Harris makes big play to leads Giants over former teammates
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) When the New York Giants blew leads and lost their first two games of the season, coach Tom Coughlin said the difference between winning and losing is often one player on one play.
With first place in the NFC East and possibly the season on the line, Dwayne Harris stepped up for the Giants on Sunday.
Harris tied a team record by returning a kickoff 100 yards for the winning points in the fourth quarter against his former teammates and the Giants beat the mistake-prone Cowboys 27-20, handing Dallas its fourth straight loss since quarterback Tony Romo was hurt.
Coupled with Carolina's 27-16 win over the Eagles Sunday night, the win moved the Giants (4-3) into sole possession of first place in the division, a game ahead of Philadelphia and Washington, and 1 1/2 in front of reeling Dallas (2-4). New York also ended a five-game losing streak against the Cowboys.
''You knew it was going to come down to somebody making a play,'' Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason said. ''We got it out of our special teams. You know, a little giveback for Dwayne Harris.''
Harris signed with the Giants as a free agent because they promised him a chance to play receiver in addition to his role as a special teams maven.
''We've been overdue for a long time,'' Harris said. ''Always one block away, one man away. Tonight it was blocked perfect. Anybody could have ran through that, the hole that was made.''
The Giants got plays from a lot of people in helping the 69-year-old Coughlin become the second Giants coach to win 100 regular-season games, joining Hall of Famer Steve Owen. Coughlin also has 12 wins in the postseason, and two Super Bowl titles.
''They're fighters, they're scrappy,'' Coughlin said after his team won for the fourth time in five games.
Harris wasn't the only Giant to step up.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had two of the Giants three interceptions against Matt Cassel, returning one 58 yards for his seventh career touchdown. Brandon Meriweather had the other, setting up the second of Josh Brown's field goals.
Orleans Darkwa also scored on a 15-yard run for the Giants.
''We haven't made the plays when they were there,'' Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. ''If you look all year, we've had opportunities with the football in our hands and we've dropped them. There were opportunities to strip and we haven't made the plays. For us, we have to finish plays and we have to finish games. We can't have big plays and lapses.''
On Sunday, the Giants made the big plays.
Five things we learned from Sunday's game:
ANGRY HARDY: Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy walked into the Cowboys special teams meeting after the Harris touchdown and voiced some opinions. He refused to disclose what was said. ''He was showing his passion that we gave up the lead and we needed to fix it,'' said Dallas safety Danny McCray, a member of the kickoff coverage team.
ONE-HAND CATCHES: Odell Beckham is no longer the only Giant who has made a one-hand catch against Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr. Rueben Randle one-handed Eli Manning's pass for 44 yards after Meriweather's interception. ''He kind of had my left arm. It was kind of tough seeing the ball as well, so at that point in time, all I had was one arm to use,'' Randle said.
BAD DECISION: Cassel, who replaced Brandon Weeden as the starter, took the blame for three interceptions, especially the pick six by Rodgers-Cromartie. ''If you're throwing a comeback, you've got to see who you're going up against. Cromartie made two good plays today. You have to understand you're going up against a veteran corner. When you've been in the league as long as I have, you have to understand who you want to pick on and who you don't.''
FOURTH STRING: Darkwa isn't bad for a fourth-string back. He had 48 yards on eight carries, scoring his second career touchdown. He played so well, he got the call on third-and-5 late in the fourth quarter when the Giants were trying to run out the clock. He gained 2 yards, but Cole Beasley muffed the ensuing punt to ice the Giants' win. ''Obviously, it's not a perfect game on my end,'' Darkwa said. ''There's meat on the bone, so just gotta make sure I can make the best of it.''
INJURIES: Receiver Dez Bryant (foot) was close to returning this week, so the Cowboys may get help next week when they face Seattle at home. Giants DE Robert Ayers Jr. left the game to undergo concussion protocol. Dallas RB Joseph Randle left the game with a back strain.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL