Cowboys vs. Giants: Takeaways from Dallas' 24-21 Win over New York
The Dallas Cowboys didn't make things easy for themselves against the New York Giants but squeaked out a much-needed 24-21 road win. Tony Romo led his offense down the field late in the fourth quarter to set Dan Bailey up with his game-winning 35-yard field goal.
While the setup to the victory sounds like the ending to a great game, this one for the most part was anything but. Both the Cowboys and Giants were sloppy on both sides of the football and flirted with yellow flags all day.
Even with a few miscues, Dallas came out as the less ugly team and was able to win a crucial division game. Here are eight takeaways from the Cowboys' sixth win of the season.
All statistics were retrieved from NFL.com unless otherwise noted.
Penalties Continued to Be a Problem
The Cowboys have had troubles keeping the yellow flags off the field all season, and that didn't change in the Meadowlands.
Dallas finished the game with 11 penalties for 85 yards to the G-Men. Perhaps the most costly penalty in this one was on Brandon Carr that erased a fumble recovery for his defense.
At this point in the season, it's unlikely that this team can stop its penalty academic.
Head coach Jason Garrett is simply going to have to contain the damage the Cowboys inflict on themselves going forward.
Luckily for Dallas, the Giants had penalty problems of their own in Week 12. New York handed its NFC East rival 81 free yards on 11 penalties of its own.
The Cowboys' penalty woes ended up to be a wash thanks to the Giants' own issues giving away free yards. Going forward, however, Dallas cannot expect its opponent to be so generous.
Monte Kiffin's Defense Made Crucial Stops All Day Long
The Cowboys defense has been decimated by injuries, but this unit made big stops in the Meadowlands in Week 12.
Eli Manning and the G-Men had two red-zone trips in the first quarter. Both trips ended with just three points after goal-line stands from the NFL's No. 32-ranked defense.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys stuffed New York on a 3rd-and-1 play. The Giants were within eight points of tying the game at the time.
Pair those with the early Jeff Heath strip of Victor Cruz for a touchdown and there were more than few key stops by the unit.
The Giants came into Week 12 scoring at least 23 points in three of their latest four victories. Dallas held them to 21 in the second meeting between these two teams in 2013.
Dallas' 3rd-Down Woes Still Apparent
One of the most discussed statistics after the Cowboys' Week 10 loss to New Orleans was the fact they didn't convert a third down. Dallas didn't see much improvement against the Giants even after having a bye week to figure things out.
It took until the third quarter in Week 12 for Romo's offense to convert a third down into a first down. Before that conversion, it had been more than a full game of play since Dallas had done so. The team finished with just four third-down conversions on 11 attempts against New York.
When looking at the talent on the offensive side for the Cowboys, there is simply no reason for them to have trouble moving the chains. Between the likes of Dez Bryant, Romo, Witten and DeMarco Murray, there is no excuse to have this issue.
Admittedly, the offensive line has been less than stellar the past few games, giving Romo less time in the pocket. Honestly though, that has been the story the past few years in Dallas. Romo knows on most days, he's not going to have a ton of time to look downfield.
The Cowboys need to figure out this third-down inefficiency before Thanksgiving comes around.
New York Gashed the Cowboys with Running Game
The reason the Giants were able to keep themselves in this game all day long was the duo of Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs.
Monte Kiffin's defense did a fine job making more than a few crucial stops, but one thing it did not do was stop the Giants rushers.
Brown ran in the game-tying two-point conversion for Big Blue and tallied 127 yards on the ground. Jacobs had more than a few long runs that led to his 75 yards on the day.
Since Week 8, the Cowboys have given up at least 92 yards rushing to the likes of Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and now Brown.
Big D needs to stop letting running backs run its defense over. If it could have found a way to do so early against New York, the Cowboys would have had a much easier day in Week 12.
Dallas Running Backs Were Not Utilized Enough
If there has been one thing more consistent about Dallas other than its penalty woes, it has been the lack of feeding its rushers.
Romo dropped back to throw the ball on 38 occasions against New York on quite a windy day. DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar combined for 17 carries on the ground. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan called more than twice as many passing plays compared to running plays.
That being said, it should be noted that Dunbar and Murray combined for 106 yards rushing. That total is a solid one, especially for the Cowboys considering they own the No. 28-ranked rushing attack.
The point here is that while 106 rushing yards is nice, it also shows Murray and Dunbar had the ability to deliver more than that. Both backs were making the most of the running lanes given to them all contest. Dunbar ripped off a 18-yard gain, while Murray tallied a 30-yarder to his credit.
In Week 12, the Cowboys were actually seeing production from their rushers and simply chose not to let Murray or Dunbar be more involved.
At the end of the day, the team still got the victory. One has to wonder if using the running game more on offense could have made life easier for Dallas, though.
Dez Bryant Had a Roller Coaster of a Game
Bryant had himself a nine-catch, 102-yard day against the Giants, but it wasn't all great for No. 88.
The Oklahoma State product coughed up the football on that weird fumble play that the Giants couldn't recover. Bryant was also targeted 16 times by Romo, catching just more than half of them.
What Bryant also did was come up clutch on the game-winning drive by his team. Sure, Romo did spread the football around to the likes of Cole Beasley and Miles Austin. Whenever he needed a big catch by a receiver, though, Romo went to Bryant on that drive.
Romo threw to his No. 1 wideout on four occasions during that drive. Bryant caught three of them for his quarterback. Bryant could have finished with a much bigger day than he did in Week 12, but he came through when he was most needed.
Tony Romo Came Through for His Team Once Again
With the game on the line and the score tied at 21 with 4:45 to go in the fourth quarter, Romo did what he does best in these situations. He led the Cowboys down the field and put his team in prime position for a Bailey field goal.
As Fox Sports tweeted after Bailey's 35-yarder went through the uprights, Romo is better than some would think in the fourth.
Tony Romo's 93.1 passer rating in the final 2 minutes is the HIGHEST of all active quarterbacks and the 4th highest since 1991.— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 25, 2013
For some reason, the Cowboys quarterback is still thought of as a choke artists in situations like he was in against New York. Romo once again pulled through for Dallas in the clutch against a division foe on a four-game winning streak. In fact, it was his second game-winning drive in the past three contests.
Romo is having another fine season and is earning every penny of his big new contract.
Dallas Won a Crucial Divisional Contest
With their Week 12 victory, the Cowboys swept the season series with the Giants and improved to 4-0 in the NFC East. They also regained the top spot in the division once again thanks to their Week 7 win in Philadelphia.
Dallas has done everything it has needed to so far this year to control its own destiny within the division. Only a road game against Washington and a home bout against the Eagles in Week 17 stand in the way of the Cowboys going undefeated in the NFC East.
In all likelihood, a 9-7 or 10-6 record will win someone this division in 2013. The Cowboys are in prime position to be that team, especially if they can beat Philly and/or Washington one more time.
This is not the most impressive year collectively for the NFC East, but one team will earn a playoff spot by winning it. The Cowboys moved one step closer to finishing first with their efforts in Week 12. Dallas kept its undefeated division streak alive and all but eliminated the Giants' chances of winning the East.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.