Cowboys gobble up Giants to keep Thanksgiving showdown on course
Although Sunday night's game will be remembered for the CGI-like catch by the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., it was the Cowboys who made the real grab.
They snatched victory from what could have been a turkey of a game against one of the NFC East's weaklings.
The Cowboys trailed for most of the game. They were down 14-3 early and trailed by 11 at halftime. They had to rally from behind twice in the second half.
Now, Thanksgiving dinner will taste a lot better to Cowboys fans as they settle in to watch Thursday's division showdown with the Eagles.
They can thank Barry Church and the offensive line for that.
Church came up with a clutch interception on a tipped pass near the end of the third quarter. The Giants were in the red zone and closing in on making it a two-score lead when Eli Manning threw too high over the middle, causing the pick.
Perhaps partial credit should go to a Cowboys' defensive front that was active all game and getting pressure on Manning.
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There was virtually no pressure on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as he directed the game-winning drive with under three minutes left. Romo had as much time as he wanted to pick apart the Giants, ultimately tossing a 13-yard wobbler to Dez Bryant with 1:01 remaining.
It wasn't that long ago that the Giants could send wave after wave of talented defensive linemen at a quarterback, but the current version was no match for the Cowboys' offensive line.
If anything, it often seemed like Romo had too much time. The worry of veteran Romo-watchers is that if he extends a play long enough, he will eventually hang himself. But Romo never needed to throw the ball away and instead calmly waited for receivers work their way open. On one play, he even gave Jason Witten a little "come here" signal and the tight end curled his route back toward his quarterbback and made a clutch catch.
The defense had the final say. Despite getting burned by Beckham for 10 catches, 146 yards and two touchdowns, the Cowboys forced the Giants to turn the ball over on downs in the final minute.
Losing to the 3-8 Giants wouldn't have just taken some luster off the Thanksgiving game, it would have damaged the Cowboys' chances of winning the NFC East. Or perhaps even claiming a Wild Card.
After stumbling against the 3-8 Redskins, another loss in the division to a non-contender would have put the Cowboys on shaky ground. Philadelphia's losses have all come outside the division (although within the NFC).
Instead, the Cowboys can now face the Eagles on equal footing. Both teams are 8-3, and a Dallas win over Philadelphia would even their divisional records as well.
The Eagles don't appear to be slowing down after the loss of starting quarterback Nick Foles. Backup Mark Sanchez has thrown for 300 yards in three straight games.
But the Eagles have lost to three of the NFC's best teams: Arizona, Green Bay and San Francisco. With a win on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys can join that elite group and pull ahead of the Eagles in the race for the division title.
It will be the first of two Dallas-Philly showdowns in a three-week span, and obviously the winner of the first one will have a huge leg up. Had the Cowboys lost to the Giants, they would have gone into Thursday's game with a touch of desperation instead of a wave of momentum.
Now, the Cowboys and Eagles can have an old-fashioned NFC East street fight with all the trimmings.
Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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