Arlington, Texas — It was Ben McAdoo’s first game ever. It was Victor Cruz’s first game in forever. Both made the most of their opportunity.
Cruz caught the game-winning touchdown that kick-started the McAdoo regime with a 20-19 victory over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday. It was the Giants’ first opening day win since 2010 and their first win ever over Dallas in an opener. They had lost their first eight, including last year’s when the Giants mismanaged the final two minutes. That horrific memory was exorcised as the Giants turned the page to a new era.
Cruz, who had not played in an NFL game in 700 days due to knee and calf injuries, caught the 3-yard touchdown pass that gave the Giants the lead for good with 6:13 left in the game. The veteran receiver punctuated his return with his salsa dance, but it was others who set up the drive: Eli Manning hit Sterling Shepard for 20 yards while avoiding pressure in the pocket and Shane Vereen had slashing runs of 10 and 9 yards to bring the Giants to the doorstep.
The Cowboys punted to the Giants with 3:57 left and the Giants were able to get two first downs before punting it back with 1:05 left. Dak Prescott drove the Cowboys to the Giants’ 46, but this time it was Dallas’ turn to make the boneheaded decision late in the game. Terrance Williams caught an 8-yard pass to get close to field-goal range, but instead of running out of bounds to stop the clock he was tackled and time expired.
The Giants fell behind 6-0 on a pair of Cowboys field goals, but took the lead with their first touchdown of the season with 9:36 left in the second quarter. Manning hit Odell Beckham Jr. for a 45-yard pass down the left sideline to the Cowboys’ 15, then on the next play found tight end Larry Donnell in the end zone for the score. Dallas tacked on a third field goal to go back ahead 9-7 — a pass for Dez Bryant in the end zone initially ruled a TD was overturned upon review — but the Giants drove 75 yards on 12 plays to take a 13-9 halftime lead. Cruz caught three passes on the drive and Shepard capped it with a 10-yard touchdown grab. Randy Bullock missed the extra-point kick wide left.
The Giants received the ball to start the third quarter and seemed to have plenty of momentum, but that ended when Manning tried to hit Shepard on a sideline route and was intercepted by Brandon Carr. It appeared Manning expected Shepard to come back for the ball, but the rookie never did. That gave the Cowboys the ball at the Giants’ 35 and they scored their first touchdown of the season on an 8-yard run by rookie Ezekiel Elliott to make it 16-13. Dan Bailey’s fourth field goal of the game, a 54-yarder, gave the Cowboys a 19-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.