Giants outlast Cowboys 23-19, stay in running for NFC East

New York Giants' Dante Pettis, left, makes a catch in front of Dallas Cowboys' Xavier Woods during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. Pettis ran the ball in for a touchdown. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin) (Corey Sipkin, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The New York Giants won. Now they wait.

Rookie Xavier McKinney intercepted Dallas’ Andy Dalton in the end zone with 1:15 remaining, giving the Giants a 23-19 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday and a chance at an unprecedented, six-win playoff berth.

New York’s postseason chances hang on the Philadelphia Eagles, who play Washington on Sunday night. Washington would claim the NFC East with a win or tie. Otherwise, the Giants will take it for the first time since 2011.

The Giants (6-10) would be the first team to qualify for the playoffs with six victories in a 16-game regular season and the first to do so after starting 1-7. Hardly how first-year coach Joe Judge planned it, but enough to spur New York’s pursuit of its first playoff appearance since 2016.

Far from .500, still full of hope.

Dallas (6-10) nearly ripped that away. Dalton rallied Dallas with a bloody left hand after being stepped on by defensive tackle Leonard Williams in the third quarter, and he had the Cowboys on the doorstep when Williams got close again.

Dalton scrambled around on a broken play, avoided being sacked by Williams for a fourth time, but ended up floating one into the middle of the end zone. McKinney caught it easily, his first career interception.

Daniel Jones was efficient and surprisingly mobile after slumping with lower-body injuries during a three-game losing streak. He was 17-of-25 passing for 229 yards and two touchdowns, ending Dallas’ seven-game winning streak in the rivalry.

Dalton was 29 of 47 for 243 yards. He was sacked six times.

New York’s Wayne Gallman Jr. appeared to fumble after picking up a game-clinching first down, but officials ruled he was down before the ball came loose.

Dalton and the Dallas offense had just 34 total yards midway through the second quarter but began moving the ball just before halftime. The group built on that after the break, driving 56 yards to set up Ezekiel Elliott’s 1-yard TD run that trimmed New York’s lead to 20-16.

Dalton’s hand was crunched on the next drive, but he still led the Cowboys to a 36-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein to make it 20-19.

Zuerlein made four field goals and has 34 for the season, tying Richie Cunningham’s franchise record from 1997.

Graham Gano made a 50-yard field goal for the Giants on the next possession. Gano passed Josh Brown for the franchise record with his 30th consecutive made field goal.

Limited to 26 points over its previous three games, the Giants’ 31st-ranked offense busted out with 239 yards and 20 points in the first half. Jones had 150 yards and TD passes of 10 yards to Sterling Shepard and 33 yards to Dante Pettis — the last at the end of a four-play, 75-yard drive just before halftime.

Shepard also scored his first career rushing TD, a 23-yard reverse on the game’s opening drive. He finished with eight catches for 112 yards.

Unforced errors stalled the Giants offense after halftime. Pro Bowl tight end Evan Engram let Jones’ pass bounce off his hands, leading to Donovan Wilson’s interception — Jones’ first pick since Week 8. The next possession, Shepard’s illegal crackback block cost New York 15 yards and killed a drive in Dallas territory.

Dalton and the Dallas offense were a mess early but got in position for a pair of second-quarter field goals by Zuerlein, including a 57-yarder on the half’s final play.