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A tale as old as time: Dallas Cowboys lose with playoffs on the line

The New York Giants beat Dallas 23-19, dropping the Cowboys to 6-10 and ending their 2020 season.

The Dallas Cowboys lost in Week 17 with a berth in the playoffs up for grabs.  A tale as old as time.

The New York Giants beat Dallas 23-19, dropping the Cowboys to 6-10 and ending their 2020 season.

The Cowboys drove the length of the field in the final minutes of the 4th quarter, with a patient, plodding drive -- 17 plays to go 58 yards. They set themselves up with 1st & Goal, only to go backward. Andy Dalton was sacked. CeeDee Lamb dropped the ball over the middle. And then Dalton threw an interception in the endzone with 1:15 to play.

Dallas would never get the football back.

A fumble in the final minute by Giants running back Wayne Gallman gave Dallas a moment of hope, but officials ruled that New York recovered the fumble. The first-down run by Gallman was all the Giants needed to run out the clock, and lock up the victory.

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If the Washington Football Team wins their game against the Eagles tonight, they will claim the NFC East Championship with a 7-9 record. If the Eagles win, New York will take the division with a 6-10 record. The division winner will host a first-round playoff game against the highest-seeded wildcard team.

The Cowboys finish their season at 6-10, which will be either tied for second or tied for the division lead, depending on the Washington-Philadelphia result tonight. But regardless, the tiebreakers will not fall their way. Their season is over.

Dallas failed to challenge a controversial catch in the middle of the fourth quarter that may have cost them three points. Giants wide receiver Dante Pettis made a diving attempt to catch the ball on a 3rd and long. The reception didn't convert a first down, but did get New York back into field goal range. There was ample question as to whether he indeed made the catch, but head coach Mike McCarthy did not challenge the call. New York connected on a 50-yard field goal to extend the lead to four points, as the red flag stayed in McCarthy's pocket.

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Dallas scored four times in five possessions, sandwiched around halftime to get back into the football game. Two late-second quarter field goals cut the lead to 11, at 20-9. Then a Donovan Wilson interception led to the first touchdown of the day for Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott finished off a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run, and the lead was cut to 4, at 20-16. A fourth field goal of the day from Greg Zuerlien brought Dallas within one, at 20-19.

The Cowboys trailed 20-6 in the second quarter, after a quick start by the Giants.  New York drove 78 yards in six plays to start the game. The Giants made it look easy, gashing the Cowboys defense on multiple long runs, including a 23-yard touchdown run by Sterling Shephard on an end-around, as they took a 6-0 lead.

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Shephard was also the beneficiary on the Giants second touchdown, as Daniel Jones hit him for a 10-yard hookup, to give New York a 13-3 advantage.

Dallas managed just 34 total yards on their first six possessions, amassing just three points in that span thanks to a fumble by the Giants in their own territory. Dallas had three successive three-and-outs in the first half.