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Giants-Cowboys final score: Victor Cruz, defense lead 20-19 victory

Giants break streak of season-opening losses

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sterling Shepard celebrates a first-half touchdown.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Seven hundred days and two serious leg injuries removed from his last NFL game, could Victor Cruz still be an impact NFL player. He answered that question with a game-winning 3-yard touchdown catch and a trademark salsa dance as the New York Giants defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 20-19, Sunday in the season-opening game for both teams.

With the Giants trailing, 19-13, Cruz caught a pass over the middle from Eli Manning for a touchdown with 6:13 remaining. After a Cruz salsa Randy Bullock made the extra point to give the Giants a 20-19 lead.

The Giants caught what might have been a game-saving break on the final play. Terrance Williams of Dallas caught a pass for a first down at the Giants’ 40-yard line, but failed to get out of bounds with less than 10 seconds to play. With no timeouts, Dallas was unable to stop the clock.

The victory for the 1-0 Giants was their first season-opening victory since 2010, breaking a streak of five straight Week 1 defeats. The win also gave Ben McAdoo a victory in his regular-season debut as head coach.

Eli Manning finished 19-of-28 for 207 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Rashad Jennings ran 18 times for 75 yards. Jonathan Casillas had 10 tackles for Giants, and Jason Pierre-Paul had six tackles and two quarterback hits.

Moments that mattered

Ben McAdoo with the play card: The new head coach has been unwilling to say whether he or offensive Mike Sullivan would call plays. McAdoo did, which is no real surprise. That’s what got him the head-coaching job.

First-half field goals by Dallas: The Cowboys engineered a pair of 15-play drives to start the game, taking more than 16 minutes off the clock. The third time Dallas had the ball they had an 11-play drive. All they got out of those 41 plays and nearly 22 minutes of possession were three field goals.

Changing the momentum: After those two Dallas field goals, the Giants struck with a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-6 lead. The drive, featuring a 45-yard bomb to Odell Beckham, took just 1:33.

The Cruz/Shepard drive: Too many times a year ago the Giants offense was Eli Manning to Beckham. The Giants’ second touchdown, which gave them a 13-9 halftime lead, included three catches for 31 yards by Victor Cruz and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard. Cruz had a 23-yard catch to put the Giants in the red zone.

Bad start to second half: The Giants opened the second half with the lead and the ball. On the Giants’ second play, a Manning pass for Shepard was picked off at the New York 35 by Brandon Carr. Seven plays later, an 8-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott gave the cowboys a 16-13 lead.

Bailey’s bombs: While Giants’ placekicker Bullock was missing an extra point, Dan Bailey of the Cowboys hit field goals of 56 and 54 yards.

Cruz with the salsa: For a long time we thought we might never see it again. Not only did it show up Sunday, it showed up at a meaningful time. Cruz ended up with four catches for 34 yards.

Terrance Williams’ blunder: On the final play of the game, which began with 12 seconds left, Williams took a pass from Dak Prescott for a Dallas first down. Perhaps influenced by Giants’ cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie darting to the outside, Williams turned inside and stayed in bounds. He was tackled at the Giants’ 40-yard line and the clock ran out before Dallas could spike the ball. Considering that Cowboy kicker Dan Bailey had already made field goals of 54 and 56 yards, a kick of 58 or so yards might have been within his range.


— Giants coach Ben McAdoo

What’s next?

The Giants will play their home opener next Sunday, Sept. 18, vs. the New Orleans Saints. Game time is 1 p.m. ET and it will be televised by FOX.