In a quarterback-less city, the most popular guy is the No. 2 signal caller. With Brandon Weeden unable to find wins without franchise general Tony Romo in the lineup, Dallas inserted Matt Cassel into the lineup against New York, a move fans had been clamoring for after the team's 30-6 loss to New England. Coming off a bye week with five total practices to get acclimated to the offense, Cassel would be ready to give it his best effort.
Weeden lost his job throwing two interceptions in three games. Cassel threw three interceptions in the second half against New York, part of this 27-20 loss. The 10 points off turnovers gave the Giants a seven-point lead. Cassel had to lead an 80-yard touchdown drive, a seemingly insurmountable task. Yet, a 21-yard toe-tapping completion to Terrance Williams on a third-and-9 (where Dallas had been 0/2 previously) and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Devin Street in the right corner of the end zone, another toe-tapping special, tied up the game 20-20 after Dan Bailey's extra point attempt.
Then, the "demon from special teams past" haunted Dallas. Receiver Dwayne Harris, a captain of the special teams a year prior, returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to put the Giants ahead by seven again at 27-20 after the extra point. The sudden score upset Dallas defense end Greg Hardy so much he had to be calmed on the sidelines by teammates, including the inactive-but-healing Dez Bryant.
Dez told our Mike Fisher the following: "“There’s no beef with (Hardy). He’s a beast. He loves the game. We feed off of it. It’s all great. He’s great.’'
The Cowboys were able to get the New York 30-yard line on third-and-8. Cassel hit receiver Cole Beasley in the chest, and was fortunate the ball didn't ricochet into Giants hands for his fourth turnover of the day. Instead, it set up fourth-and-8, and after much deliberation in the pocket, Cassel dumped the ball off to reserve tight end James Hanna three yards short of the marker, who was then tasked to pick up the extra five to convert. A swarm of Giants defenders met him and gave the ball back to their offense.
The Dallas defense, who sacked Eli Manning twice and prevented him from throwing a touchdown against them in now two straight games, made good on their nearly 25 minutes of real-time rest, forcing a three-and-out. They had done their job.
New York punter Brad Wing sent the ball 53 yards towards the awaiting arms of Beasley, who channeled Az-Zahir Hakim, and muffed the punt. Receiver Myles White of the Giants snatched the loose ball and the Giants' fourth win of the season.
Dallas got on the board with their first possession when Bailey kicked a 30-yard field goal with 5:29 in the first quarter to help the Cowboys lead 3-0.
New York running back Orleans Darkwa scored a 15-yard touchdown to put New York on top 7-3 with 11:10 in the second quarter. Darkwa carried the ball four times for 41 yards on the drive despite not touching the ball all season.
On the impending possession, the Cowboys trimmed the Giants' lead to 7-6 with a 48-yard Bailey field goal with 7:36 in the second quarter.
With 2:22 to go in the second quarter, running back Darren McFadden put the Cowboys up 13-7 with a one-yard touchdown run.
Giants kicker Josh Brown kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1:08 left before halftime to make it 13-10 Cowboys.
Cassel's first interception of the day was returned 58 yards by Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromatie with 11:34 to go in the third quarter. The Giants reclaimed the lead 17-13.
Another Cassel interception set up the Giants at their own 1-yard line, yet they managed to drive the ball 83 yards to give Brown a shot at a 34-yard field goal and incease New York's lead to 20-13 with 3:23 in the third quarter.
Cassel's 25-yard throw to Street in the back right corner of the end zone tied up the game 20:20 with 7:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Harris' 100-yard touchdown kickoff return gave the Giants a 27-20 lead with 7:14 in the fourth quarter.
Cassel finished with a 62.4 passer rating, going 17/27 for 227 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. He was only dropped once for a short loss. By comparison, Manning went 13/24 for 170 yards and a 76.7 passer rating.
Dallas running back Joseph Randle left the game with a tight lower back in the first quarter, finishing with two carries for 24 yards. Backup Darren McFadden shouldered the load and carried the ball 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown despite the rumblings of Christine Michael the heir apparent to take Randle's carries. Receiver Lucky Whitehead also had four carries for 35 yards.
Tight end Jason Witten led the Cowboys with six catches for 73 yards. Williams had four catches for 70 yards, and Street's lone reception of the afternoon was a 25-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys defense sacked Manning twice. Hardy earned his third sack of the season as did defensive lineman Jack Crawford. The defense held Odell Beckham, Jr. to four catches for 18 yards, but allowed Harris two catches for 43 yards, along with a 38-yard catch, and receiver Rueben Randle two catches for 68 yards, including a 44-yard reception.
* McFadden rushed 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. The 29 carries were tied for the third-most of his career and the 152 yards are now a new career high. Oakland was 9-3 when McFadden carried the ball 20 times or more.
* The last Cowboys quarterback to throw for three interceptions was Tony Romo on Opening Day in 2014 against the San Francisco 49ers.
* The Giants have now beaten the Cowboys for the first time since Oct. 28, 2012 when they were also staving off a sweep from Dallas.
* Jason Garrett is now on a four-game losing streak. The last coach to do that was Wade Phillips in 2010 amid his five-game losing streak that cost him his job.
“The challenge is daunting,’’ owner Jerry Jones told Fish after 2-4 Dallas’ fourth-straight loss. “We should and will go … quarter-by-quarter. That’s all we need to be looking at. We can’t afford to look down the road. … It’s daunting.’'
*Dez might be right in saying "It's not over,'' and in telling Fish, "We're still strong.'' But ... No team in the history of the NFC East has come back from the bottom of the division at 2-4 to win the division crown, though the 1990 Philadelphia Eagles overcame such a deficit to go 10-6 and earn a wildcard berth.