Lose six consecutive games to start the season, and you lose all margin for error. The New York Giants and their fans convinced themselves over the last month that this season still could matter, knowing that one Sunday, one drive, could end it all.
It ended Sunday evening.
The Dallas Cowboys survived 24-21 after a valiant Giants comeback that encapsulates their season. New York made a ton of sloppy mistakes throughout the game. The Giants' improved defense didn't step up with the game on the line. Eli Manning and his receivers made plays in the second half, but they didn't take advantage of chances early.
At 6-5, the Cowboys are tied atop the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles. Dallas should hold all tiebreaks because they are 4-0 in the division. The Giants, now 4-7, have too much ground to make up with two teams in front of them. More importantly, they never have particularly looked a good team all season.
Here's what else we learned in this one:
1. The Cowboys' defense was lucky to escape giving up just 21 points. The Giants stalled inside the Dallas 10-yard line twice. They turned the ball over on downs. Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs rushed for 202 yards combined, but the Giants didn't capitalize.
2. Tony Romo has put together two game-winning drives in Dallas' last three games. Hopefully we can put the fourth-quarter conversation to rest of a little while. Dez Bryant earned his money with a pair of huge third-down grabs to start the final drive. It's telling that Bryant, not Jason Witten is the key guy at the end of games now.
4. DeMarco Murray (126 yards from scrimmage) goes out of bounds way too much. Still, his presence makes a huge difference for the Cowboys' offense. The return of defensive tackle Jason Hatcher was big for the defense, too.