In a must-win NFL Week 17 matchup, Andy Dalton, who’s been a bright spot for "America's Team'' in the past couple of weeks, came out wobbling. ... Overthrowing receivers left and right while nearly tossing two interceptions during the first half. And that could've ended up being the story of what would be the New York Giants' 23-19 elimination win over Dallas.
But Dalton got better. Dallas' defense got better, too.
Dallas' sideline decisions, however, did not.
After trailing 20-9 at the half, the Cowboys reemerged with a sense of urgency to turn the tide, forcing a turnover, followed by a 10-play, 62-yard touchdown drive led by Dalton.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Cowboys diminished the New York lead to just one point following a Greg Zuerlein field goal (his fourth of the day).
The turning point came mid-fourth quarter, when Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy decided to not challenge a 10-yard completion that was likely not a completion, leading to a New York 50-yard field goal. A challenge would have forced a punt and positioned the Cowboys a field goal away from taking the lead.
In the final drive, the Cowboys drove to the red zone before taking an embarrassing sack and turning the ball over on third down, effectively ending the game.
Could a McCarthy challenge have led the Cowboys to win the game with a field goal?
"We just felt like it was too close,'' the coach said. "We felt it was a bang-bang type of situation. The three timeouts were obviously of high value there."
READ MORE: The Biggest Loser - Giants Kill Cowboys' Playoff Hopes
With the final loss, the Dallas Cowboys were officially eliminated from the NFL Playoffs. Dallas will move up to the No. 10 in the draft order and can move up to the eighth pick with a Panthers and Broncos win.
The NFC East title now rests between the Washington Football Team, who will need to win on Sunday Night Football, or the Giants, who will advance with a WFT loss. And what do the Cowboys take with them into their offseason?
Well, McCarthy's still got those precious timeouts, which he deemed to be more needed than a possible Giants missed field goal.