Giants do it with defense, special teams against Cowboys
Tom Coughlin’s Giants have a flair for the dramatic.
America saw that in their two Super Bowl upsets of New England, and America’s Team got to see it firsthand Sunday in Coughlin’s 100th regular-season win as Giants coach, 27-20 over Dallas.
This one was all about pouncing on Cowboys mistakes.
"We were a plus-4," Coughlin noted as a key to the victory. "We played hard, we wanted it bad."
Coughlin, 69, joined Hall of Famer Steve Owen as the only Giants coaches with 100 wins. And Coughlin also has 12 in the postseason, with those two championships.
New York snapped a five-game slide against Dallas as Dwayne Harris ran back a kickoff 100 yards for the winning points in the fourth quarter against his former teammates. That boosted the Giants (4-3) into first place alone in the NFC East.
"We’ve been overdue for a long time," Harris said. "Always one block away, one man away. Tonight it was blocked perfect. Anybody could have ran through that, the hole that was made."
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions, returning one 58 yards for a touchdown. Brandon Meriweather also had a pick, while Myles White grabbed Cole Beasley’s muff of a punt in the final minutes to put it away.
Harris spent four seasons in Dallas without running back a kickoff for a score. But he tied a Giants record set in 1994 by romping untouched to the end zone.
"It felt great, especially my first return in the NFL, and it felt great coming against my old teammates," Harris said.
The Cowboys (2-4), losers of four in a row without injured offensive stars Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, got a big game from Darren McFadden. Starting running back Joseph Randle left early with a strained back, and McFadden rushed for 152 yards and a TD.
Matt Cassel, in his first start for the benched Brandon Weeden while Romo heals, forced some throws, and New York took advantage.
This third-period score was the seventh touchdown in Rodgers-Cromartie’s eight pro seasons, six by interceptions. He had a 57-yard runback with a fumble against Dallas in the season opener.
"I told myself if I see it, just take a chance," Rodgers-Cromartie said.
Two plays later, Cassel uncorked a wobbler down the left sideline for Terrance Williams, and Meriweather made a leaping pick at the Giants 1. Rueben Randle, making like receiving mate Odell Beckham Jr., followed with a terrific one-handed catch down the sideline on Brandon Carr, the same cornerback Beckham victimized last season for his play of the year. That 44-yarder immediately was followed by Shane Vereen’s 39-yard burst, and Josh Brown completed the 83-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal for a 20-13 lead.
Cromartie’s other interception, the third Giants pick within five throws by Cassel, led to nothing, and then Cassel found the range. He guided Dallas on an 80-yard drive, with a pinpoint pass to Devin Street, whose first career TD came on a tip-toe reception in the right corner of the end zone.
Thirteen seconds later, Harris was sprinting down the right sideline for the winning points.
"We haven’t made a play when it was there all year," Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. "We’ve had it in our hands and we’ve dropped them. You can’t have big plays. For us, we have to have big plays, we have to finish plays and finish games. Last year we did that well, but this year we haven’t done that as consistently."
McFadden had a 1-yard TD and Dan Bailey made field goals of 30 and 48 yards for Dallas. McFadden last had a 100-yard rushing performance in Week 2 of 2013 while with Oakland.
Dallas lost an interception deep in New York territory on a replay review. Eli Manning’s pass ricocheted off the foot of cornerback Byron Jones and was grabbed by the diving rookie. But after the call was overturned, Brown made a 47-yarder, his 18th straight successful field goal, a franchise mark he later extended.
But it was another special-teamer who made the difference.
"You know, a little giveback for Dwayne Harris," Giants linebacker Jon Beason said, adding it was as if Harris was talking to the Cowboys: "Say, `You didn’t think I was good enough.’
"We’re happy to have him."
NOTES: Fourth-string RB Orleans Darkwa scored on a 15-yard run for New York in the opening quarter, when he had 41 yards rushing on four plays. … Coughlin also won 68 games with expansion Jacksonville from 1995-2002, plus four in the playoffs. … It was the 14th 100-yard rushing game for McFadden, the other 13 coming with Oakland. … Rodgers-Cromartie also had two picks in a game three previous times, in 2008, 2009 and 2012. … Giants DE Robert Ayers Jr., was undergoing the NFL’s concussion protocol after the game.