The Dallas Cowboys are playing for their postseason lives, their only realistic chance of making the playoffs being to win their final four games.
And they got the victory they needed against the New York Giants, taking down their rival, 30-10, at MetLife Stadium. With the win, Dallas moved to 7-6 on the year and stayed within reach of a wild-card berth.
Big plays were the difference in this one as quarterback Dak Prescott had three completions that each turned into gains of 50-plus yards. In all, he finished the day with 332 passing yards, totaling three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 137.1 passer rating.
It was a career day for running back Rod Smith, who earned 113 receiving yards and 47 yards on the ground to lead an attack that racked up 454 yards of offense, an average of 7.4 yards per play.
The Giants, of course, were coming off a turbulent week that saw a firing of the general manager and head coach, and the return of Eli Manning to the starting quarterback role. But the Cowboys didn't let what could have been a revitalized opponent sustain any momentum.
New York won the time of possession battle, 32:53 to 27:07, and managed 330 yards of offense, but the Dallas defense for the most part proved up to the task. Manning finished with just 228 passing yards and tossed two interceptions for a 68.0 passer rating. By comparison, the Giants averaged only 4.4 yards per play.
The Cowboys started the game just as they wanted, with a methodical 16-play possession that went 73 yards and ate up 7:43 of clock. But with a first-and-goal at the New York 4-yard line, Dallas was unable to punch it in, Dan Bailey's 21-yard field goal feeling like somewhat of a disappointment.
On the other hand, when the Giants then did virtually the same thing, the home side seemed somewhat uplifted. New York marched from its own 17-yard line to the Cowboys' 21 in 17 plays and 9:24 of clock before settling for a 39-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3.
For Dallas, the frustrations mounted. Despite the team moving into enemy territory on its next series, a deep pass down the left sideline was dropped by Dez Bryant with Cole Beasley then dropping a third-down try that would have moved the chains. Bailey then came on to try a 53-yard field goal, but his attempt clanked off the right upright for his first miss of the year.
After both sides traded punts, the Cowboys soon found themselves trailing. The big blow came on a pass from Manning to wide-open tight end Evan Engram for 35 yards to the Dallas 21. That eventually resulted in the Giants' quarterback connecting with his other tight end, Rhett Ellison, who rolled in from the 1-yard line for the game's first touchdown, New York ahead 10-3.
But with just under two minutes remaining, the Cowboys produced their big play of day. With the Giants blitzing, Bryant ran a slant and hauled in the pass from Prescott. He then shook off cornerback Brandon Dixon, racing all the way to the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown to tie the game at the half, 10-10.
After the break, the third quarter was rather uneventful with neither team really threatening to score, the pace plodding along. Bailey did attempt another 50-yard field goal, but this time pushed his kick wide right, just the third time in his impressive career that he's missed at least two field goals in a game.
Finally, in the final frame, though, the fireworks came out. It started with the Giants facing a second-and-4 at their own 26-yard line. New York tried to run a reverse, but linebacker Sean Lee, who in his return to action after missing three games due to a hamstring injury, sniffed out the trick and tackled Sterling Shephard for a 9-yard loss. Lee finished with a game-high 18 tackles.
His effort led to the Giants having to punt with Dallas starting at its own 18-yard line. Four plays later, however, the Cowboys were in the end zone.
On third-and-2, New York again blitzed and this time Prescott went underneath to Cole Beasley. There, the shifty wideout slipped around safety Landon Collins and darted down the left sideline for a huge 54-yard gain. On the very next snap, the quarterback then found Witten with a perfect pass into the end zone, the 20-yard touchdown giving Dallas a 17-10 advantage with 7:45 left in regulation.
As quick as that was, though, three plays would be all they'd need on their next possession. This time it was Prescott hitting the running back Smith, who was working out of the slot, on a slant across the middle. With no safety help deep, it was simply a footrace then and Smith took it the distance, 82 yards for the touchdown. Bailey's uncharacteristic day continued with a missed extra point, the first of his career, but Dallas had the game in hand, 23-10.
The big plays kept coming, this time Lee hauling in an interception of a pass tipped by cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. That led to Smith recording his second touchdown of the game, as he took a pitch around the left end for the first career multi-touchdown game of his career.[embeddedad0]
And that was that. A close game had officially become a blowout, the Cowboys enjoying a 30-10 victory. They'll next head to Oakland for a Sunday night showdown against the Raiders with their playoffs hopes, however slim, still alive.