When the Dallas Cowboys meet the New York Giants, it’s usually big news across the league landscape. They normally garner a primetime kickoff time. This year is different, however. The Cowboys already had the NFC East and fourth seed in the NFC Playoffs locked up while the Giants were closing out their fifth losing season in six years.
The NFL was correct in their decision to not feature this game, but no one across this great land would’ve complained about this one. The Giants were without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (quad) again and the Cowboys made a game day decision not to dress star running back Ezekiel Elliott, even though the NFL rushing title was still in play.
It was slow going in the beginning — 14-7 in favor of the Cowboys at halftime — but picked up speed in the second half.
The Cowboys ended up playing many of their starters, including quarterback Dak Prescott, who played the entire game. He had a stellar game, hitting backup tight end Blake Jarwin for three touchdowns. The Giants’ defense helped by playing a Tampa 2, leaving the middle of the field wide open for him all three times.
The Giants hung tough on offense and put together several key second-half drives that resulted in points, but their defense — which had become a liability as the season wore on — could not stave off Prescott in the fourth quarter, allowing multiple big plays and succumbing to their division rivals, 36-35, to finish 5-11 on the season.
This game had meaning to both sides. The Giants wanted to end the season on an uptick and Jerry Jones wanted to keep his team’s momentum heading into the postseason while safeguarding many of his star players from injury. Both teams were successful in their objectives.
One story line worth watching was rookie running back Saquon Barkley’s quest to break the 2,000 yards from scrimmage barrier and the rookie reception record for running backs set by Reggie Bush in 2006.
Barkley (17 carries, 109 yards , one touchdown to go with four catches for 33 yards) busted the 2,000-yard mark with a 68-yard scamper in the third quarter and easily shattered Bush’s record in the first half.
Tight end Evan Engram continued his strong finish to the season after missing five games due to injuries. Engram had five receptions for 81 yards, including this athletic touchdown catch and run.
By losing, the Giants (5-11) bettered their draft position, but it was more important for these players and coaches to finish on an uptick. They were trying to win.
Quarterback Eli Manning (24-of-41 for 301 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a lost fumble) overcame a rough start to finish with an 87.6 passer rating. He could rally the Giants in the last minute once again however, and may have played his final game in Blue.
Wide receiver Cody Latimer had four grabs for 72 yards and a touchdown. Two of those receptions — including the touchdown — were spectacular.
Rookie cornerback Grant Haley left the game in the first half and was evaluated for a concussion and was ruled out at halftime.
Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon had 2.5 sacks and six QB hits in total in what was likely his last game as Giant.