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Daniel Jones squandered his massive Giants opportunity

Here was Daniel Jones’ chance to get the naysayers off his back, his chance to remind everyone the way Eli Manning so often did it once he matured in the fourth quarter with a game to be won.

It was Giants 34, Cowboys 34 and Jones had the ball at his 24 with 1:50 and one timeout left.

He had earlier fumbled away a 29-yard touchdown to Anthony Brown on a DeMarcus Lawrence sack, the 14th lost fumble of his 17-game NFL career, but what he giveth to the Cowboys, what his penalty-plagued teammates had giveth, he now could taketh away with one defining drive that would get the Giants in the thick of the NFC Least race.

“We were confident, I was confident,” Jones said, “and we gotta do a better job.”

A few minutes later, he would say:

“Tough situation, the ball’s in our hands, we gotta find a way to win the game.”

Against a defense that only scared Cowboys fans.

Daniel Jones managed one first down.

Daniel Jones (20-for-33, 222 yards, only two rushes for minus-7 yards) handed the ball back to Andy Dalton, who was the Cowboys quarterback after a routine Logan Ryan tackle in the third quarter left a tearful Dak Prescott with a gruesome broken ankle and a trip to the hospital for surgery.

And then the Giants defense could not recognize Winning Time anymore than Jones could, and soon after Dalton found Michael Gallup with a 38-yard bomb against Ryan Lewis, Greg Zuerlein booted the 0-5 Giants out of their misery as time expired.

And the Giants got what they deserved, a dispiriting 37-34 defeat.

Jones had resurrected his connection with Darius Slayton (8-129), had finally gotten the semblance of a running game with Devonta Freeman (17-60-1 TD), had finally gotten some creative help from OC Jason Garrett with an end-around TD by Evan Engram and screen passes and even a successful flea flicker, and when he rifled a 14-yard completion to Slayton, there was hope that the Giants might leave Jerry World with the last laugh following the comedy of errors that had allowed the Cowboys back in the game:

A brilliant fake field-goal 37-yard TD pass from Riley Dixon to Engram nullified by an illegal shift against Cameron Fleming that prompted Joe Judge to slam his headset to the ground in disgust. Field goal instead.

“I was mad at our execution that took points off the board,” Judge said.

A Jones 31-yard TD pass to Slayton nullified by interference against Damion Ratley.

A Dallas Special Cedrick Wilson TD pass to Prescott.

All would be forgotten, if not forgiven:

Jones-to-Dion Lewis, loss of 1.

“Probably should have thrown it away,” Jones said.

Jones-to-Dion Lewis, gain of 2.

“Tried to get something and get out of bounds,” Jones said.

Jones-to-Dion Lewis, incomplete.

“Gotta find someone and make a play there for us,” Jones said.

For a while there, you were asking yourself: Who were those guys?

Who were those guys in blue?

Who were those guys punching the Cowboys in the nose?

Who were those guys representing their blue-collar fans with such blue-collar relentlessness?

Who was that offensive coordinator who apparently had been playing possum with play-calling so unimaginative that it made you wonder whether he was saving his best stuff for Jerry Jones and his old Cowboys friends?

Who were those guys finding the end zone for the first time in 20 drives without the need for a GPS?

Who were those guys with a 17-3 lead?

Imposters.

It was 17-17 after Jones did not feel the hot breath of Lawrence making like Usain Bolt racing around LT Andrew Thomas and Brown took the gift to the house.

“Felt pressure, and gotta do a better job stepping up and protecting the ball,” Jones said.

The franchise has fallen and can’t get up, and has forgotten how to win.

It isn’t enough to fight like hell.

No medals for trying, or for fighting either.

Jones is unable at this stage of his development to overcome an offensive line that too often has him under duress and a paucity of playmakers.

Neither he nor the Giants have learned how to win.

Just when they start punching someone in the nose, they start punching themselves in the nose, and they have no margin for error.

“Well, that’s all that really matters, to be honest with you, the progress that we’re making right now. The record will come in time,” Judge said. “Obviously, we’re not happy about losses, that’s not what we do here, but I’ve seen a lot of progress on all fronts and all units. We have to keep making consistent progress to keep being a better team as the year goes.”

If your franchise quarterback cannot be the deodorant, your record will stink.

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