Leave it to the Dallas Cowboys to conjure up the most entertaining game that meant absolutely nothing. With their seed in the playoffs locked in, the Cowboys had nothing to gain from a win on Sunday except to say that they won ten games instead of nine. Still, Jason Garrett played all of his starters except Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Zack Martin for much of the game and Dallas came away with arguably their most thrilling win of the season. Here are the five top impact plays from the game.
Chidobe Awuzie climbs the ladder for his first interception of the year
The Giants got the ball to start the game and drove down the field with relative ease, largely due to Saquon Barkley being a threat in every facet and a defense that seemed to already be letting up. The Cowboys defense then stiffened up and brought about a third and four at the Dallas six-yard line.
Eli Manning threw into the endzone for Sterling Shepard, but Chidobe Awuzie skied up in the air to pick off the pass and land in bounds for a touchback. It was important because it kept the Giants from scoring any points on their red zone trip, but it was more than that. Awuzie had a very rough go of things earlier in the year, as teams avoided throwing at Byron Jones and subsequently sent a high volume of passes Awuzie’s way. Over the last half of the season, Awuzie gained confidence and improved in coverage, and ending the regular season with his first pick of the year was a nice cherry on top for him and this defense.
Tank gets his tenth sack and The Human Log gets a fumble recovery
On the Giants’ second offensive drive they were once again moving the ball with relative ease, and it really looked as if the Cowboys just weren’t invested in the game; understandable given the lack of importance of the matchup. Starting at their own 14, the Giants moved the ball to the Dallas 43 when their next turnover occurred.
DeMarcus Lawrence generated pressure on Manning and hit his arm as he threw, which caused the ball to come out weird and tumble into the hands of Antwaun Woods. It was initially ruled an interception, which would have been Woods’ first career pick. Later, though, statisticians corrected it to a strip sack from Lawrence and a fumble recovery, which put Lawrence’s sack total at 10.5. Again, the takeaway was significant in that it kept the Giants from scoring despite a promising drive, and it was a good sign that even in a game where Dallas seemed to lack drive, they were able to create takeaways on defense.
Blake Jarwin’s third touchdown of the day is a big one
Over halfway through the third quarter, the Cowboys were up 14-10 and both of their touchdowns came on throws to Blake Jarwin. Facing a third and three at the Giants’ 39-yard line, Dak Prescott felt the pressure and scrambled out to his right before throwing a missile of a pass to Jarwin, who caught the ball and ran in about 20 more yards for an impressive 39-yard touchdown pass.
With that, Jarwin became the second tight end in Cowboys history to catch three touchdown passes in a single game. The only other guy to do it was Billy Joe Dupree in 1973. But Jarwin’s touchdown was more than just a cool record as he’s been making big improvements as a pass catching tight end the last few weeks and giving the Cowboys a down-the-seam threat at the position they’ve sorely lacked all year. With Jarwin’s development culminating in this breakout performance, he might be peaking at the perfect time.
Cole Beasley gets his knee down for an insane touchdown catch
Down 35-28, the Cowboys offense took the field with two and a half minutes left. Dak Prescott has had plenty of fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, but he had the chance to add one more to his résumé. He quickly led the team down the field but, at the New York 32, the team faced a fourth and 15 after a false start penalty. That’s when Dak did this:
Cole Beasley with an INSANE catch on 4th and 15 pic.twitter.com/1wh286veLN— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) December 30, 2018
This play really has it all. Fourth and long, the patented Tony Romo spin and scramble move, the deep throw on the run into the endzone, and the amazing diving catch from Cole Beasley. But it gets even better because it took a review to realize that Beasley’s knee got down in bounds and, by rule, it was a touchdown. Now all that was left was the two-point conversion, because Garrett had no interest in taking this meaningless game into overtime.
Dak finds Gallup on the move for the two points and the game winner
About that two-point attempt. Dallas ran a crafty jet sweep fake to Tavon Austin and had Dak roll out to his right. It seemed like the initial read was Rod Smith in the flat, but New York covered him up well. Instead, Dak kept his feet moving and found Michael Gallup, who had come over from the far side and snuck behind his man. With the successful conversion, Dallas had gone up by one point and a successful stand by their defense on the next possession allowed the Cowboys to walk out with no injuries and their tenth win.