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3 things we learned about the Giants

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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 Giants:

1. Dwayne Harris and his 100-yard kickoff return for the game wining score answered Giants fans who questioned why the team signed him to a five-year, $17.5 million contract.

“We’ve been overdue for a long time, always one block away, one man away,” Harris said. “Tonight it was blocked perfectly, anybody could have run through the hole that was made. It was a good return by everybody and it was good blocking upfront. It was just blocked perfectly.”

Even sweeter was that Harris’ first career kickoff return for a touchdown came against his former teammates.

“It felt great, especially my first kickoff return in the NFL,” he said. “It felt great to do it against my old teammates.”

And what about the fact that it was the game-winner for the Giants?

“That was big, especially when they just had went down and scored,” he said. “To come back with the momentum change like that, big return, it felt great, especially how it came.”

2. The Giants made a statement. Amid concerns that the Giants would curl up into a ball and just ride out the rest of the season after their embarrassing Monday night loss to the Eagles, the Giants showed their grit in fighting back to take what they felt was theirs.

New York is just getting started according to linebacker and defensive captain Jon Beason.

“We have a lot of room to grow,” he said. “Whenever you think you have arrived, then that’s it, that’s the ceiling. We’re happy about the win, a huge divisional win for us. But we’re going to go back and we know we can be better.”

3. The Giants offense continues to struggle. Although the Giants won the game and finally got a 100-yard rushing performance in the process, the offense continues to have its problems.

This week the Giants converted just three of 11 third-down attempts (27 percent). That’s their second lowest conversion rate of the season, besting only their Week 4 output against Buffalo (20 percent).

The Giants have only converted better than half of their third-down attempts twice this season, that coming in Week 2 vs. Atlanta (59 percent) and Week 5 vs. San Francisco (64 percent).

They were also one of three on their red-zone attempts. In fact, this is the sixth game of the season in which the Giants, despite having multiple red zone opportunities, only came up with one touchdown, which is a big reason why their games tend to be closer than they need to be.

“We gotta do better down in the red zone, getting touchdowns in those scenarios,” quarterback Eli Manning.

Etc.:

–WR Odell Beckham Jr.’s streak of six straight games with a touchdown reception at home was snapped. Beckham was targeted six times, catching four passes for 35 yards and a long of 10 yards. His streak of 15 straight games with at least five receptions was also snapped this week.

–DE Owa Odighizuwa suffered a hamstring strain on the opening kickoff. He tried to gut things out but said he was unable to really open up as the game wore on. He left the game in the middle of the third quarter and did not return, his status for the upcoming week uncertain.

–K Josh Brown’s two field goals gave him 19 straight conversions, beating his own record (17) set 2013 for the most consecutive field goals made in franchise history. Brown has been money since joining the Giants as a free agent in 2014, converting 92.3 percent of his field goal attempts prior to this week’s game.


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