Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – We're approaching a time of year when gift-giving is a common occurrence.
But if Sunday is any indication, the Cowboys shouldn't be expecting a ton of gift-wrapped packages coming their way.
No, it's not because they haven't been "good" this year. It's not because they aren't deserving.
But this is also the time of year when push usually meets shove and no team in the NFL just rolls over – especially on Sunday Night Football and especially against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.
However, we're finding out each week just how different these 2014 Cowboys seem to be. No, they weren't getting the early breaks against the Giants. No, they weren't getting any help from their striped-friends or their acquaintances in the replay booth.
Yet, just like it says on the T-shirts the Cowboys had printed back in training camp, the Cowboys did the only thing they know how to do this year – Fight.
They fought to prevent an early blowout. They fought to get back in the game to make it interesting. They fought to grab a fourth-quarter lead. They fought on an 80-yard drive to regain the lead in the final minute. And they fought to make sure the Giants didn't even get a first down.
It was a fight. The Cowboys didn't win every round but they were left standing at the end. And that's really all that matters in this sport, or any sport.
And when it comes to receiving presents, sometimes you just have to go and get the gifts yourself.
That's exactly what the Cowboys did Sunday night here at the Meadowlands. Things weren't going their way – at all – but somehow, they just found a way.
And honestly, that's really the only way you can describe it. If someone were to ask you how the Cowboys beat the Giants, don't bother digging through the stat sheet.
The Giants outgained the Cowboys 417-385 and had more first downs, by a margin of 27-18.
New York owned the time of possession 35:07 to 24:53. The Giants had the ball more in every quarter except the second, when the Cowboys had it for 10 more seconds. So this possession battle wasn't sporadic, but the entire game.
The Cowboys didn't win the turnover battle or sacks department and even committed more penalties.
They didn't even win the fourth quarter, although the 14-0 edge in the third proved to be a difference maker.
Yeah, the Cowboys had some things go their way later in the game, like a running game that has been the backbone of their success. DeMarco Murray once again was a workhorse, although his 121 yards on 24 carries seemed to be a quiet night for the NFL's leading rusher.
The Cowboys also had some big plays in the kicking game, thanks to a great night from Dwayne Harris, who not had some big returns, but covered kicks and punts rather well, too.
So it's not like the Cowboys just backed into this win and weren't deserving. That's far from the truth. The Cowboys deserve plenty of credit for simply seizing the moment, especially when it was slipping away, and making sure they grabbed it with two hands.
And that's why this team has made such a dramatic turnaround this year. Here we are, a few days before Thanksgiving and the Cowboys are already at the eight-win mark. We all know this team hasn't been able to get over the 8-8 mark and even with five games remaining, the Cowboys technically aren't there yet. Trust me, if this team hits 8-8 again it'll be one of the biggest collapses of all-time.
But that's not happening. That's not what this 2014 team has become. They don't fold when times get tough.
When it was 21-0 late in the second quarter against the Rams after Romo just threw a pick-six, the Cowboys didn't fold the tent. Instead, Romo used that play to his advantage and promptly scored on that aggressive cornerback who had just scored, and the Cowboys got back in the game and eventually won.
When it's 10-0 after a blocked punt in Seattle, the Cowboys don't just fight back but they turned it around to the point of whipping the world champs at their own game.
When Houston had all of the momentum after scoring 10 straight to force overtime, the Cowboys tightened the screws on defense, made a stop, and then Dez took over with an amazing catch that led to a game-winning field goal.
And then of course, Sunday night, it's 14-3 after Odell Beckham made one of the greatest catches in NFL history, and they rally back to make it a game. Then the Cowboys get a fumble down by their goal line but instant replay fails them and the Giants eventually go back up by 11 at the half.
But once again, these Cowboys keep grinding. This time, it was just Romo and Murray and Dez, but Cole Beasley got into the act. His two clutch catches help turn this game around – twice. The defense couldn't stop Beckham at all and suddenly found answers to keep his LSU rookie in check.
He still had a great game but it was Dez Bryant making the clutch catches when it mattered the most.
The Cowboys didn't outplay the Giants for the entire game. You could argue they didn't outplay them at all. The Cowboys didn't outgain New York. They didn't out-highlight them either.
But they simply outfought the Giants at the end. And after all, this season is all about the fight.
Sunday was further proof that nothing is going to come easy for this team. Then again, it was also a sign the Cowboys aren't just going to sit back and wait for the ball their way. They have the ability to take control and right the ship on their own.
Great comeback. Great effort. Great win.
Ok, now comes the next test. Do it again in four days against a team much better than the one you just beat.