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Giants defeat Cowboys: "Kudos & Wet Willies" review

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Who deserves praise? Who deserves criticism? Let's review Sunday's victory by the Giants.

Dwayne Harris returning a kickoff for a touchdown
Dwayne Harris returning a kickoff for a touchdown
Al Bello/Getty Images

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New York Giants 27, Dallas Cowboys 20. Just let that settle on you for a minute because it's the first time the Giants have beaten the Cowboys in six tries. Now, let's review the game in our traditional "Kudos & Wet Willies" style.

Kudos to ...

Dwayne Harris -- The fact that Harris is now a Giant and no longer a Cowboy had a lot to do with the Giants winning Sunday. His 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, the first of his career, came on what he called a "perfectly blocked" middle return lifted the Giants after Dallas had tied the game midway through the fourth quarter.Oh, and then Harris's replacement as Dallas' punt returner, Cole Beasley, muffed a punt with less than two minutes left. Myles White recovered, sealing the victory for the Giants. Toss in two receptions for 43 yards, including a 38-yard catch-and-run, and it was quite a night for Harris.

Harris said after the game "anybody could of run through the hole that was made." Here's the hole:

Orleans Darkwa -- The second-year back from Tulane led the Giants in rushing in the preseason, but had to wait until Week 7 to get a regular-season opportunity. He made the most of it with eight carries for 48 yards. Darkwa ran hard, he ran decisively, he ran through and over would-be tacklers. It's no coincidence that the game ended up being the first this season in which the Giants ran for more than 100 yards, endng up with 132 yards on 25 carries (5.3 per carry).

What was more fun, watching Darkwa's touchdown run or watching him truck Greg Hardy? Let's watch both:

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- Two second-half interceptions, including one early in the third-quarter that he returned 58 yards for a touchdown. Entering the second half trailing, 13-10, the Giants needed something to change the momentum and energize the crowd. DRC gave it to them. His premature celebration didn't thrill Tom Coughlin. While you watch DRC's return, make sure you notice what happens to the unfortunate official.

Special teams ... except for Josh Brown's kickoffs -- Harris had the touchdown. White had the game-clinching recovery. Josh Brown stretched his franchise record to 19 straight field goals. Some really ugly kickoffs by Brown and a couple of Brad Wing punts that bounded into the end zone for touchbacks were all that separated the Giants from a perfect night on special teams.

Instant replay -- After Dallas scored late in the first half to take a 13-7 lead, I turned to colleague Tony Williams (@TBone8) and said that you had to know something else bad would happen to the Giants before the half. Sure enough, a few plays later, an errant Eli Manning pass for Shene Vereen bounced somehow off the foot of Dallas cornerback Byron Jones, who intercepted the ball when it popped into the air. Replay, however, ruled that the ball had hit the ground before hitting Jones' foot, saving the Giants a turnover and a potential 20-7 halftime deficit.

Tom Coughlin -- Quibble all you want about kneel downs, not dressing Damontre Moore, playing Markus Kuhn, whatever. Sunday was Coughlin's 100th regular-season victory as Giants coach, and he deserves "Kudos" for that. Coughlin and Steve Owen (151) are the only coaches in franchise history with 100 or more victories. Coughlin is now also only the seventh coach in NFL history with at least 100 victories and two Super Bowl titles with one franchise.

Coughlin isn't a perfect coach, but the best teams during his era as Giants coach have reflected his resilient personality. There is no telling what might happen the next nine games, but this team is shaping up to be one of those teams that is a reflection of its head coach.

ESPN's Ian O'Connor offered an interesting look at Coughlin after the game.

Carolina Panthers -- For beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-16, Sunday night and assuring the Giants will spend the week alone in first place in the NFC East.

Wet Willies to ...

Greg Hardy -- In previewing Sunday's game, I referred to Hardy as a "despicable human being." After Sunday evening, add a few more. Jerk. Moron. Out of control lunatic. His sideline confrontation with the Cowboys special teams coach, which led to words with Dez Bryant, and his unapologetic remarks to media after the game were ridiculous.

Jerry Jones -- Did the Cowboys' owner really defend Hardy AND call him a team leader? Yes, he did:"He's, of course, one of the real leaders on this team and he earns it and he earns it with respect from all of his teammates and that's the kind of thing that inspires a football team," Jones said after the game.

OK then.

Incidentally, that is a disbelieving Jenny Vrentas of MMQB behind Jones as he speaks.

Giants' pass rush -- If you locate the Giants' pass rush please contact the Giants at their Quest Diagnostic Training Center offices. After seven games no one has found it yet. The Giants did get one late-game sack, split by George Selvie and Markus Kuhn, for zero yards. They actually pressured Matt Cassel six times on 28 dropbacks, though some of those "pressures" came after Cassel had time to read a book while in the pocket. They did generate a bit of pressure during Dallas's final possession, but that was pretty much the only time in the entire game they made Cassel uncomfortable.

Giants' run defense -- Point the finger at Kuhn if you want, but the fact that the Cowboys ran over, around and through the Giants for 233 yards on 41 carries (5.7 yards per rushing attempt) was not all about one defender. The Dallas offensive line dominated the interior, some creative play-calling got wide receiver Lucky Whitehead four carries for 35 yards and some poor tackling by the Giants (five missed tackles, per PFF) didn't help. For the record, Jon Beason (-3.4) had the worst PFF run grade, meaning his team-high 11 tackles aren't as impressive as you might think. Johnathan Hankins' run grade was -2.4. Kuhn? He was -1.3 vs. the run.

Jayron Hosley -- The Giants try to build Hosley up by saying as many nice things about him as they can, but he is an adventure. He does make some plays, but ... Hosley does not tackle well and he sometimes gets completely lost in coverage. On the Brandon Meriweather interception Sunday, Hosley was completely turned around and had no idea where the ball was. Cassel's floating throw and Meriweather's play bailed him out. Do the Giants miss Prince Amukamara? Big-time.

Geoff Schwartz -- Schwartz contributed to the Giants' best rushing effort of the season, but he also surrendered both sacks of Eli Manning Sunday night.

Final Thoughts

A surprising amount of gnashing of teeth this morning over things like end-of-the-first-half kneel downs, not passing the ball on the Giants final offensive series (the correct move both times, in my view), why Darkwa didn't play more, why DaMonster did't dress, why Kuhn is on the roster, on and on.

C'mon, man! Be happy this morning. Your Giants are in FIRST PLACE in the NFC East. It wasn't perfect, but for the first time three seasons the Giants won a division game they had to win. You got to watch ex-Cowboy Harris stick it to his old team. You got to see a Dallas sideline implosion. You get to watch the Giants play important football games now rather than just play out the string.

There is plenty of time to complain about and dissect all that other stuff, but that's for later. Today, just enjoy being able to talk about an actual WIN over Dallas, and enjoy the view from the top of the division.