The New York Giants dealt another blow to Dallas’ miserable season three weeks ago - a defeat that contributed to this week’s dismissal of the Cowboys’ coach.
In their first game since Wade Phillips’ firing, the Cowboys take on the surging Giants at the Meadowlands on Sunday with Jason Garrett making his debut at the helm.
Dallas (1-7) lost 45-7 to Green Bay last Sunday, a defeat that sealed Phillips’ fate. He was let go the next day after compiling a 34-22 record in 3 1/2 seasons with the Cowboys.
The team went 11-5 last year and won the NFC East, but Phillips couldn’t survive Dallas’ worst start since 1989 this season. The Cowboys, a popular preseason pick as Super Bowl contenders, have given up 40.3 points a contest over the past three weeks.
“I told (players) they should not think this an admission of defeat or finality in this season,” owner Jerry Jones said. “We have eight games left and we have one goal - to win.”
That task falls to Garrett, the former Cowboys and Giants quarterback who was promoted from offensive coordinator to interim coach. Garrett was a finalist for the St. Louis head coaching job in 2009.
“Wade is no longer the coach. I am the coach and what we’re going to do going forward (is) get ready to have a great meeting, a great walkthrough and a great practice on Wednesday and give ourselves a chance to beat the Giants on Sunday,” said Garrett, who conducted his first full practice Wednesday.
New York (6-2) will try not to let that happen as it seeks its sixth straight victory and fourth in a row in the series. The Giants’ latest win over the Cowboys came Oct. 25, a 41-35 victory in Arlington that dropped Dallas to 1-5.
While the Cowboys have continued to struggle, the NFC East-leading Giants appear to be getting better with each game. New York came out of its bye week and pounded Seattle 41-7 last Sunday, as the NFL’s second-ranked offense outgained the Seahawks 487-162 with a balanced effort.
Eli Manning(notes) went 21 of 32 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, while the Giants ran for 197 yards behind Brandon Jacobs(notes), Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) and Danny Ware(notes). New York is averaging 401.0 yards and leads the NFC with 27.0 points per game.
“We’re just playing well right now, and we need to keep that going,” offensive lineman Rich Seubert(notes) said. “It’s a long season and we still have eight games left. We need to keep plugging away and keep on getting better.
“We have the Cowboys coming in this week, and they’re a dangerous team. Everybody knows their record and that doesn’t matter. They have a good defense and we have to find a way to beat them.”
New York knocked quarterback Tony Romo(notes) out with a broken collarbone in the October matchup, with Jon Kitna(notes) taking over under center. The veteran has thrown for 749 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions in three games.
Dallas is averaging 359.3 yards - 10th in the league - but wasn’t able to move the ball against the Packers’ formidable defense, getting held to a season-low 205 yards.
The Cowboys’ beleaguered defense, meanwhile, gave up 400 yards for the second time in three weeks, as Green Bay gained 415. The Giants had 497 against Dallas.
Things got even worse for the Cowboys’ defense this week, as the team announced starting end Marcus Spears(notes) is out for the season with a calf injury. The six-year veteran had 19 tackles in 2010.
New York will try to take advantage as it looks to match its last offensive effort versus Dallas, but will have to do it without Steve Smith. The Pro Bowl receiver, who has caught 47 passes for 517 yards and three TDs, suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle Thursday and won’t play.
Coach Tom Coughlin characterized Smith’s status as “week-to-week.”
The Giants are also dealing with a banged-up offensive line, as they aren’t expected to have starting left tackle David Diehl(notes) (hamstring, hip) and could be missing center Shaun O’Hara(notes) (sprained foot).
New York, with a one-game lead over Philadelphia in the division, is looking to remain focused against a struggling opponent - one that could get a boost from the coaching change - before visiting the Eagles next week.
“We’re going one game at a time,” Coughlin said Monday. “The next game is our total concern, and that’s as far as our thinking goes. It’s right there.”
The Giants haven’t beaten the Cowboys four straight times since taking six in a row from Sept. 18, 1988-Sept. 30, 1990. New York has won the last two meetings in East Rutherford.