Cassel Giveth, Taketh Away In Cowboys 27-20 Loss To Giants
It will go down in the record books as just another loss. For those wearing a blue and silver heart on their sleeve, it will be remembered as a second-half collapse that has this season of heartbreaks on the verge of ultimate collapse.
For two quarters, the Dallas Cowboys were far away the better team on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium because they had a quarterback who allowed them to be. Making his first start in a Dallas uniform, 33-year old Matt Cassel looked every bit the part of the wily veteran fans were hoping to see, staking his team to a 13-10 halftime advantage.
What ensued after the intermission period looked to be nothing more than an extension of a 2015 campaign that has no endings for Cowboy wrongs. Interceptions on three consecutive drives from Cassel gave the Giants the lead, and ultimately prevented the Cowboys from climbing back in front early in the fourth quarter.
And when the Dallas special teams piled on with their own pair of mistakes, the ending was complete, a 27-20 New York victory secure.
Earky on, Cassel looked ready and willing to lift the Cowboys back into the thick of the NFC East race. He was decisive in his actions, accurate with his throws, and perfectly capable of making the downfield throw, something that Brandon Weeden wasn’t nearly so proficient with for Dallas during the previous three games.
To open the game, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan made life easy for his quarterback by making the Giants defense account for the entire field and entire Dallas roster. A play-action pass to Jason Witten netted 12 yards on first-down. One play later, little-used receiver Lucky Whitehead took an end-around for 15 more. The drive ended with a 30-yard Dan Bailey field goal.
Later in the second quarter, Cassel was able to find Terrance Williams deep over the middle for a 27-yard pickup. Five plays later, Bailey tacked on another three points, with a boot from 48 yards.
Things got even better on Cassel’s next trip out onto the field, his deep toss for Witten gaining 35 yards, which led to the first Dallas touchdown of the game, and a 13-7 Cowboys lead. It was the third score in four chances for the Dallas offense, a far cry from their efficiency level versus New England two weeks ago when they piled up six three-and-outs in the first half.
But not even a running game that piled up 233 yards on the day could prevent Cassel from a second-half of football horrors. With the Cowboys on the move again, Cassel’s sideline pass for Williams was snagged by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and returned 58 yards for a score.
Two plays after he connected with Brice Butler for a gain of 26, Cassel floated one in the end zone toward Williams that was instead picked-off by roving safety Brandon Meariweather.
Another promising drive was rendered mute on the opening play of the fourth quarter, when Cromartie baited Cassel into another interception.
As certain as Cassel isn’t all that many Cowboy lifers tried to make him out to be, the Giants aren’t what they once were either. Rather than having used these gifts to put the Cowboys away, the Giants held only a 20-13 advantage by the time the Dallas offense quit leaking oil.
That gave the Cowboys, who had moved the ball at will in the second-half, another chance to get back in it. Strangely enough, Cassel was up to the challenge. His highlight reel throw to Devin Street in the end zone from 25 yards out tied the game at 20-20.
As it turned out, Cassel could not make up for Dwayne Harris’ 102-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, his last-chance drive falling short at the New York 24-yard line.
No doubt about it, Matt Cassel was a long way from bringing back memories of Roger The Dodger on this day. That, however, does not mean that he should be lumped in with past Cowboy failures such as Weeden or, say, Ryan Leaf.
Thanks to a Cassel named Matt, the Cowboys still have a castle to live in, even if it is in a state of disrepair at the moment. Even two games back in the division, Dallas can cling to the hope of a second-half turnaround because Cassel, minus three passes, looked every bit as good as Jason Garrett had hoped for before the game.
At the end of the day, Cassel gave the Cowboys a better chance to win an eighth consecutive road game within the division than Weeden would have.
That’s the silver-lining in a loss that, for many fans, has none at all.