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3 things we learned about the Cowboys

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants had four second-half takeaways and scored two return touchdowns to beat the Dallas Cowboys 27-20 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The Cowboys (2-4) lost four games in a row and fumbled away a chance at a game-tying drive in the final minute when wide receiver Cole Beasley fumbled a punt.

It was the first win for the Giants (4-3) in the NFC East rivalry in the past six meetings. Dwayne Harris’ 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Giants their winning margin.

Harris, who spent the first four years of his career with the Cowboys, tied a Giants franchise record for the longest kickoff return for a touchdown, set by Clarence Childs on Dec. 6, 1964.

“We’ve been overdue for a long time,” Harris said. “We’ve always been one block away, one man away, but tonight it was blocked perfectly. Anybody could have run through the hole that was made.”

Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel was picked off three times by the Giants, twice by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had a 58-yard pick-6 in the third quarter to give the Giants a 17-13 lead.

Giants safety Brandon Meriweather also intercepted Cassel at the 1-yard line to snuff out a Cowboys scoring drive.

“He did a lot of good things in this game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Cassel, who made his first start for the Cowboys in place of Brandon Weeden. “I thought he handled himself well, was composed, and had poise. Obviously the three big plays for him were the interceptions.”

The Cowboys jumped out to an immediate 3-0 lead on the first of kicker Dan Bailey’s two field goals.

Dallas running back Darren McFadden, who rushed for 152 yards on 29 carries, scored the first touchdown for the Cowboys.

The Giants’ lethargic running game got a much-needed shot of adrenaline thanks to the fresh legs of fourth-string running back Orleans Darkwa, who rushed for 41 yards on four carries, including a touchdown, with 11:10 left in the second quarter.

Darkwa, who finished with 48 yards on eight carries, and running back Shane Vereen, whose 39-yard run in the third quarter helped set up Josh Brown’s 34-yard field goal, helped snap streak of six games in which the Giants ground game failed to reach the 100-yard mark.

“It’s nothing new,” Darkwa said of the spark he provided the running game. “I got some experience last year and in preseason, so it wasn’t anything new. Just act like I’ve been there before was my mentality, and make something good happen.”

Cassel, who went 17 of 27 for 227 yards, delivered a beautiful 25-yard pass from to receiver Devin Street in the back of the endzone for a touchdown to cap a 9-play, 80-yard drive, but it was 20-20 for only the length of the television break. Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the game-winner.

“We had a big third-down conversion and I saw Street get behind the guy and tried to get him the ball,” Cassel said of the game-tying, fourth quarter touchdown. “I was able to put it up and he made a tremendous catch. I think it was a good way to respond; I think it shows the resiliency of the team.”

The Giants are at New Orleans next week and Tampa Bay the following week.

The Cowboys (2-4) are home for back-to-back home games against Seattle and Philadelphia.

What we learned about the Cowboys:

1) The Cowboys miss quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant. With teams scheming to stop tight end Jason Witten, who this week was held to six catches for 73 yards and zero touchdowns, the Cowboys are missing the Romo-Bryant connection which thus far this season accounted for the Cowboys highest offensive production, 436 yards against the Giants in Week 1.

Bryant, who made the trip to New York despite being declared out on Saturday, is inching closer to a return according to team owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “He had a good workout. He said he didn’t have any negative effects from out it out here before the game. We’ll just see how this week goes.”

As for Romo, Jones confirmed that the quarterback will be back for the Cowboys Week 10 game against Tampa Bay.

2) The Cowboys running game isn’t in as bad of shape as first thought. The Cowboys might have found the answer to their running game woes in Darren McFadden, who in his first extensive work for the Cowboys, finished with 152 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown.

McFadden, who prior to this week had averaged 7.4 carries per game, proved he could be the bell cow for the Cowboys.

“Darren was a physical runner tonight,” said quarterback Matt Cassel. “Nobody could tackle him. He did a tremendous job for us. I think those guys worked well together throughout the course of the week and you could see it out there today. Darren had a great game.

3) The Cowboys’ playoff hopes are shaky. There’s still a lot of football left, but the Cowboys, losers of their last four in a row, had better figure out how to start winning games. The saving grace for the Cowboys is that they’re currently 2-1 in the NFC East, but certainly a win against the Giants would have been huge not just because it’s another win against a divisional opponent, but it would have given the Cowboys the head-to-head tiebreaker in the division.

“We missed a chance here to win the game,” said owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “We need to win them badly. We do have a task ahead of us to really put this season where we want it to be as we add players.”

“You can’t think about the hole; you think about playing one game at a time,” added inside linebacker Sean Lee. “We’ve got 10 games left and we have to find a way to win. There’s a margin for error. It’s getting smaller and smaller the more we lose.”

Etc.:

–DT Nick Hayden made his 50th career start Sunday. Hayden, who originally began his career with the Panthers in 2008, spent the 2011 season with the Bengals before coming over to the Cowboys the following year. Since joining the Cowboys, he has not missed a regular season start.

–WR Terrance Williams, who finished the game with four receptions for 70 yards, needs one more catch to reach 100 for his career. Williams has not missed a game for the Cowboys since entering the NFL in 2013.

–TE Jason Witten’s 73 receiving yards on six catches was his highest total against the Giants since Sept. 8, 2013, when he caught 8 balls for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Witten, held without a touchdown this week, has scored at least one touchdown against the Giants in four out of his last six games.


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