Quarterback Dak Prescott found tight end Jason Witten for a 20-yard score in the fourth quarter, the veteran’s lone catch of the day, while running back Rod Smith put the game away with a pair of touchdowns as the Dallas Cowboys kept their playoff hopes alive with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants.
The Giants, who battled the Cowboys to a 3-3 tie, let the game slip away from them in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys exploded for 20 points against a Giants defense that couldn’t seem to get out of its own way.
Despite the result, interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo, in his first post game press conference, was pleased with the team’s unity as they went through the difficult game.
“I do believe that unity strengthens and I saw unity and that’s a sign of a stronger football team in my mind. I would hope that they would continue to do that going forward and then just focus on the next game,” Spagnuolo said. “After all we went through this week, I thought the way we came out and the way we played for three and a half quarters was something we could be proud of. We do have to figure out a way in the fourth quarter when it gets down to gut wrenching time to make a play or two.”
Prior to the lethal fourth quarter, the Giants (2-11) played complementary football, keeping the Cowboys’ offense in check.
After trading field goals in the early going, the Giants took the lead on a one-yard touchdown grab by tight end Rhett Ellison. The pass, good for Ellison’s second touchdown as a Giant, was thrown by Eli Manning, returning from his controversial benching one week prior.
“I thought we had a good crowd today and I appreciate all the support these past weeks and sorry we couldn’t get them a better game today,” a grateful Manning said. “I don’t like losing a head coach, I take that personally. That’s on me for not doing my job. I don’t like losing my starting job. That’s personal, also, and that’s because I haven’t played well enough and we’re not winning games. I appreciate Spags giving me an opportunity to get to start this week and see if we could get us a win and I’m sorry we didn’t play well enough to get that win.”
Though Prescott and the Cowboys’ strong rushing game was held mostly in check for the first three quarters, signs of the things to come were on display in the second quarter when receiver Dez Bryant broke away from cornerback Brandon Dixon tackle, traveling 50 yards for the tying score.
The Cowboys endured further struggles from their otherwise dependable kicker Dan Bailey, who missed two more attempts and later an extra point.
However, they finally broke through in the final quarter, energized by receiver Cole Beasley’s 54-yard run on 3rd and 2 from the their own 26. On the very next play, Prescott found another dependable veteran in Witten, giving the Cowboys a lead they would not relinquish.
After the Giants were forced to punt, Prescott found running back Smith for a long 81-yard score for the 23-10 lead.
Another classic Manning comeback was not to be, as his forced pass to receiver Darius Powe was popped in the air and intercepted by linebacker Sean Lee. Three plays later, Smith had his second score of the day, tallying a 15-yard run on a throw from Prescott that created the final margin.
After a banner day the week before against Washington, Cowboys running back Alfred Morris was held to just 62 yards on 19 carries, his longest only going nine yards.
The struggling Prescott, however, rose to the occasion, throwing for a career-high 332 yards, in addition to the three scores. Manning, in his return, went 31-for-46 for 228 yards, the Ellison score, and two interception thrown in garbage time.
Next week, the Giants will welcome in the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium (1:00 PM, FOX).