Giants 26, Cowboys 10
-- There is no more talk of that miserable 4-12 season a year ago, one that ended with the coach inevitably being fired. There is very little talk of the revolt against the new coach, about chafing at his unbending rules. Winning has made the New York Giants rather forgetful.
"It feels like we're becoming the epitome of a team," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "We're fighting and pulling for each other, and it's fun to be part of this team. This is a fickle business -- and it's you against the world."
Which, for the Giants, is better than scrapping against each other, Coach Tom Coughlin or his new world order. New York continued one of the NFL's surprising early-season story lines Sunday with a 26-10 dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, a victory sparked not only by a slew of Dallas miscues, but by the Giants' own cohesiveness. Tiki Barber ran 23 times for 122 yards and a touchdown, caught five passes for 76 more yards, and the New York defense held what had been one of the league's best passing games to just 126 yards.
"We won our fourth game in a row," Coughlin said. "That's a pretty good situation to be in."
It's a situation that seemed unlikely for the Giants (4-1) early in the year, when Coughlin's doctrine of discipline -- which included fining players when they didn't report early enough to meetings -- grated on some players and led them to file grievances. But the new coaching staff has coaxed back-to-back wins at Green Bay and Dallas, two playoff teams from a year ago. Those kinds of things have a way of putting all that dirty laundry through a spin cycle.
"It just flushes all that," safety Brent Alexander said. "It brings the focus back on where it should be, on football."
The Cowboys (2-2) could have used similar, sustained focus coming off their bye week. They took a 10-3 lead on Vinny Testaverde's seven-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson. But from there, they drowned themselves in a sea of mistakes.
First came a fumble by tight end Jason Witten that turned into a Steve Christie field goal with two seconds left in the first half, and it was 10-6 at the break. Then came the Giants' first possession of the third quarter, a drive sustained when New York punter Jeff Feagles convinced an official to call a running-into-the-kicker penalty after Dallas's Keith Davis made slight contact. Barber -- held in check to that point -- took a handoff on the next play and jetted 58 yards up the left side.
"Half man, half amazing," defensive end Michael Strahan said of Barber, who is generously listed at 5 feet 10. "He's able to get it done. He's not that big of a guy, but he makes plays. He never gives up. He's the heart and soul of what we try to do around here."
Still, the Cowboys could have survived had they stayed out of their own way. Defensive end Greg Ellis had Warner sacked once, but was called for a facemask penalty. Two plays later, defensive tackle La'Roi Glover had another sack, but that was negated by a personal foul on linebacker Dat Nguyen. By that point, Warner's ensuing one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeremy Shockey felt inevitable.
"There is no reason to have mental mistakes," Dallas cornerback Terence Newman said. "We had two weeks to prepare. In the heat of pressure, we just buckled today. . . . They played well, but we made dumb plays today."
The mistakes didn't end with that drive. When the Cowboys moved to the Giants 27, New York's Osi Umenyiora sacked Testaverde for a seven-yard loss. That turned Billy Cundiff's field goal attempt into a 52-yarder, and, predictably, Cundiff came up short. And with the Cowboys trailing 16-10 early in the fourth quarter, Dallas Coach Bill Parcells made the curious decision to go for it on fourth and one from the Cowboys 43.
"I was trying to get some energy," Parcells said, "but here's the deal: I learned a long time ago that if you need some type of 'momentum-creation event' in the middle of the game, then you probably don't have a very good team."
When fullback Darian Barnes caught Testaverde's pass behind the line of scrimmage, New York cornerback Will Allen made a one-on-one tackle, and the fourth down failed. Eventually, the Giants turned it into Christie's final field goal and a 19-10 lead with six minutes to go. Barber finished things off by turning a screen pass into a 55-yard gain, then scoring with 2:14 left.
It all led to what a month ago would have seemed like the most unlikely of group hugs.
"It's a little bit of just finding a belief," Barber said. "We have coaches who trust us and believe in us and unconditionally support us. It's nice to be that way, because we all have histories. The great thing is when you get a new regime, when you get a new situation to play in, you're going to have a chance to reinvent yourself, and I think a lot of us have done that."