They haven’t forgotten.
As much as they would like to, it’s impossible for the Giants who were part of last year’s season-opening debacle in Dallas to put it out of their minds. It was one of the most bewildering losses in recent history for the Giants, setting the tone for a season of ill-advised decisions and late-game flops. And now, it seems, there is only one way to exorcise it.
They must go back to Dallas and beat the Cowboys on Sunday.
“I think that naturally, it’s going to pop in peoples’ mind who was here last year,” running back Rashad Jennings said. “But this is a new year. It’s 2016, it’s a fresh start. We’re under a different authority, we’re going to have a different team. We’re just thinking about what we can do this year to go down there and figure out how to get a win.”
They should have gotten a win last year, of course. They were ahead 23-20 at the Cowboys’ 4-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. A touchdown would have sealed the victory. But there was confusion over whether the Giants should try to score that TD. Jennings ran twice for gains of 2 and 1 yard. Then Eli Manning threw an incomplete pass in the end zone that stopped the clock. The Giants kicked a field goal, but Tony Romo led a game-winning drive and the Giants were left with plenty of explaining to do.
Asked what he remembered most about that game, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said: “Basically the finish.”
“I definitely think that we could have won the ballgame, going into a hostile environment like that,” he said. “So I definitely say just going out and finishing the task at hand is what sticks out to me the most.”
Theoretically it should be easier to beat the Cowboys this time. They won’t have Romo. Either rookie Dak Prescott or weeklong teammate Mark Sanchez will be at quarterback. The defense will be missing a few key pieces because of suspension.
But the Giants have found ways to lose even the games they had firmly in their grasp, especially in Dallas, as last year showed. What was once a stadium where the Giants always played well now seems haunted by deflating, season-defining opening-game losses in two of the past three seasons. Remember the six turnovers in the 2013 opener? Of course you do.
This year’s team is confident that such shenanigans will not happen again. As they reassemble this week and prepare to forge ahead for the regular season, that will be one of their biggest immediate goals.
“It happened and you learn from it,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “I definitely think we are past that. I know the mind-set is to just get the ball in the end zone any way, anyhow. If we had the chance to do it again, I definitely think with the offensive weapons we have, that we will make the right decision or whatever the case may be and definitely get it in there.”
And, the Giants hope, get out of Dallas with an opening day win.