ARLINGTON, Texas - Prince Amukamara said he's never cried because of a football game. "But this game?" he said in a somber locker room at AT&T Stadium. "It was close."
One-point close. Seven-seconds close. Poor-decisions-and-clock-management-in-the-final-minute close.
The Giants let a 10-point lead evaporate in the final 8:01 in Sunday night's 27-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo hit Jason Witten for the winning 11-yard touchdown with those seven seconds remaining at the end of a 72-yard drive that took only 1:27. Instead of the Giants earning what might have been a kick-starting victory over the defending division champs, they had to swallow a collapse in which almost every aspect -- offense, defense and coaching -- crumbled when the game was on the line.
"It's very hard to digest," rookie safety Landon Collins said. "One of the toughest losses to take in."
It was the fifth straight opening-game loss for the Giants and a fifth straight loss to the Cowboys.
The Giants could have put the game away with 1:43 left on third-and-goal from the 1. The Cowboys had burned their timeouts and the Giants were ahead by three. But instead of running the ball, Eli Manning rolled to his right and threw it incomplete into the back of the end zone. That stopped the clock with 1:37 remaining, forced the Giants to settle for a field goal that made it 26-20 and gave the ball to the Cowboys for the winning drive.
"We caught a break," Romo said of the Giants' mismanagement, "and we ended up taking advantage of it."
Tom Coughlin put the blame on himself. "It's my fault," he said. "It was not a good decision. It should have been a run."
Manning also took his share of the responsibility.
"That's 100 percent on me right there," he said of not taking a sack and throwing the incompletion. "Bad clock management through the whole deal . . . That can't happen."
Then there was the defense, which wilted on two fourth-quarter drives. The Cowboys went a combined 148 yards on 12 plays in 4:20 on their last two possessions, both ending with Romo finding Witten in the end zone. "Like a knife through butter," Coughlin said.
Though the game boiled down to those crucial final minutes, there was plenty of foreshadowing. The Giants settled for two field goals and a punt after Preston Parker, playing for injured Victor Cruz, dropped three third-down passes.
"Gotta make those plays, that's all," Parker said. "I don't know what happened, I just know I have to make them. Could have put us in a better situation."
The supposedly high-powered Giants offense managed only one touchdown drive, and it was a 1-yard play set up by Trumaine McBride's interception return to the doorstep of the end zone. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie recovered a fumble and returned it 57 yards for the Giants' first-half touchdown.
The no-frills defense did create turnovers and hold the Cowboys to field goals early but also gave up staggering drives, which might have led to some tired legs later. The Cowboys had the ball for 37:10 of the game's 60 minutes.
Even with all of that, the Giants seemed as if they had it under control.
Odell Beckham Jr., largely a non-factor, caught two key third-down conversions in the final four minutes to continue a drive. Oddly enough, things began to unravel for the Giants when Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey was flagged for a personal foul for slugging tackle Ereck Flowers. That gave the Giants 15 yards, but it also stopped the clock and preserved a timeout the Cowboys were calling at the end of the play.
"The penalty was big, weirdly, how that benefited us," Romo said.
Ultimately, though, it was Romo delivering the quick-strike drive that won the game.
"We've done that to them a few times," Romo said.
The Giants have noticed.
"I was thinking [the fans] will probably make a series called 'Why I Hate Tony Romo' because, man, he always brings that," Amukamara said. "In two-minutes, he's great, and we need to be great in the two-minutes."
On Sunday night, they were good enough for 58 minutes. But that wasn't good enough.