New York Giants head coach Joe Judge's season-long message to his players was to finish games.
Well, this week, the message got through as the Giants held on to top the Dallas Cowboys 23-19 in a must-win game that now sets New York up to win the NFC East for the first time, pending the results of Sunday night's Eagles-Washington Football Team game.
The resilient Giants overcame two turnovers that the Cowboys turned into 10 points, a questionable crackback penalty called against Sterling Shepard that stalled a scoring drive, and a near-disaster on the final series of the game in which running back Wayne Gallman lost the handle on a slippery rain-soaked ball only to recover it in time before being ruled down by contact to set his team up for the Victory formation.
The Giants got big performances out of several key players on both sides of the ball, starting with Shepard, who caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and who also recorded his first career rushing touchdown on the team's opening drive.
Gallman led the rushing attack with 65 yards on 11 carries, which finished with 125 yards as a unit. Receiver Dante Pettis caught his first touchdown pass as a Giant and did a good enough job in shielding a big third-down play in which a 10-yard reception appeared to squirt out of his grasp.
On defense, Leonard Williams continued to make his skeptics eat their words by recording three sacks, none bigger than on the Cowboys' final scoring drive. This sack knocked the Cowboys back from the Giants' 7-yard line to the 17 before rookie Xavier McKinney put an end to the Cowboys scoring drive by recording his first NFL interception.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Giants performance was after coming so close in several games earlier in the season only to fall short--including their first meeting against the Cowboys--New York finally came of age with a resilient and solid showing that should serve them well if they do get into the playoffs.