Manning watches special teams lead the way

New York didn’t have to lean on its star quarterback to get the win over Dallas.

Eli Manning didn’t have to carry the Giants during their 27-20 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday. In fact, the franchise quarterback only had to watch from the sidelines as New York’s special teams put the game on ice. First, Dwayne Harris returned a

Dallas kickoff 100 yards for the final go-ahead score. Then, after the Giants failed to run the clock all the way down on offense, Myles White took advantage of a Cole Beasley muffed punt by pouncing on the ball and ensuring that the Cowboys didn’t get a

final comeback opportunity.

“That was huge,” said Manning about the Harris kickoff return, “I think obviously we brought him here to be a special teams guy and he’s had to play a bit more receiver than he anticipated, but he’s getting better each and every week and making some big plays in the receiving game and he’s got some ways of getting the ball. He is a playmaker once he has the ball in his hands.”

Harris also gained 38 yards on a slant pattern to set up a Giants field goal towards the end of the second quarter. The former Cowboys return specialist finished Sunday’s game as New York’s second-leading receiver with 43 yards.

With Odell Beckham Jr. limited by a hamstring injury, Manning looked for his secondary targets often, including when his team was backed up deep in its own territory during the third quarter. Instead of 

being conservative on offense and punting the ball back to Dallas, Manning found Rueben Randle down the sideline for a 44-yard gain. The wide receiver made a tremendous one-handed catch that helped put the Giants in field goal range for a 20-13 lead.

“Rueben did a good job,” said Manning, “He had a great catch on the right sideline. We were backed up on our third down, we were on our own five-yard line so it was a big third down conversion, and a change in the field position right there.”

By statistical standards, it wasn’t a great Sunday for Manning, who threw for just 170 yards and zero touchdowns. On the other hand, he did a great job protecting the ball on an afternoon when turnovers proved to be the difference. The Giants took advantage of three Matt Cassel interceptions and the aforementioned muffed punt to earn the win.

“We didn’t turn the ball over,” said Manning, “I think that’s the most important thing; protected the football. You know, offensively, I thought we ran the ball well, started off getting positive yardage, built a couple big ones at the end.”

It’s good to know that the Giants don’t need Manning to be a hero in order to pull out a win versus a division rival.

Manning grade: B-

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