With the division title wrapped up and the fourth seed in the postseason secured, this was basically a meaningless game for the Dallas Cowboys … but you would have never guessed it.
In what may forever be known as The Blake Jarwin Game – if not The Cole Beasley Catch – the Cowboys came away with a thrilling, last-minute 36-35 victory over the rival New York Giants. Coming into this matchup against its rivals, the focus for Dallas was on getting Dak Prescott more reps in the passing game with his receivers. And that held true as the NFL's leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, sat out along with Pro Bowl linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, while the Cowboys quarterback played the entire game.
And it was a solid effort for Prescott, who finished the day with 387 yards off of 27-for-44 passing, throwing four touchdowns with no interceptions for a 120.2 passer rating. His main target was surprisingly Jarwin, who came into the game with only 188 receiving yards for the season and no touchdowns in his career. But on this day, the tight end hauled in seven catches for 119 yards and three scores. He was joined by Beasley, the slot receiver adding 94 receiving yards off of six grabs, which included the game-winning touchdown.
As a team, Dallas finished with 419 total yards, just shy of New York's 441. Saquon Barkley continued his outstanding rookie season with 109 yards rushing and a touchdown while tight end Evan Engram led Giants' pass catchers with 81 yards receiving. Eli Manning finished with 301 yards passing, but along with two touchdowns, tossed an interception and fumbled the ball once to finish with an 87.6 passer rating.
In fact, Manning's two gifts came early in the game as he was turned the ball over on both of the Giants' first two possessions. New York threatened the Cowboys on its opening series, driving deep into Dallas territory. But on third-and-4 at the 6-yard line, Manning tried to loft a pass to Sterling Shepherd in the back, right corner of the end zone, only to have cornerback Chidobe Awuzie leap in front of the receiver to pull down the interception.
Then after once again moving into Dallas territory on the Giants' second possession, Manning dropped back to pass on second-and-10 at the Cowboys' 43-yard line. But DeMarcus Lawrence sacked the quarterback, hitting his arm as he threw, which caused the ball to pop into the air and into the waiting hands of Antwaun Woods.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys could do nothing with the two takeaways, Brett Maher's 34-yard field goal attempt after the second one sailing wide right to make things worse, but the drought didn't last long. On each of its next two possessions, Dallas found the end zone to quickly take 14-0 lead.
And both of those touchdowns came courtesy of Jarwin, who again came into the game having never scored before. The first capped a 13-play, 65-yard drive, Prescott zipping a 13-yard pass to a wide-open Jarwin in the middle of the end zone. That was then followed with a near repeat on the Cowboys' next possession, as Prescott again found Jarwin in the middle of the end zone, this time from 19 yards out.
But the score would be narrowed to 14-7 before the end of the half, as with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter, Manning moved his team 73 yards in 10 plays to reach pay dirt. He finished things off by dropping a pass into Cody Latimer on the left side of the end zone, the wideout making a nice one-handed catch for the score.
When the teams came back from the break, it was somewhat surprising that Prescott was still behind center with the Cowboys offense, especially after starting left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo soon joined Martin and Smith on the sideline with an ankle injury.
Maybe Prescott was just having too much fun connecting with Jarwin. Because sure enough, after the Giants narrowed the score with a 48-yard field, the pair combined for their third score in the game. This time the quarterback scrambled to his right before finding his tight end over the middle, Jarwin jumping high to pull down the pass, turning upfield and splitting the Giants secondary to reach the end zone.
Although Dallas was now up 21-10, the good feelings didn't last long, as the Giants came right back with two consecutive touchdowns of their own to take the lead for the first time in the game. Barkley provided the big blow on the first score, breaking off right tackle for a 68-yard run. That eventually led to Manning finding Engram in the end zone from 6 yards out for the touchdown. The two then paired up on the two-point conversion.
That was soon followed by New York going on an eight-play, 81-yard drive, which saw backup running back Wayne Gallman darting the final 2 yards for the touchdown to put the Giants in front, 25-21.
Dallas wasn't done yet, though. With all of the momentum seemingly on the home side, the visitors grabbed the reins and went on a march of their own. And they needed only five plays to do it, thanks to a 49-yard pass from Prescott to Allen Hurns, the receiver getting his team down to the 2-yard line. Rod Smith than powered his way in for the score, Dallas going back on top, 28-25, with just over nine minutes remaining in the game.
But the seesaw continued and what was once up became down again. Manning found Shepherd for 19 yards and then Lattimore made another one-handed grab for 31 more before Barkley finished off the drive by diving in from the 2-yard line for the touchdown.
Soon after that, the day seemed all but done when on the first play of the Cowboys' next possession, Amari Cooper had the ball knocked loose with New York's B.J. Goodson picking up the fumble to give the Giants' the ball at the Dallas 18-yard line. The Cowboys defense held strong, but New York still got a 38-yard field goal to extend their lead to 35-28 with 2:29 left in the fourth quarter.
And then when all looked lost, Beasley made the catch of the season. On fourth-and-15 at the Giants' 32-yard line, Prescott avoided the rush, rolled to his left and then lofted a pass to the back of the end zone. There Beasley dived full out, cradling the ball while getting a knee down for what would be ruled an amazing touchdown after video review. Wanting to avoid overtime, Dallas went for two and Prescott found Michael Gallup for the extra points and a 36-28 lead with just over a minute to play in the game.
The Giants had one more chance as a taunting penalty on Dallas pushed the ensuing kickoff back to the 20-yard line, which was followed by a 34-yard return that set New York up at its own 48. But Manning failed to connect on four straight pass attempts, the Cowboys taking the ball over on downs.
Two kneel-downs later and victory was there's. With the win, Dallas finished the regular season with a 10-6 record, the team's third straight year with a winning record and the third time in the last five they've earned at least 10 wins.