EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – While the Dallas Cowboys are starting to pick up a little momentum, the question is do they have enough time to make the playoffs?
Dak Prescott threw three touchdowns and the Cowboys scored 20 fourth-quarter points in less than five minutes in beating the New York Giants 30-10 to stay in the playoff hunt with three weeks left in the regular season.
The win was the second straight for the Cowboys (7-6) and it spoiled return of Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback and Steve Spagnuolo’s debut as interim head coach in the wake of the firing of Ben McAdoo earlier in the week.
New York fell to 2-11.
“We’re feeling ourselves, we’re staying with it, we’re staying within the game, not getting overwhelmed that we’re not doing things well early,” said Prescott, who threw for a career-high 332 yards.
“But it would be nice to get going early and that’s what we’ve got to do moving forward, is get the way we’re playing in the fourth quarter throughout the whole game.”
This is the second straight game that the Cowboys have scored at least 20 fourth-quarter points to blow out an opponent. They scored 21 against Redskins 10 days ago in a 38-14 win.
“This is what this team is made of,” said linebacker Sean Lee, who returned to the lineup and had a late interception to set up a 15-yard TD run by Rod Smith.
“We’ve done this before. We’ve won tough. We continue to play as the game goes on. And you saw that we started making plays in the fourth that really won the game.”
Prescott put the Cowboys ahead 17-10 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 7:38 to play. It came one play after a 54-yard catch and run by Cole Beasley. The quarterback added an 81-yard scoring pass play to Smith. Prescott also threw a 50-yarder to Dez Bryant in the second quarter.
“To me, the biggest part of this game was the finish,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who team will be in Oakland (6-7) next Sunday night.
“That’s always a huge emphasis for us, finishing plays, finishing drives and ultimately finishing the game.”
Manning threw a 1-yard TD pass to Rhett Ellison late in the second quarter that gave New York a brief 10-3 lead. Aldrick Rosas had a 39-yard field goal. Manning finished 31 of 46 for 228 yards with a touchdown and two late interceptions.
“Nothing’s easy, but we hung in there and have played tough,” Manning said. “Dallas made a couple big plays, and we didn’t.”
WITTEN AGAIN: Witten was a forgotten man in the offense until Prescott hit him for the game-winning score. It was the tight end’s only catch of the day.
“You never know when your number is going to get called,” Witten said.
It was an uncharacteristically quiet day for Witten against one of his favorite rivals. He has 154 receptions and 15 TDs against the Giants, his top figures against any opponent.
ANOTHER INJURY: Add safety Landon Collins to the Giants’ injury list. He hurt his left ankle in the fourth quarter making a tackle on Beasley at the end of a 54-yard pass play. Coincidently, Collins missed the initial tackle and had to chase Beasley down the field.
Collins was in a walking boot after the game. The Giants have 18 players on injured reserve.
NOT-SO PERFECT: Dan Bailey, usually Mr. Automatic from long range, missed field-goal attempts of 50 and 53 yards. He also missed an extra point. He had been 25 of 36 from 50-plus yards.
“He’s as good a player as we have on our team,” Garrett said. “He missed three kicks today and none of us has ever seen him miss those kicks. He’s a great kicker. We’ll give him every chance going forward.”
Bailey did make a 21-yard field goal for the Cowboys’ first points, becoming the 100th player to attempt 200 in a career. Rafael Septien was only other Cowboy to reach that mark.
SPAGS: Spagnuolo called the defensive plays and let Mike Sullivan handle the offense all week, including the game plan.
“Look, it doesn’t feel good right now because we lost the football game,” Spagnuolo said. “So, your mind goes back to all the things you could have, should have, would have done. That’s what happens when you lose.”
MANNING: When Manning took the field for the Giants’ first possession he got a standing ovation. After his touchdown pass there were repeat chants of “E-Lie Man-Ning.” It’s nice to be a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
There is also reality. When he left the field there were mostly only Cowboys’ fans left in MetLife Stadium, chanting: “Let’s Go Cowboys.”
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