AUTHOR’S NOTE: Today is the fiftieth anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas. Two days later, the Dallas Cowboys played in Cleveland and the Browns vanquished them 27-17. While certainly not forgetting such a turning point in American history that occurred in the the Cowboys’ capital, there is nothing I can add to the story other than references to the great pieces and reflections and memories and expositions written this week on the event. Therefore, I choose to stay the course and write about another chapter in the Dallas-New York rivalry.
On November 7th, 2010, the Green Bay Packers demolished the Dallas Cowboys 45-7 in Lambeau Field. A day later, Jerry Jones fired Wade Phillips mid-season, a month after giving the seventh head coach in franchise history a vote of confidence.
Now, heir apparent, Jason Garrett, was no longer apparent. He had inherited an abominable 1-7 team with its starting quarterback done for the season. He didn’t have an off-season to prepare his new club, or even a bye week. Garrett had one week, and the light at the end of the tunnel was a freight train in the form of the 6-2 New York Giants, who were hosting the Cowboys in their new stadium.
The next day, at his introductory press conference, Jason Garrett expressed how pleased he was to work for Wade Phillips, but quickly turned the attention forward.
“We have to put the first eight games of the season behind us, we have to learn from them and we need to go forward. One of the things that I talk to the players about all the time is embracing the moment, embracing the day, being great today. That’s what I’m going to ask the coaching staff to do, that’s what I’m going to ask the players to do, and everyone involved in this organization to do. Be great today. Be great going forward.”
Well, he sure sounded the part, but everyone knew that the Dallas Cowboys were headed for disaster in New York. How could a 1-7 team possible beat a surging 6-2 club in their own house?
To say the 2010 Dallas Cowboys were a disaster would be like saying Paris Hilton had an abstinence problem. The Dallas Cowboys were preseason Super Bowl favorites. Now, they were favorites for number one overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. They had fallen very far very fast for a team that had won a playoff game only ten months ago.
In New York, the Jets and the Giants were keeping grid iron fans in New York proud. The Giants were doing the most good at 6-2 and first place in the NFC East. It was looking more and more that Eli Manning might return to then-Cowboys Stadium for its first Super Bowl and write his name on the locker room wall after the hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
No way the disoriented Cowboys were going to win in New York.
The Cowboys defense held off Eli Manning on the game’s first possession, even though Hakeem Hicks caught a 21-yard pass. The Giants stalled out at their own 43 and punted away the football to Dallas, who couldn’t do anything beyond four plays, which were all runs by Felix Jones and Marion Barber. Perhaps it was Romo’s absence and backup Jon Kitna’s presence that forced the pass-happy Garrett to commit more to the run as head coach.
New York got on the scoreboard first with a 43-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal after the Giants marched nine plays down the field. These three points were probably the first of the bunches that Eli Manning and the offense would produce. This was the same offense that put up 41 points three weeks ago on Monday Night Football in Cowboys Stadium.
A player who hadn’t stopped his dominance from that night happened to play for the Dallas Cowboys. He was rookie Dez Bryant. On the immediate drive, he caught a 45-yard pass to put Dallas in the New York red zone. The next play, he made a diving catch, exhibiting extraordinary concentration, and hauled in a touchdown. After Bill Leavy’s review, the play stood. Touchdown Cowboys.
Cowboys kicker David Buehler missed the extra point, so it was 6-3 Cowboys. But the defense stood solid. They forced a three-and-out and got the ball back for the offense, who drove down to the New York 1. Unable to punch it in, Dallas had to settle for a 22-yard David Buehler field goal, which, unlike the extra point try, was not blocked.
As expected, the New York Giants offense were finally having their way with the Dallas Cowboys defense. In 11 plays, they were at the Dallas 2 yard line. The Giants had driven down the field at ease. They even had fortune favor them as they recovered an offensive fumble to keep the drive alive. Now, two yards away from going up 10-9, fortune was favorable again.
To the Dallas Cowboys.
Undrafted free agent rookie cornerback Bryan McCann picked off Eli Manning and ran back 101 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-3 Cowboys. In New York.
After going three-and-out again, Dallas took the ball and got into scoring territory thanks to a 32-yard catch by knuckleheaded tight end Martellus Bennett. Dallas would not convert another first down that drive, but did convert a 23-yard Buehler field goal to make it 20-3 Cowboys. In New York. Six days after their head coach was fired.
The Giants managed to add a field goal before halftime to cut the margin to 20-6, but Dallas received the second half possession. After an incomplete pass, power went out in then-New Meadowlands Stadium for about ten minutes. Partial lighting was restored, and necessary since it was twilight on the East Coast. There was enough lighting to play football. On 2nd and 10, Felix Jones was stuffed for no gain. Perhaps the lights had finally gone out on the Cowboys’ lucky streak.
On third down, quarterback Jon Kitna threw a screen pass to Felix Jones that broke open, and broke open wide. The imagery was fitting as Jones ran from the darkness into the light for a 71-yard touchdown. It was now 26-6 Cowboys.
The Giants finally found the end zone with a five-yard Mario Manningham touchdown catch, but Dallas scored on the very next drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin to make it 33-13. On the next drive, thanks to a pass interference call on undrafted rookie cornerback Bryan McCann, the Giants were in range for Manning to lob a 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss and cut it to 33-20 Cowboys. And the Giants had a whole quarter and a half left to play. Surely, they were going to overtake these Cowboys and expose them for the 1-7, coachless frauds they were.
The Dallas defense, which had been much maligned for being old and out of position, had three key drives in the fourth quarter. The first was on the Giants’ first drive of the final period. On a 4th and 1 from the Cowboys 42, the defense stuffed bruising Brandon Jacobs clearly for a turnover on downs.
On the Giants’ second drive, guard Rich Seubert bungled a shotgun snap to Eli Manning that was kicked around and recovered by Dallas linebacker Anthony Spencer. David Buehler would miss a 34-yard field goal wide right, but the score wasn’t 20-19. The Giants were still down 33-20 with 5:45 left.
The Giants’ final drive lasted ten plays, but the final play wasn’t a touchdown pass. Eli Manning threw his second interception of the evening to safety Alan Ball, the most picked on player by both other teams’ quarterbacks, the fans, and the media. He made the play to save the day for Dallas.
That’s the story of how a 1-7, coachless team defeated a 6-2, Super Bowl success in their brand new stadium.
Sunday marks the 50th game since that time. One would think the Dallas Cowboys are again 1-7 heading into face a 6-2 contender, but the reality is the Cowboys are 5-5 and the Giants 4-6. The season is just beginning for both clubs, and fans nationwide will see who fortune favors.