The Giants entered today’s tilt with the Cowboys not wanting to call the contest a must-win, but they certainly played like a team that was desperate for a victory, as they held off the Dallas Cowboys, 27-20.
Both teams were shorthanded and banged up, and at times the game looked like a contest played by numerous understudies. But when the moment got the biggest, it was the unlikely role players who played the biggest parts. Backup wideout Dwayne Harris returned a kickoff 100 yards for the decisive points, with 7:01 remaining, to earn brightest star of the game, as his franchise-record tying jaunt seemed to suck the life out of Dallas -- immediately following what was a clutch Matt Cassel-to-Devin Street 25-yard touchdown.
The defensive counterparts weren’t to be outdone, as they came up big when it mattered most. Safety Brandon Meriweather had a hidden-gem play when he blitzed up the middle on 3rd-and-8 at the Giants’ 30-yard line and Dallas looking to tie, and batted down a Cassel attempt, forcing a desperate 4th-down conversion – of which unsung linebacker Jonathan Casillas stopped tight end James Hannah two-yards short of the first down and resulted in a turnover on downs.
The final dagger by a relative unknown came in the waning moments when backup wideout and special teams maven Myles White closed the door on any Dallas comeback when he recovered a Cole Beasley muffed punt inside the Cowboys’ 20-yard line with 1:26 remaining in the game, to ice it.
It was a game New York (4-3) needed, as they at least stayed tied for the lead in the NFC East, pending the outcome of Sunday night’s Eagles-Panthers tilt.
Metro takes a look back at the key moments.
What we saw:
1. Fallen Cassel
The Cowboys turned to journeyman quarterback Matt Cassel to save the day, following a failed experiment with another journeyman signal caller, Brandon Weeden, and the results were pretty much the same. Starter Tony Romo can’t come back soon enough from his broken clavicle, as Dallas’ quarterback situation is a mess. Cassel started efficiently, but fell apart in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. Save for his stellar hookup with Street, the veteran’s second half was a flat performance. Big Blue failed to get pressure on Cassel (17-of-27, 227 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions) for most of the game, but when it mattered most, they put the screws to him and made him throw errant passes and forced mental mistakes at opportune moments.
2. Big D by Big Blue
The Giants have been banged up on defense all season, and entered today’s game undermanned, but there they were stepping up to the challenge when team needed them most. Already without cornerback Prince Amukamara (pectoral), and having key players like linebackers Devon Kennard (hamstring) and J.T. Thomas III (ankle), and defensive ends Damontre Moore (inactive, coach’s decision) and Robert Ayers Jr. (concussion) in and out of the lineup, the Giants did just enough to keep Dallas’ offense off-balanced. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off Cassel and returned it 58 yards for the score to give the Giants a 17-13 lead. And Meriweather wasn’t to be outdone as he did the same on the very next Cowboys’ possession when he picked off Cassel at the Giants’ one-yard line. It led to a Josh Brown 34-yard field goal to give the Giants a 20-13 lead. Cassel showed his veteran mettle on the touchdown to Street, but it was Big Blue’s ability to hold the lead for the final time that sealed the victory.
3. What a rush.
It wasn’t all rosy for Big Blue on the defensive end, as they were thoroughly gashed by Dallas’ running game. Even with starter Joseph Randle bowing out early with a back strain, the Cowboys ran up and down the field – led by Darren McFadden’s game-high 152 yards on 29 carries, and a score. McFadden, a former first-round flameout, was dusted off and used to the max by a Dallas team that needed a boost in the running game. Conversely, the Giants were led by Shane Vereen’s 56 yards on the ground, meaning Big Blue will need to shore up its own running game if they expect to maintain their division lead.
Big Blue notes:
- Giants head coach Tom Coughlin joined Steve Owen as the only coaches in franchise history to reach 100 regular-season victories.
- Josh Brown has now connected on a franchise-record 19th-straight field goals.
- Harris’s return tied Clarence Childs’s 1964 mark for the longest in franchise history.