(The Sports Xchange) – Eli Manning remembered all too well what happened a year ago in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
When history didn’t repeat itself, the significance wasn’t lost on the New York Giants quarterback.
“This is a big win for this team and for the guys who were here last year,” he said.
Manning threw three touchdown passes, including the game-winner to a returning Victor Cruz, and the Giants slipped past the Cowboys 20-19 Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
A year ago, it was Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo who authored a last-second, 27-26 win that helped send the Giants on their way to a 4-12 season. This time Romo was missing and Cruz, who missed nearly two years due to injuries, was back.
The 3-yard scoring pass to Cruz with 6:13 remaining proved to be the difference in the first of two meetings between the NFC East rivals.
“To catch a pass in end zone in the fourth quarter to put us ahead is always a beautiful thing,” said Cruz, who had four receptions for 34 yards.
The Giants also made a winner of first-year head coach Ben McAdoo — the former offensive coordinator under previous coach Tom Coughlin — in his debut.
Dallas had won five consecutive games over the Giants, including that nail-biter in the opening game of the 2015 season. The Cowboys have lost 15 of the past 16 games in which Romo was not available.
Manning shook off a third-quarter interception that led to Dallas’ only touchdown. He completed 19 of 28 attempts for 207 yards, using seven receivers.
Rashad Jennings had 75 yards on 18 carries for the Giants. Odell Beckham Jr. caught four passes for 73 yards.
New York’s comeback spoiled an impressive introduction to pro football for Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The rookies were given the keys to the Cowboys’ offense, and they didn’t disappoint.
Prescott, a fourth-round pick, was pressed into action earlier than expected with the preseason injuries to Romo and backup Kellen Moore.
The former Mississippi State star completed 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards, and he led the Cowboys to scores on their first three possessions. Each of the first two drives spanned 15 plays. Those drives ended in field goals, which would come back to haunt Dallas.
“There are some plays things that I want back, some plays that I want to re-do, but for the most part I felt like I prepared,” Prescott said.
Elliott was expected to be a big cog in the attack as the fourth overall pick out of Ohio State. He carried the ball 20 times for 51 yards. The 2.5 average per rush wasn’t special, but Elliott had the team’s lone touchdown on an 8-yard run in the third quarter.
Jason Witten had nine catches for 66 yards for Dallas, with Cole Beasley snagging eight balls for 65 yards. Dez Bryant had only one catch for 8 yards.
The game’s only turnover proved costly for the Giants, as Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr easily picked off Manning on the first possession of the third quarter.
Set up deep in New York territory, the Cowboys marched in for Elliott’s score that gave them a 16-13 edge.
New York’s Dan Bailey kicked a 54-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but Cruz came through for the decisive score.
Prescott and the Cowboys got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 1:05 remaining. The game ended on a completion to Terrance Williams, who cut back toward the middle of the field at the Giants 40-yard line.
“In my mind I was just trying to get a first down and then dive out of bounds, but it just didn’t go as planned,” Williams said.
The Cowboys had the ball twice after New York took the lead but couldn’t come up with points.
“It was great to see the defense come up with a stop there at the end,” McAdoo said. “They battled all night.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)