Cowboys-Giants: What we learned

Patti Traina, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo connected with tight end Jason Witten on two touchdown passes and kicker Dan Bailey's 35-yard field goal on the final play gave the Cowboys a 24-21 win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Cowboys improved to 6-5 and their win over the Giants (4-7) snapped New York's four-game winning streak. It also severely hurt the Giants' chances of climbing into playoff contention after their 0-6 start to the season.
"Both teams played hard," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "We felt like we had a chance to win this one, but we didn't, so give credit where credit is due and (get) back to work."
The Cowboys started their game-winning drive from their own 20-yard line with 4:45 remaining. Giants wide receiver Louis Murphy caught a 4-yard touchdown pass and running back Andre Brown converted the two-point try to tie the game 21-21.
Dallas used 10 plays to drive to the Giants 28. On third-and-10, quarterback Tony Romo hit on a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Cole Beasley. Two kneel downs and one timeout later, Bailey kicked the game-winning field goal on the game's final play.
"We just have an immense amount of confidence in him," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett of Bailey. "If you've followed our team, he's made so many big kicks at the end of the game to win games for us."
Dallas jumped out to a 14-6 halftime lead thanks to a series of big plays.
In the first quarter, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick stripped Giants receiver Victor Cruz of the ball after a five-yard pass completion. The loose ball was scooped up by safety Jeff Heath, who ran it back 50 yards for the touchdown.
That play marked the ninth time this season that an opponent returned a Giants turnover for a touchdown, including five returns against the Giants' offense.
The lone first-half points for the Giants consisted of two field goals by kicker Josh Brown.
New York's streak of 19 quarters without allowing a touchdown pass ended in the second quarter when Witten caught a 20-yard score.
The Giants had 202 rushing yards and averaged 6.7 yards per carry, but without wide receiver Hakeem Nicks -- scratched due to a flare up of an abdominal injury first disclosed on Wednesday -- they never found a rhythm on offense.
With first-and-goal at the Giants' 6, it took Romo three plays to find Witten for his second touchdown reception of the game and the tight end's fourth against the Giants this season.
Tight end Brandon Myers scored on a short pass from quarterback Eli Manning to bring the Giants within a score, 21-13. Myers' 27-yard touchdown was the result of the Dallas defense not touching him down after he went to the ground for a short gain. Myers popped up and sprinted in for his second touchdown of the season.
Murphy's touchdown was just his second reception of the season, but the Giants would not get another chance.
"Go back to your film study during the week and try to understand the way they want to attack you and stick to your guns until you see something different and get certain looks," Romo said of his thought process on the final drive.
With the win, the Cowboys moved a half game in front of the Philadelphia Eagles, who had a bye this week. Dallas swept the Giants for the first time since the 2007 season.
"We have five games left and we have to win five," said Manning, who finished the game 16 of 30 for 174 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. "We don't know if (winning five games) will be good enough, but we have to try."
What the Cowboys said
"Different players on different teams get ready for games in different ways. My experience has been that you spend a little less time talking and a little more time preparing." - Coach Jason Garrett, when asked about the chirping that came from the Giants in the days leading up to the game.
What the Giants said
"It didn't matter that I said it. We had to win that game (and) the better team won today." - Cornerback Terrell Thomas, who on Friday boldly predicted that the Giants would win this weekend's game because their season was on the line.

What we learned about the Cowboys
1. The defense isn't pretty, never perfect, but it was good enough Sunday. The Cowboys might be in first place in the NFC East, but they're not exactly playing sharp football. In addition to recording 11 penalties for 85 yards, they were four of 11 (36 percent) on third downs, and one of two inside of the red zone. The Cowboys, who came into the week ranked 32nd in total defense, gave up more than 200 rushing yards, but the bend-don't-break mantra kept them in position to win the game. Perhaps the best news for Dallas will come early in the week, when it's expected middle linebacker Sean Lee should receive medical clearance to return for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders.
2. Dallas isn't going away. In a division no team has grabbed ahold of, the Cowboys are in the thick of it despite only one two-game winning streak this season. The Cowboys were just 1-4 on the road this season before Sunday. Only two road games remain in the regular season -- Dec. 9 at Chicago and Dec. 22 at Washington.
Sunday's win helped Dallas improve its standing in the division. The Cowboys also improved their won-loss record in games played after their bye week to 17-8 and also gave the Cowboys their first 4-0 start in the division since 2007.

What we learned about the Giants:
1. The Giants continue to be crippled by a lack of production on third down. Against Dallas, they were three of 12 (25 percent). They are 2-5 this season in games in which they have converted less than 40 percent of their third-down tries. The Giants were 4 or 14 against the Packers (28.57 percent) last week.
2. For all the talk about playing discipline and paying attention to detail, the Giants' 11 penalties for 81 yards were a back-breaker. Specifically the roughing-the-passer penalty called on defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka that nullified a turnover recovered by safety Will Hill. That penalty, which was followed by a late hit out of bounds by safety Antrel Rolle, in essence was a big one for Dallas who went on to score their second touchdown of the game on that drive.

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