If you thought the Giants were going to make it easy on Sunday night, you just haven't been paying attention this season.
If you thought about betting against Eli Manning in the fourth quarter of a game, then you really haven't been paying attention. And if you thought Jason Pierre-Paul wasn't a playmaker of the highest order, well, you get the picture.
After an interception and an abysmal job of pass coverage put the Cowboys up 34-22 with just under six minutes to play, Manning went to work on saving the Giants' season. He started by leading the team 80 yards in 2:27 for a touchdown to Jake Ballard, tying the single-season record for fourth quarter touchdown passes, and then got the ball back just before the two-minute warning with the season in the balance.
It wasn't the smoothest drive as the Giants dropped both snaps and passes, but Cowboys penalties kept giving them chances, and Manning put the ball on the doorstep. Brandon Jacobs ran it in, skipping the grandiose dance this time, and the Giants went up 37-34 (the eighth lead change in a crazy game) after a two-point conversion.
But the defense, bad all night and almost all season, couldn't stop the Cowboys from moving the ball into position for a shot at a field goal to send the game to overtime. Dan Bailey appeared to hit the kick, but Tom Coughlin was able to get a timeout just before the snap to force a second try.
The second try couldn't get past the outstretched paw of Jason Pierre-Paul, ending the game and putting the Giants in control of their own playoff destiny after a four-game losing streak made it hard to imagine that could ever happen. If the Giants win out, the division is theirs.
Manning and Pierre-Paul are the biggest reasons why such an ending to this season is possible.
Manning had the kind of night we've come to expect from him this season, filled with spectacular throws and late heroics that have ended any discussion about his spot in the firmament of NFL quarterbacks. Manning's receivers dropped passes and threw a bad pick, but he never stopped coming and never stopped making plays until the job was done.
Making a list of everything Pierre-Paul did Sunday night would take a while, but he was a presence on the pass rush, against the run and in pass coverage for a team that didn't get much help from anyone else in any of those areas. The blocked field goal was merely the icing on the cake for a player who has been a one-man show for a shockingly bad Giants defense over the last few weeks.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention again how many ways the Cowboys shot themselves in the foot on Sunday night. Tony Romo could have ended the game on third down with a little more than two minutes to play but overthrew a wide open Miles Austin to set up the Giants' final drive that would have failed if not for epic failures by Cowboys defenders.
The Cowboys had a chance to drive a nail in the coffin of the Giants' season and couldn't do it. The Giants got the same chance and swung the hammer with everything they had left.
That's why they are once again the team to beat in the NFC East.