe that was a little different than what we saw in the preseason. But for the most part, it was football."
In the meantime, the Giants could barely hang on to the football for more than a minute or two at a time, especially in the first half. But some of those possessions were merely quick drives -- two of which ending in touchdowns.
In the second quarter, Odell Beckham beat Orlando Scandrick down the left sideline for a 45-yard completion, setting up Manning’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Larry Donnell to give the Giants a 7-6 lead.
Even the Giants long drive of the first half was relatively quick. New York went 75 yards in 12 plays, spanning just 3:55, as Manning hit Sterling Shepherd for a 9-yard touchdown strike, just seven seconds before the end of the half.
Dallas controlled time of possession to the tune of 22:04 in the first half, compared to the Giants 7:56.
The Cowboys responded to the Giants quick second quarter drives early in the third quarter, with their first touchdown drive of 2016.
Brandon Carr intercepted a pass for the first time since Thanskgiving 2013, to set the Cowboys up with great field position, and Dallas’ offense capitalized. Ezekiel Elliott got loose for the first couple times on the drive, finishing it with an 8-yard touchdown run to give the Cowboys a 16-13 lead.
Elliott's day wasn't quite what he or Cowboys fans hoped for though -- the first round pick finished with just 51 yards on 20 carries to go with the lone touchdown.
Alfred Morris ran the ball seven times for 35 yards.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys added another long field goal from Bailey. His 54-yarder was piped down the middle, and it was a 19-13 Cowboys lead, with 13:59 to play in the quarter.
The Cowboys begin their 2016 season 0-1. They will travel to Washington for their second game of the year, for a noon Sunday tilt.
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