The Giants began the season with three victories, all in the division, over Philadelphia, Arizona and Washington before their bye in Week 4. After the bye, they hit the skids, losing seven consecutive games to fall to 3-7.
The only way the Giants could even think about the postseason is if they ran the table the rest of the way. They did, but fell short at 9-7. Their sixth straight win to end the regular season came on Christmas Eve against the 12-3 Dallas Cowboys at Giants Stadium.
Dallas was locked into the No. 2 seed in the upcoming NFC Playoffs and rested many of their starters. The Giants needed to win and have Green Bay lose their game down in Tampa which was being played at 1:00 p.m. also.
There is something about the Philadelphia Eagles that brings out record-setting plays and memorable outcomes for the Cowboys. It’s really inexplicable considering Dallas has played both the New York Giants and Washington Football Team roughly the same number of times over the decades. The Cowboys have also faced the St. Louis/Arizona Cardinals 90 times, just 34 fewer than the Eagles. Yet, none of the other three have even half of the milestone-type games and individual feats.
Philadelphia and Dallas have played on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. They have also played on Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The rare Friday game came in 1960, just the second game in franchise annals. The Cowboys were a heavy underdog as Philly would win the league championship that season. But thanks in part to a 75-yard touchdown pass to Frank Clarke Jersey, Dallas almost pulled off the stunner before falling, 27-25, at the Cotton Bowl.
The second-longest kickoff return in team history came in a 41-19 win against Philly on Oct. 14, 1962. Fullback Amos Marsh Jersey returned one 101 yards in the fourth quarter to cap an impressive day with 254 all-purpose yards and two scores. Tied for the fourth longest is the legendary, epic 100-yard effort by Reggie Swinton on Sept. 22, 2002, maybe the most underappreciated single play in franchise history. Give it a Google, kids. Next on the list is Felix Jones Jersey, who returned one 98 yards against the Eagles on Sept. 15, 2008.
Undrafted free agent rookie cornerback Mike Gaechter Jersey returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against Philadelphia on Oct. 14, 1962, which was the same game as Marsh’s kickoff return mentioned earlier. In the process, the Cowboys became the first team in NFL history with two 100-yard plays in the same game. Gaechter ran the third leg of Oregon’s world record-setting 4×110-yard relay team in which Cowboys Hall of Famer Mel Renfro Jersey ran the anchor leg.
The largest margin of victory in franchise history came on Oct. 9, 1966 when the Cowboys defeated Philly, 56-7, at the Cotton Bowl. The Eagles weren’t a bad team, either, finishing at 9-5, just a game and a half behind Dallas at 10-3-1. This was just one of those gridiron perfect storms, the Cowboys putting up a still-standing, single-game record of 652 yards from scrimmage. Could have been worse if Dallas wasn’t flagged seven times for 104 yards. Don Meredith Jersey threw for 394 yards and five scores, three to Hall of Fame wideout Bob Hayes Jersey, while Dan Reeves Jersey caught four balls for 98 yards and a score, rushed nine times for 33 yards and a score and completed his lone pass for nine yards.
In a 38-17 blowout of the Eagles on Dec. 10, 1967, Dan Reeves had a 5-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter and then ran for a 1-yard score in the third. But, he wasn’t finished. In the fourth quarter, he threw a 45-yard bomb to Lance Rentzel Jersey for yet another touchdown. With his effort, Reeves became the only player in Cowboys history and just the 10th in NFL record books to score by running, receiving and passing.
The 1980 NFC Championship Game was the first-ever playoff meeting between these two, a brutally cold affair at Veterans Stadium. The temperature at kickoff was a balmy 16 degrees, still the second-coldest postseason game in Cowboys history behind only the Ice Bowl in 1967. Behind Wilbert Montgomery, Philadelphia rushed for 263 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Montgomery himself finished with 194, the second-most by an opponent in Dallas’ postseason annals.
The weather was fairly mild (46 degrees at kickoff) but the Meadowlands winds would play a factor in keeping the score low. The Cowboys scored first, a 37-yard Chris Boniol Jersey field goal. The Giants took a 10-3 lead into the half on a 49-yard touchdown connection from Dave Brown to Mike Sherrard and a Brad Daluiso 38-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, the Cowboys tied the game on a one-yard touchdown run by former Jet Blair Thomas. The Giants retook the lead when Jesse Armstead sacked Dallas backup quarterback Rodney Peete in the end zone, causing him to fumble out of the end zone for a safety. In the fourth quarter, the Giants closed out the scoring with a 30-yard field goal from Daluiso.
The win, even though it was predominantly over the Cowboys’ backups, should have been the crowning achievement of the six game winning streak, but the Packers trounced the Bucs, 34-19, bouncing the Giants from the playoff picture.
The Giants didn’t do much on offense other than the Sherrard play except bang the ball with Rodney Hampton, who carried the ball 26 times for 91 yards. They won the time of possession 32:35 to 27:25.
The Giants knew what the football world was going to say, that the Cowboys weren’t at full strength. Running back Emmitt Smith Jersey did not play and quarterback Troy Aikman Jersey, tight end Jay Novacek Jersey, fullback Moose Johnston and wide receivers Michael Irvin Jersey and Alvin Harper Jersey were used sparsely.
“The fact is we won the game,” said Giants linebacker Corey Miller. “We didn’t care who played. Whether Emmitt was in there or not, they still had their entire offensive line in the game…We won because we were at home. We weren’t going to let them come into our stadium and thrash us. That just wasn’t going to happen. People are going to say, ‘Emmitt would have done this or Emmitt would have done that.’ When you look at the standings, all that matters is that we have a ‘W’ and they have an ‘L.’ “
And that’s exactly the way the league interpreted it. It would have been more of an issue had the win put the Giants in the playoffs. Green Bay, as it turned out, ended up facing Dallas in the divisional round, losing by a score of 35-9. Dallas lost the San Francisco 49ers the following week, 38-28 in the NFC Championship Game.