Giants talked, Cowboys shut 'em up
The Cowboys made the trash-talking Giants quiet and buried their playoff hopes.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The New York Giants talked so much trash for a team that had won four consecutive games against a quartet of scrub quarterbacks.
It's as if the Giants were trying to convince themselves they were relevant.
They're not. And they haven't been this season, which is the norm for any team that starts 0-6.
But there they were - all 53 players - excitedly bouncing up and down at midfield during pregame warm-ups, essentially challenging the Dallas Cowboys' manhood.
Well, New York's false bravado didn't work as the Cowboys basically ended the Giants' playoff hopes Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
Tony Romo, equally loved and loathed by the Cowboys Nation, guided the Cowboys on a 14-play, 64-yard drive that concluded with Dan Bailey's 35-yard field goal as time expired.
Even then, the Giants weren't done talking. As the players mingled on the field exchanging pleasantries and shaking hands after the game, Damontre Moore was still woofing and nearly started a skirmish before a couple of his teammates dragged him away.
Dallas 24, New York 21.
"It felt good to shut them up," cornerback Brandon Carr said.
It probably felt even better for the Cowboys to save their season, at least for now. Jason Garrett, as you would expect, refused to acknowledge it, but this game represented a crossroads for the Cowboys' season.
A loss would've been disastrous.
It would've dropped them a full game behind the Philadelphia Eagles, while tying them with the Giants. It would've made getting to the playoffs considerably more difficult.
Instead, the NFC East is now a two-team race between Dallas and Philadelphia with a potential winner-take-all showdown looming in late December at AT&T Stadium.
"You could tell by their words they were confident. That's what makes the game great -- the buildup," Romo said. "Either way, you gotta play a football game. We understood that.
"Obviously they felt in some ways like their season was on the line in this game. It was very similar to the win-or-go-home game a couple of years ago. I was proud of the guys' effort and the way the handled it."
So did it feel like the season was on the line?
"It was going to put us in a position that was not where we wanted to be," Romo said of a potential loss. "It definitely felt like a playoff game."
These are the types of games that should give you confidence Garrett will eventually turn the Cowboys into consistent winners once the talent improves.
He took decisive action at the season's most important juncture.
With his offense floundering for more than a month, Garrett created a bigger role for himself in the play-calling process.
He moved quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson to the coaching box, where he could see the coverages the Giants used and moved tight ends coach Wes Phillips down to the field.
Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan still called the plays, but Garrett delivered the actual play to Romo instead of Wilson. It's a small, but subtle move that gave Garrett a tad more control over the offense.
So much of winning in the NFL is about mental and physical toughness and working through adversity. It's about confidence and learning how to win instead of figuring out creative ways to lose.
The Cowboys did all of those on Sunday, which is why they now reside in first place in the NFC East, having beaten the Eagles earlier this season.
There's not a quality NFL starter among that group, but for some reason, the winning streak had given the Giants a false sense of confidence. A fast start by the Giants would've fed into their delusional mindset.
Dallas maintained control of the game and built a 21-6 third-quarter lead midway through the third quarter on Jason Witten's 2-yard touchdown catch.
But you know these Cowboys rarely do anything easy.
Bruce Carter and Heath combined on one of the dumbest NFL plays you'll ever see. After Brandon Myers made a nifty over-the-shoulder grab on fourth-and-3 from the Dallas 27, he fell down along the left sideline.
Carter and Heath just stood over him.
Since neither touched him, Myers hopped up and sprinted the final few yards into the end zone, pulling the Giants within 21-13 with 4:41 left in the third quarter.
More importantly, the touchdown gave New York hope.
The Giants tied the score at 21 on Louis Murphy's 4-yard touchdown catch and subsequent two-point conversion with 4:53 left.
At that point, the Cowboys had every opportunity to fold. What was left of the announced crowd of 80,499 had whipped themselves into a frenzy. The frigid temperature -- it felt like 18 degrees at kickoff -- and gusty winds had made moving the ball a tricky proposition all day.
The Cowboys were 0-for-7 on third downs, and each of their previous three possessions had ended with a punt.
So, of course, Romo directed his 11th fourth-quarter, game-winning drive since the start of the 2011 season.
No NFL quarterback has more. Oh, and he converted four third downs on the drive.
"We knew it was going to be a great challenge. I must've used the word challenge 500 times since Wednesday morning," Garrett said. "The elements added to the challenge. The crowd added to the challenge.
"We had to be mentally tough throughout the ballgame, and I thought we did a good job of that."
It's the reason the Cowboys are in first place and have complete control of their playoff destiny. The trash-talking Giants play for pride.