The 100-yard kickoff return that gave the New York Giants the deciding points in a 27-20 game hurt the Cowboys no doubt. But it made it worse that Dwayne Harris was the returner to do it.
Harris spent four years with the Cowboys before signing a five-year, $17.5 million contract with the Giants in the off-season.
“Of course we had such respect for him, and it’s a classic case of having to make your choices,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
The Cowboys entered the game having allowed only three returns on 24 kickoffs, getting 21 touchbacks. They ranked eighth in the league in opponents’ average drive start after a kickoff.
And they had not allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown since Jacoby Jones went 108 yards for Baltimore on Oct. 14, 2012.
But all that was gone in 13 seconds.
“It’s tough,” special teamer Danny McCray said. “It’s tough anytime really, but at that point in the game, you just felt like us as a unit let the team down. Like they always say, you don’t really mention special teams until something great happens or something bad happens.”
The Cowboys tied the game 20-20 on a 25-yard pass from Matt Cassel to Devin Street with 7:14 remaining. Harris then took Dan Bailey’s kickoff at the goal line, found a crease and had only Bailey to beat.
Harris didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.
Special teams coach Rich Bisaccia said the Cowboys “just got busted” on the play.
It marked Harris’ first career kickoff return for a touchdown, on his 90th career return, including the postseason. He finished his day with three kickoff returns for 149 yards.
“That was very disappointing, but we’ve got to watch film and get better from it,” Street said. “We can’t win ballgames like that. At the same time, we all have to look in the mirror and do a better job.”
The Cowboys’ other special teams gaffe came with 1:26 remaining when Cole Beasley fumbled a 53-yard punt by Brad Wing. Giants receiver Myles White recovered for the Giants, denying the Cowboys a last-gasp chance to send the game into overtime.
It was the fourth career lost fumble for Beasley, including his second this season. The receiver fumbled against the Giants in the season opener after a 15-yard reception, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returning the loose ball 57 yards for a touchdown.
“He certainly doesn’t want to drop the ball,” Bisaccia said. “He got himself in great position. The [punter] hit a great ball, had a little wind behind him, hits a flop — the Australian kick — and just didn’t come up with it. Part of the deal.”