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Giants-Cowboys ‘things I think’: It had to end this way, didn’t it?

The ‘Butt Fumble Recovery’ is perhaps the perfect way to remember the NFC East

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Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Giants survived their own efforts to sabotage what should have been a comfortable victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and now could emerge as NFC East champions if the junior varsity version of the Philadelphia Eagles can upset the Washington Football Team on Sunday night.

Here are some of the things I think in the immediate aftermath of the Giants’ 23-19 victory.

Heart, meet throat

I think that had to be the reaction of every Giants fan when they saw Wayne Gallman burst through the line for a first down that should have salted away Sunday’s victory, only to have the running back simply drop the ball.

Gallman ended up first sitting on the ball and then cradling it. After some officials ruled a Dallas recovery and others a Giants’ recovery, replay concluded correctly that Gallman had somehow recovered his own fumble with :58 left.

Somehow, it’s appropriate that a division that has been the butt of jokes all season long might come down to a 6-10 team winning it thanks to a twisted up Gallman getting on the ball with his butt and then somehow managing to secure it.

If Gallman hadn’t recovered that ball and the Giants had lost, it would have been one of those ugly plays that would have been hard to ever erase from the memory bank if you’re a Giants fan.

Shoot, the “Butt Fumble Recovery” ending even inspired out partners at ‘Breaking T’ to quickly market a new t-shirt.

Butterfingers brigade

I think if the Giants had lost on Sunday, it would have been easy — and correct — to trace the beginning of their demise to the interception that went right through the hands of Evan Engram early in the third quarter.

The pick came on a perfect throw by Daniel Jones and would have given the Giants, leading 20-9 at the time, a first down in Dallas territory. Instead, Dallas converted the interception into a touchdown.

Engram compounded the issue with a huge drop on another well-thrown ball on the Giants’ next drive. Engram finishes the season with eight drops and Giants’ quarterbacks were intercepted six times throwing him the ball. The last Giants’ receiver with numbers like that was Rueben Randle, and that got him run out of town.

The dropsies was a big thing for the Giants on Sunday. There was Gallman nearly dropping the entire season to the MetLife Stadium turf, Engram’s misadventures and dropped interceptions by Julian Love and James Bradberry.

Maybe all that practicing Joe Judge had the Giants do outside in the rain didn’t help.

Seriously, though, I think the Giants need to have a hard discussion this offseason about whether or not they can go forward with Engram.

Leonard Williams has made Dave Gettleman right

Dave Gettleman may not have his job as Giants’ general manager much longer, but I think it’s kind of hard to make the case at this point that his controversial decision to trade for Leonard Williams was the wrong move.

Williams, quite simply, was dominant on Sunday with three sacks, five quarterback hits and a pass defensed. It was Williams’ pressure that forced the floating throwing Xavier McKinney intercepted in the end zone with 1:24 to play, denying Dallas a go-ahead score.

“I mean, I’ve definitely seen a lot of the criticism and the hate and stuff like that in the press and the media and by the fans,” Williams said. “It feels good to prove them wrong, but also show why Dave Gettleman took a chance on me. He obviously took a chance on me and it feels good to show him that it was the right choice.”

Williams finished the season with 11.5 sacks, the first double-digit sack season of his career. He is now heading to free agency, where he will command a big payday. he said in the post game that the money he may command is not important.

“I’m not going to lie, going into this season, throughout the season, at the end of the season, today it’s never been about money for me. I was kind of drafted high, made a lot of money already in my career,” Williams said. “I feel like I was smart enough and I could retire now and still have enough money for the rest of my life, but it’s never been about the money. I think I just more wanted the respect and to show guys the reason why I’m in this league. Like I said, it’s just more about the respect to me than the contract.”

I think that if Williams doesn’t have that respect from Giants’ fans now he is never going to get it.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Mike McCarthy should be kicking himself

I think every Cowboy fan is wondering why Dallas coach Mike McCarthy did not challenge the catch by Dante Pettis at the Dallas 32-yard line with 7:07 to play. It’s debatable whether a diving Petttis caught the ball or trapped it along the ground, and the play being ruled a catch allowed Graham Gano to make a 50-yard field goal.

An overturn would have pushed the Giants out of field goal range and put Dallas in a position where they would only have needed a field goal. Theoretically, then, Andy Dalton would not have had to throw the desperation third-and-goal pass from the 17-yard line that McKinney intercepted.

The Giants should be proud

A 6-10 record is nothing to write home about. It’s not what anyone hopes for when a season starts. I think, though, the Giants should feel good regardless of the outcome of Washington Football Team-Philadelphia Eagles game.

They fought back from an 0-5 record and from a 1-7 first half of the season. They went 6-5 over their final 11 games. They finished 4-2 in the NFC East, with two victories over Washington, and with victories over both Dallas and Philadelphia that ended years-long losing streaks to those two teams.

There is no way to know right now which free agents the Giants will be able to keep or sign, which players they will be able to draft, or even who the GM is going to be. I think the Giants, and their fans, though, can enter the 2021 season feeling like the franchise is finally pointed in the right direction.

Sterling Shepard is the only current Giants’ draft pick who has ever been to a playoff game. His pride in the current Giants team was evident.

“We’re doing things the right way. Coach Judge has us preparing the right way and we have a great group of guys. That’s what it really comes back down to - the group of guys that we have in the locker room. They’re guys that are going to work hard and regardless of the circumstances, they’re going to give it all they got,” Shepard said. “If you haven’t seen that over the past few weeks, I don’t know what you’re looking at, but that’s what it is.”

Joe Judge said he would spend some time Sunday night breaking down tape of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will face the winner of the NFC East next weekend.

“My words for the team at the end of the day was how proud I was that they kept playing. What they’ve been able to do, sticking together as a team, all the progress we’ve made. And ultimately, whatever happens tonight, just be ready to come into work tomorrow and do whatever we have to do. Make the right decisions tonight, make sure we’re prepared that if something goes our way, that we’re ready to go ahead and play next week,” Judge said. “But we’ll let tonight take care of itself. We had opportunities for 16 weeks. We came in today, it was a meaningful game, put us in position to have a chance, our guys went out and took care of business, so we’ll see what happens in the other game.”

No Eagles hats ... but definite Eagles fans

The Giants will be rooting for the Eagles to defeat Washington. They won’t be wearing Eagles hate of singing ‘Fly, Eagles Fly,’ however.

“I won’t be caught dead in an Eagles hat, but I will be rooting for them,” Shepard said. “However it shakes out, I’m proud of this team. We did what we had to do today and to give ourselves a chance to win this thing. Whatever happens happens from here.”

“Obviously we’ll be watching closely and anxiously seeing what happens in the game. Every single one of us wants to be back to work tomorrow and back out on the field next week, so we’ll be pulling for Philly no doubt,” Daniel Jones said. “We were focused on what we were doing this week and giving ourselves an opportunity if Philly wins, so we’ll certainly be watching closely.”

Daniel Jones met the challenge

Sunday was the biggest game of Daniel Jones’ two season as Giants’ quarterback. I don’t think anyone can complain that the game was too big for the 2019 sixth overall pick.

Jones finished the game 17 of 25 for 229 yards with two touchdown passes. He had a quarterback rating of 106.9. Jones was charged with a fumble and an interception. I know the interception was not his fault, and I’m pretty sure the fumble was more on Gallman than on the way Jones handed him the ball.

Jones also ran the ball nine times. While he gained only 17 yards, the Giants’ willingness to use Jones as a runner made it clear that the “play from the pocket” stuff they were selling during the week was a con job.

“Well, that was Wednesday [when Jones said he couldn’t run] when we talked last and through the week, I felt a lot better,” Jones said. “By the time we were here on Sunday, I felt good about running and we did it. They defended it well but felt a lot better and felt good here today.”

Dante Pettis makes an impact

I think I’m going to hear from Giants’ fans who think I dissed Pettis in Saturday’s Big Blue View Mailbag.

Pettis, playing in just his second game, had two huge catches. He had a juggling 33-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter that put the Giants up 20-6. He had that diving 10-yard catch McCarthy somehow didn’t challenge in the fourth quarter.

The Giants need play-makers and maybe, just maybe, the 25-year-old Pettis can be one for the Giants next season.

‘X’ makes his mark

Xavier McKinney missed more than half the season with a fractured foot. When he came back the Giants worked him in slowly. McKinney, a safety drafted in the second round, felt he missed an opportunity to make an impact play last week against the Baltimore Ravens.

Sunday, with the game on the line, McKinney was Johnny on the spot for the Giants, cradling Andy Dalton’s floating desperation pass in the end zone to end Dallas’s final threat with 1:24 left in the game.

“I’m so happy for that kid. I love X. I understand the media that I signed up for in this market. Them signing me when X was injured, him being out of the program and not practicing with us for 10 weeks. How are we going to play Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers and X? Who’s going to go to corner? What’s going to happen? We found a way to get us all on the field,” said defensive back Logan Ryan. “X made the plays he was supposed to make because that’s where the coverage went. That’s what a big-time player does.”

I think that interception might be the first of many big plays McKinney makes for the Giants.