Shutdown Corner - NFL

Cowboys lose second straight heartbreaker to porous defense, clock management

If a picture paints a thousand words … well, you've got about a million right there. This picture of failure was taken just before Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey failed to make a potential game-saving field goal for the second straight week, after being iced for the second straight week with a timeout. Difference was, the icing came from the opposing coach this time, as New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin put the freeze on Bailey with one second left in what became a 37-34 victory for a Giants team that desperately needed it.

This time, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blocked the second Bailey kick, a 47-yard attempt, and that took the Giants to 7-6, with the tiebreaker edge over the Cowboys in the NFC East. That took a major effort for Pierre-Paul, who had a great overall game, because he was challenged pretty seriously by the man in front of him.

"He's a strong cat. He was heavy; I couldn't push him. The second one, I was like, 'I have to push through the center and at least try to get the blocked kick.' I gave great effort and blocked the kick. I stepped left and went through the center and the ball was right there."

You may remember that last Sunday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett mauled the two-minute drill and wound up calling a timeout just as Bailey made what should have been a 49-yard game-winner. Given another chance, Bailey failed to repeat the performance. The Cardinals scored a touchdown in overtime, and that was another mirror of the Giants loss — a late defensive breakdown.

Rob Ryan's Cowboys defense allowed two touchdowns and a two-point conversion to the Giants in the last 3:14 of the game — actually, that period of time took the game down to about a minute, and that's when Garrett struggled with his timeouts. Again.

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Tony Romo engineered an impressive drive in the last minute of the game when the Cowboys finally got their clock management together, but it was not enough. Jones was most definitely unhappy in-game; there was a very clear shot of the team's owner in his luxury box, exhorting Garrett to call a timeout so that the Cowboys would have more time to engineer a comeback.

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Garrett, who apologized to his team after last week's clock mismanagement, spoke about this week's issues after the loss. "I think when we talked about that as a team what we try to do with our team is we try to process what happened in the previous game," Garrett said. "We as coaches stand up and say, 'Player, we should have done this. Player, we should have done that. This was good. That wasn't good. This is how we've got to get better.' Something we as coaches try to say, 'Hey we're a part of this, we make decisions, we put game plans together. We call plays. We handle situations. We're accountable to that as well.' That's always been a point of emphasis for us."

Jones had a short statement for reporters after the game: "Hats off to the Giants. They didn't quit. They were able to come back and played well and got the win. We are disappointed, and we certainly know we have our work cut out for us."

That's for sure. It was the third double-digit lead the Cowboys have blown in the second half this season -- there was also a 24-10 lead lost to the New York Jets, and a 27-3 lead blown against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys lost all three of those games, and if the season ended today, they would not be in the playoffs. Something has got to change if this team can profess to be postseason-ready.

Step 1 may be to rehearse the two-minute drill -- and those seemingly necessary second field goals -- in practice. The good news for the Cowboys, if there is any right now, is that they get another shot at the Giants. The two teams face off again in the regular-season finale on January 1.

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