There was a lot at stake for both teams. While the season would not be mathematically over, it would be much harder for the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East and get into the playoffs if they lost. For the New York Giants, it would be almost impossible.
Sucks to be the Giants.
It was a game full of sloppy play, true. There were some embarrassing breakdowns (I'm looking at Bruce Carter and his defaulting to college rules on the first Giants touchdown), but there were more good plays in the end for Dallas. And there were several things beyond just the final score to give the Cowboys' fanbase some hope for the remainder of the season.
Coming out of the bye week, one of the biggest questions was whether Dallas could get their offense going again. Much was made of Jason Garrett donning the headset to talk to Tony Romo, passing on the playcalls and making it a bit simpler for him to override Bill Callahan if he saw fit. For a while, things did not look too good. Dallas was not able to sustain drives, balls were being dropped, and as was mentioned, by my rough count, 47,318 times, the Cowboys had not converted a third down since sometime in the first Bush administration. Or something like that.
By the end of the game, Dallas was converting third downs, getting three in the final game winning drive. After his rough start, Romo was spreading the ball around while still feeding Dez Bryant. Bryant wound up with 102 yards. Given that he was responsible for the intercepted pass that bounced off him, and almost gave the ball up on a fumble that went out of bounds some 25 yards behind the line, killing a drive, it was good that the coaches and quarterback did not give up on him, keeping the biggest playmaker on the team in the game. They did the same with Miles Austin, who was quiet most of the day. He two passes go off his hands before catching one of those third down conversions on the game winning drive. And DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar combined for 106 yards rushing (and 66 more receiving) to give the team legitimate balance and make the play action game much more effective.
The offense only accounted for 327 yards, but they were, if you will, quality yards. And the offense looked at its best on the game winning drive - the one led by Tony Romo. (Romo's 11 4th-quarter game-winning drives leads the NFL over the last three years) He not only moved the team efficiently down the field and overcame three third downs and a false start penalty on Tyron Smith, but the drive burned up every second left in the game. As our old friend here, Archie Barberio, saw it, Callahan and Garrett called the plays like they needed seven, not three, and as a result they wound up with an easy kick for Dan Bailey. There is no kicker in the league who is more dependable than Split 'em Bailey is at crunch time.
Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal was the 8th of his career. He also set the #Cowboys record for most game-winning FGs.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) November 25, 2013
The defense had its moments, as well. Crucial to the final outcome were the two red zone stands where the Giants were forced to settle for three. For most of the game New York was able to run at will, but on those two stands, the much maligned Dallas D saved eight points that made a huge difference. The defense added the fumble return for a touchdown and Jason Hatcher had a pair of big sacks. As mentioned, Bruce Carter had a bone-headed play, but also had some big time stops. In general, the defense was good enough, and certainly did not look lost or overwhelmed for most of the game.
It is not surprising that the Giants were able to run so effectively with the depleted linebacker corps Dallas had to call on, but there may be a silver lining in that. Kyle Wilber, moved from defensive end to play the Sam position due to the injuries, had the best game of his pro career. He racked up seven tackles, four of them solo, and none bigger than the play he made on Andre Brown during the second Giants trip into the red zone. He knifed in and dropped Brown for a six yard loss, and that was crucial in keeping them out of the end zone. Obviously, the team needs Sean Lee and Justin Durant back, but you cannot have too much depth - and it never hurts to have a draft pick pay off. Wilber may be the answer as the Sam, which could be important since the team could save $1,250,000 in cutting Durant, only incurring $200,000 in dead money.
Remember, this game was likely the season for the Giants. They are a division rival. Don't undervalue what the Cowboys accomplished in this win. They now have a crucial 4-0 lead in the division, with the other teams all having at least two losses. A win over the Washington Redskins, and they will hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles, no matter what.
Most importantly, while there are still many things to work on and correct, there are a bunch of good things to build on. The annual Thanksgiving game is usually a win for the Cowboys, and the Oakland Raiders are certainly a team they should be capable of beating. Take care of business, and then they have that long week to get a little healthier.
We all knew that this game was a big one. Dallas put it in the win column. It's now a five game season. But for a few days, things are definitely looking up for the Cowboys.
More from Blogging The Boys:
- Cowboys 24 - Giants 21: Alive & Kicking In The Playoff Hunt
- Cowboys 24 Giants 21 Final Score: Dallas Buries Giants And Return To Win Column
- Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Gearing Up For The Giants
- Report: Cowboys To Change Play-Calling Routine On Sidelines For Giants Game