It would be easy if Monday night’s loss to the Cowboys could actually be pinned on a black cat.
Such a superstitious take on the events that led up to the 37-18 defeat at MetLife Stadium would absolve the Giants of their shortcomings, erase their flaws and give them some solace that it was an omen-laden feline who strolled onto the field late in the second quarter to doom them.
But the Giants’ issues run deeper than bad luck. They lost because of bad football.
“All the things you can’t do in a ballgame happened and hurt us,” Pat Shurmur said after his team fell to 2-7.
Costly turnovers, an inability to score from deep in the red zone and untimely allowances of big plays are what sunk the Giants this time as they lost for the fifth straight game and were beaten by Dallas a sixth straight time.
“I don’t think any of us go out there with the intentions of playing not intelligent football,’’ Golden Tate said, “but we’ve got to think and understand situations and make the plays we’re supposed to make and not make knucklehead mistakes. I’m trying to put this delicately because there’s no one single person to blame. It’s a collective effort. Just play disciplined football.”
The cat? It showed up late in the first half with the Giants leading 9-3 and driving. At first it strolled in front of the Cowboys’ bench, then ran toward the end zone. The Giants’ drive was temporarily halted while the cat was directed off the field and through the tunnel, and they had to settle for a field goal.
The Cowboys then scored 10 points in the final 52 seconds of the half to take a lead they never relinquished, and the Giants never found the end zone again.
At least one person pinned the outcome on the four-legged intruder. Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after the game: “Things did kind of change when that cat came out.”
In actuality, the Giants already had been scuffling well before it. Antoine Bethea intercepted Dak Prescott on the first play of the game and returned it to the Dallas 8, but the Giants had to settle for a field goal. After the Cowboys tied it at 3, the Giants scored a touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Daniel Jones to Cody Latimer (Tate’s one-handed catch had brought the ball to the 1). Then Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point.
The cat-delayed drive made it 12-3 with 2:50 left in the half, but the Cowboys scored 10 points in the final minute to take the lead. Prescott scrambled away from a pass rush and found tight end Blake Jarwin, who sliced through the Giants’ defense — including an uninspired tackling effort by cornerback Janoris Jenkins — to score a 42-yard touchdown with 52 seconds remaining.
The Giants still had a 12-10 lead, the ball and all three timeouts. But after two incompletions, Daniel Jones tried to throw deep for Darius Slayton. The receiver did not look back for the pass and safety Xavier Woods picked it off and returned it to the Giants’ 39. That set up a 52-yard field goal as time expired in the half and gave Dallas a 13-12 1ead.
Jones’ second turnover of the game came in the third quarter when he scrambled for a first down but lunged forward and coughed up the ball. It was recovered by former Giants safety Darian Thompson at midfield and set up a field goal that gave Dallas a 16-12 lead. The Giants responded with a fourth drive inside the Cowboys’ 10 — and a third field goal in such circumstances — that brought it to 16-15 heading into the fourth quarter.
Then the dam burst.
Prescott’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gallup with 12:40 remaining made it 23-15. The Giants responded with a 65-yard catch-and-run by Saquon Barkley to the 11 but had to settle for a field goal that made it 23-18 with 11:50 left.
The Giants had chances to get the ball back, but DeAndre Baker was flagged for pass interference on third-and-6 from the Cowboys’ 15 and Prescott hit Amari Cooper with a 45-yard touchdown pass on third-and-12 with 7:56 left to make it 30-18. Baker appeared to have blown the coverage that allowed Cooper to catch the ball in the open field.
“We just have some young mistakes right now,” safety Michael Thomas said of that play.
A fumble by Jones, whose arm was hit by Dorance Armstrong while he attempted a pass, was recovered by Jourrdan Lewis and returned for a 63-yard touchdown with six seconds left.
“I say it every week, man, we just have to clean up on the little things,” safety Jabrill Peppers said. “We have to execute as a whole team and play complementary football.”
For many, especially outside the New York area, the game will be remembered more for the cat than the football.
“That was strange,” Daniel Jones said of the visitor. “You don’t see that every week.”
Losing football from the Giants? That’s become far more commonplace.