ARLINGTON When the final frenetic 40 seconds were done here and replays showed Dez Bryant's fingertips to have landed out of bounds and what would have been a game-winning touchdown for the Cowboys overturned, all that was left was this sense we had seen all of this before.
Not so much the particulars of Giants 29-23 victory, as the ending.
Whenever these two teams have playeddating back to the playoff victory at Texas Stadium in 2008the Giants have always been at least a play better, a step faster, and oftentimes moreso. Details change yet, without fail, Dallas leaves talking about almost winning and New York wins.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said something exceptionally smart afterwards about how the critical mistakes lose you games more than the big plays win you games. This was hindsight, though, the knowledge that comes from seeing how it all turns out. To fully appreciate why it is the Giants have absolutely owned the Cowboys, you have to start at the beginning ... and an almost flashing.
In what has become a decidedly American pregame ritual, camera scan crowds for young attractive females to help inspire crowd noise. Here, in Texas, this means being broadcast on Jerruh's 80-yard long JumboTron. And on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon, an upstanding young lady decided to show her plastic surgeon's fine work. The cameras cut away before an R-rating was needed.
I mention this because exposed boobs have become a theme at JerryWorld in 2012, and again looked to be the case Sunday.
By halftime, Jerruh had had the hell booed out of him while delivering a breast cancer PSA on the JumboTron. As had the Cowboys offense thanks to four turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Tony Romo before halftime, including a pick-6 by Jason Pierre-Paul.
"I would have booed us too," Romo said. "We deserved it at the time. Any time you give a team that many turnovers, especially a good ball club, it's going to be tough to win the game. You know, we had our chances at the end. Obviously, that was tough."
They trailed 23-0 at one point and ended up contributing, via turnover, to 23 of the Giants 29 points. And they were lucky to only have 23 on their ledger. The Cowboys defense had bailed water for them all game, forcing field goal following blunder after blunder by Romo, Dez Bryant and Co.
Interceptions, fumbled punts, botched snaps, mistakes upon mistakes.
It is important to start here because the endings cloud things. It is easy to get caught up in the final minutes, how close the Cowboys came, how literally the length of a fingernail prevented them from winning, to say a win is a win. This is what Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was hinting at later as he defended Romo when pressed about if he had any doubts about his quarterback who had four interceptions Sunday and now has nine on this season.
"He's an outstanding football player," Garrett said. "
He used the body of work because this is firm ground. Romo absolutely gave the Cowboys a chance to win this game. His play was a huge reason they led 24-23 and why Dez had a chance at a game-winning touchdown at with 10 seconds remaining.
And herein lies the frustrating part of Romo, a lot of his considerable talent is used digging out of self-created messes. He is spectacular and frustrating and awful and amazing all in the span of 60 minutes. His inconsistency actually makes him the logical face of the franchise.
He beats himself. He finds ways to lose. He undermines himself.
Leading into this game, a lot of time was spent on how back in 2007 Romo looked to be a burgeoning star while Giants quarterback Eli Manning was a question mark.
The Cowboys went to the Meadowlands in December and whipped them, sealing a first-round playoff bye. Then-Cowboys coach Wade Phillips gave them the weekend off.
And so Romo and Jason Witten and and Bobby Carpenter flew off to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with (keeping with the theme of overexposed boobs) Romo's then-girlfriend Jessica Simpson. This was dismissed as a media-concocted drama until the Giants upset the Cowboys and went on to win a Super Bowl.
And another a year ago, a feat propelled by a huge come-from-behind December victory at JerryWorld.
This is exactly what Jerry Jones was talking about without meaning to, this lack of understanding how they little mistakes kill them. It is like death by 10 meters or 100 paper cuts. They can not see how their inattention to detail, their lack of judgment, their turnovers are killing them or they see and pretend it is not that big of a deal.
It is only later, usually at the end, where they are able to see their screw ups. It is too late then, the damage done, the Giants and Eli on a plane back into Frankenstorm with a W and the Cowboys hearts in their hands.
Yes, we have seen it before. So often, we have grown numb to feeling bad for their heartbreak because they do it to themselves and they do not learn from their mistakes and there is always an excuse.
If they were being honest, they would see it for what it isa reason.
The Giants do not beat themselves, and they happily accept when the Cowboys do.