Darren McFadden had one of the best games in his career on Sunday.
He rushed for 152 yards, the fourth-most in his career. He had 29 carries, tied for third-most in his career and the most since the 2012 season. He rushed for eight first downs, the most in his career.
None of that, though, really mattered to McFadden, considering the Cowboys lost 27-20 to the Giants.
“Man, it’s very tough,” McFadden said. “Everything I’ve done doesn’t make a difference once you lose. But there were some very good things that came out of the game.”
The No. 1 thing that came out of the game, of course, is the Cowboys finally showed an efficient and effective running game. They totaled 233 yards on 41 carries, their most team rushing yards since Week 7 in 2011.
The most they had a year ago with DeMarco Murray leading the way was 220 in Week 2 against Tennessee.
McFadden did most of the heavy lifting on Sunday, taking full advantage of his opportunities once Joseph Randle went down with a back injury.
“I felt comfortable running behind the offensive line,” McFadden said. “They do a great job up front, so I just go out there and hit the holes they’re opening up for me. It made it very comfortable for me to hit some holes and get some nice runs out of it.”
McFadden shined on a day most thought would be Christine Michael’s breakout game. The Cowboys had been talking about getting Michael more involved, but rode the hot hand in McFadden.
Michael finished with five carries for 18 yards. And receiver Lucky Whitehead had surprising success on designed running plays for him, gaining 35 yards on four carries.
The story of the running game, though, was McFadden.
“I thought C-Mike did a good job with his chances, but Darren just played really, really well,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He ran the ball tough inside with a lot of tough 3-, 4-, 5-yard runs where he was pushing the pile.
“He got out in space a couple times and made some bigger runs for us. He was running downhill, his pads were down, he was finishing runs — I just thought he did an outstanding job.”
Randle, meanwhile, finished with two carries for 24 yards before exiting with an injury. Randle doesn’t know if the injury will limit him, saying he just couldn’t return.
“I’m going to get in there and work super hard on getting it treated,” Randle said. “We’ll see where it goes from there.”
Defense steps up
The defense deserves credit for keeping the team in the game, particularly in the second half when quarterback Matt Cassel threw three interceptions in a stretch of five passes.
The Giants returned one for a touchdown, but managed only a field goal off the other two combined.
That kept the Cowboys in the game until the end. The only blemish, though, is another game without a takeaway for a defense that prided itself on that a year ago.
The Cowboys haven’t had a takeaway since Week 2 and haven’t had a takeaway in five of six games.
“Defense didn’t take the ball away … that proved to be one of the deciding factors in the game,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “They had takeaways. We had none.”
The Cowboys appeared to have an interception by rookie Byron Jones on a play where the ball bounced up off his shoe, but replay showed it hit the turf before ricocheting up.
They didn’t have many other opportunities after that.
“I don’t know, man. It’s definitely frustrating,” defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford said. “We’ve just got to figure it out, to be honest with you.”
Despite no takeaways, the defense played well. They held the Giants to 13 points, excluding the scores on an interception return and kickoff return. New York totaled just 289 yards of total offense and went 3-of-11 on third down.
“There’s times where we’re good, but it’s not good enough right now,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “There’s lapses and we’re not getting turnovers. We have to find a way to play at a high level right now. Until we do, we’re not going to win.”