Larry Donnell remembers the game. He remembers the fumble. He remembers the tears he cried after both of them.
The Giants' young tight end is having a breakout season, on pace to break the franchise record for touchdown receptions at his position and getting closer to the team mark for most catches in a season by a tight end. It's been a year of incredible highs for him.
And the low. In Dallas, just over a month ago.
The Giants had a chance to drive for the potential tying touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Donnell fumbled while fighting for first-down yardage and they lost, 31-21. Donnell blamed himself for that loss.
"I let down more than myself,'' he said this past week. "I let myself down also, but I look at those guys and how they worked to get into that position. I had the ball in my hands and I let it go.''
That may have been when the Giants let go of their season, too. Had they won in Dallas on Oct. 19, they would have been 4-3 heading into their bye week. They could have had enough mojo to avoid their current five-game losing streak. And they certainly would not be in the position they are in Sunday, facing the Cowboys in a prime-time rematch while fighting for their own existence.
Sure, the Giants had been blown out by the Eagles the week before, but that loss to the Cowboys was the start of the missed opportunities for this team. And Sunday night, the game against the Cowboys could be the end of them. A loss will eliminate them from contention in the NFC East and, depending on various outcomes during the day, could even mathematically knock them out of the playoff equation.
The rub in that 31-21 loss to the Cowboys is that the Giants actually played well.
"We did some good things,'' said Eli Manning, who threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions and completed 21 of 33 passes. "We've got to do a good job offensively playing smart. We've got to eliminate the turnovers. We feel we can move the ball and score some points on them.''
Even Tom Coughlin, who is not one to compare and contrast defeats, grudgingly admitted that the game against the Cowboys was one of the Giants' better performances during their losing streak.
"Maybe,'' he growled, "if you're really interested in how you played when you lost.''
It doesn't matter if they lost by 10 or 1 or 100; ultimately it was a defeat at a key juncture of the season. It was the game that turned their losing into a streak.
The Giants should be in better position personnel-wise in this game. They'll have two key free-agent acquisitions, running back Rashad Jennings and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, both of whom were sidelined with injuries for the October meeting and will be introduced to the rivalry Sunday night. They lost defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Jon Beason to injuries very early in that game and had to adjust on the fly. Beason is on injured reserve now and Jenkins is listed as out for this one. It also was their first full game without wide receiver Victor Cruz.
Even with all of that, it still was a close game. Maybe the Giants think that if they can show a little more fight Sunday night . . .
"Fight regardless,'' safety Antrel Rolle said. "In the situation we're in right now, we have to go out there and fight, try and get a win at all costs. Just go out there and play hard-nosed football. That's what this game is going to boil down to, who wants it the most, and who is going to go out there and be the one to go get it?''
Last time, that was the Cowboys. And the Giants haven't gotten it back since.