The task for the New York Giants was simple enough, at least on paper: Pick their chins up off the floor, defeat the Dallas Cowboys at home, split the season series and improve their season record to 4-3 with a 2-2 mark against NFC East opponents.
After falling flat in last week’s 27-7 loss to the Eagles, the Giants did just that, fighting, scratching and clawing in a game that saw the lead change five times until Dwayne Harris was off to the races on a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against his former teammates.
“We really didn’t have a choice,” said receiver Rueben Randle regarding the importance of winning this week.
“If we wanted to continue to keep this season going, especially to make this push into the playoffs, we needed this win. Everybody dug deep down inside and just gave everything they had out there.”
“That was a very 'offense, defense and special teams' win,” said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who celebrated his 100th career win as an NFL head coach. The win included three interceptions by the defense—two by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had a 58-yard pick-six among them.
What this 27-20 win did was breathe new life into a Giants team that, in Coughlin’s words, needed to show that it could pick its chin up off the floor after last week’s kick in the gut by the Eagles.
“We’re a scrappy bunch,” linebacker Jon Beason said. “I still feel like we’re leaving plays out there. We have a lot of room to grow. Whenever you think you have arrived, then that’s it, that’s the ceiling.”
Besides having a chance to take sole possession of first place in the division pending the outcome of the Eagles’ game against Carolina, the Giants avoided a significant pitfall regarding their chances of winning the division by snapping the Cowboys’ five-game regular-season winning streak.
According to Paul Dottino of CBS New York, only two NFC East teams since 2007 have had more than two divisional losses in a season and still made it to the playoffs—the 2007 and 2011 Giants, who had three in each but still won the Super Bowl.
With their win, the 2015 Giants remain right in the thick of things despite imperfections such as their continued struggles on third down—their 27 percent conversion rate was their second-lowest total of the 2015 season—and in the red zone.
With the exception of Week 4 against the Bills, the Giants have scored touchdowns on just one of several tries inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
“We played hard, we wanted it bad, we talked about it all week,” Coughlin said.
“We knew what it was going to be like to play this team twice in the first half of the season, the team that tonight they were going into the game 2-0 in the division, we were 1-2 and now we’re 2-2, so it balances this thing back up a little bit for us.”
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.
Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.