The New York Giants have been waiting almost two months for this: a revenge game with the despised NFC East-rival Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys well-known owner Jerry Jones got the trash talk started at the end of the preseason by urging fans to "come to Cowboys Stadium and watch us beat the Giants' asses."
The game was played at MetLife Stadium, where the Cowboys escaped with a 24-17 victory behind three touchdown passes from Tony Romo. Now Romo and the Cowboys will welcome the defending Super Bowl champions to the Lone Star State for a Sunday afternoon showdown.
New York hasn't forgotten about that Week 1 loss.
"Obviously Dallas beat us the first game of the season, so we are definitely looking for get-back," Giants safety Antrel Rolle told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We're definitely looking for some get-back at this point in time."
Speaking of getting back, the Giants have won three in a row and five of six games since their season-opening loss to the Cowboys and sit alone in first place in the NFC East. Rolle admitted on New York's popular radio station WFAN that the Cowboys "were the better team" back on Sept. 5, but added that the Giants will be ready.
"We're gonna go play our game, we're gonna play very efficient, very confident and we're going out there ready to be some head-busters."
The Giants avoided an 0-3 hole in division play with an exciting 27-23 home victory versus the Washington Redskins on Sunday. Eli Manning continued to establish himself as one of the elite quarterbacks in the game by hooking up with Victor Cruz on 77-yard touchdown pass with 1:13 remaining in the game. The go-ahead score came moments after Washington grabbed the lead on a 30-yard scoring strike from Robert Griffin III to Santana Moss.
New York linebacker Chase Blackburn forced a Moss fumble on Washington's final drive of the game to seal the win.
"I was making a hit, and once I had him wrapped, I felt the ball," Blackburn said after making a team-high 11 tackles and forcing a huge turnover. "I could feel it in there and I was just trying to rip it out at that point."
New York is hoping to improve to 6-2 for a second straight year, but it has been well documented what happened after its eighth game of the season a year ago. The team lost four straight and five of six games to fall out of contention, before ripping off six straight wins, including the Super Bowl.
The Giants are looking super right now and are once again one of the top teams in the NFC. Their offense has been top notch and Manning is on pace for another breakout campaign. He has rallied the Giants from a fourth quarter deficit or tie to win 22 times in the regular season and has accomplished the feat twice already in 2012. Sunday's pass attack accumulated 329 yards, the second-most since a franchise-record 510 yards versus Tampa Bay in Week 2.
Manning, who has been sacked just five times this season, has thrown for an NFL-high 2,109 yards so far for a Giants team second in total yards (411.6) and third in passing yards (295.3) per game. New York also is averaging 29.3 points per game, fourth in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the next few weeks will be challenging ones for Dallas. With the Giants, Falcons and Eagles on the upcoming slate, the Cowboys could be staring at last place in the division by mid-November.
Dallas played down to the level of the Carolina Panthers in Sunday's 19-14 road win, and could have easily put away the hosts in the first half. But the defense surrendered 112 rushing yards to keep the game close and recorded a pair of field goals late in the game to improve to 3-3. Dan Bailey was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals Sunday, one week after missing a chance to defeat the Ravens.
"Last week was tough," Bailey said. "It's just a tough situation. It's kind of hard to swallow sometimes. But it was good to go out there this week, and when the opportunities came up, I was able to put them through."
Romo had just one touchdown pass and the Dallas ground attack recorded only 85 total yards. Luckily for the stagnant offense, the defense came prepared and posted two sacks of Cam Newton, who was picked off once and had five passes tipped. Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne had the first interception of his career and ended with a pair of deflected passes. The INT also was the first for the Cowboys' defense.
Claiborne has another challenge ahead with Manning in town, but knows the team has confidence in his skill set.
"They felt like I'd be a good addition to this team to come in and be able to make plays," Claiborne said. "I just try to hold my end up."
Dallas is third against the pass, allowing 187.3 yards per game, and has been faced with strong aerial attacks all season, especially in matchups with Seattle, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Baltimore and Carolina. Middle linebacker Sean Lee received some bad news and will miss the rest of the season with a toe injury that will require surgery.
Lee will most likely be replaced by college teammate Dan Connor. Connor, a former Penn State standout, has played a limited role with the Cowboys since coming over from Carolina. Dallas also signed linebacker Ernie Sims.
"Everyone's got to pick up the slack," Connor said of losing Lee. "You know, it's going to be hard to replace a guy like that. He's unreplaceable. But a lot of guys are going to have to step in different positions and try to pick up the slack for him."
Lee currently leads the Cowboys in tackles with 58 on the season, and an MRI on the toe revealed structural damage.
Despite the loss in Week 1, the Giants still have prevailed in seven of the past 10 meetings with the Cowboys. New York has won its last three trips to Cowboys Stadium and handed Dallas its first-ever loss at the new facility back in Sept. 2009.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
When players such as Lawrence Taylor, Mike Singletary or Derrick Thomas depart the game, it leaves many to wonder if there will ever be one just like them. The Cowboys, at least, haven't had to worry about finding a dominant defensive force because they have DeMarcus Ware. Ware is the preeminent pass rusher in the game and second in the NFL with 6 1/2 sacks. He has at least a half sack in four straight games and put Manning on his back twice in Week 1. Ware has to be accounted for on all downs, and probably can get inside a QBs head from the sidelines.
In 15 career meetings with the Giants, Ware has 12 1/2 sacks. That's the second-highest total to his 15 1/2 sacks against Philadelphia. Ware can come from the outside and even bull-rush his way through the middle. Either way, New York's offensive line and running backs have to know where Ware is. Ware owns an NFL-best 98 sacks since 2006.
The Giants hope to get Ahmad Bradshaw off and running early on Sunday against Ware and the Cowboys, who are allowing 105.0 rushing yards per game. The Giants only ran for 68 yards against the Redskins after totaling 392 yards in the previous two games. The 68 yards against Washington was the second-lowest total of the season (57 yards at Eagles). Bradshaw, who is still bothered by a foot ailment, gained 43 yards rushing versus the 'Skins after collecting 316 in the past two games.
"We knew that they'd keep the safety down and tried to stop us from running and that had kind of stopped us," Bradshaw said. "So we figured we could just throw it over their head and try to beat the safeties."
Like Bradshaw said, the G-men also can air it out with Manning and his top two receivers in Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. That could be a problem since Dallas is third in pass defense, allowing 187.3 ypg. Nicks seems to still be banged up, but that's no excuse to exclude him from the defensive gameplan. Former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett scored in his first rematch with the team.
Dallas might not have running back DeMarco Murray, who ran for 131 yards against the Giants in Week 1, for a second straight week due to a foot injury and Felix Jones is nicked up, too, with a balky knee. If both are not 100 percent, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar will share the carries.
That means Romo will have to beat the defense with his arm. The Cowboys are seventh in passing yards (277.2), while New York is 21st in pass defense (253.3). Washington had no trouble moving the football against the Giants, so maybe Garrett will use that as a blueprint for Sunday. Don't expect Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree to have the type of performance he had in the first meeting, as he posted career highs of eight catches for 114 yards and two TD receptions.
The Cowboys may not have starting center Phil Costa because he suffered a right ankle injury in Carolina. Costa needed an MRI and it's unlikely he'll be able to get back to work once the swelling goes down.
"When that injury happened during the game everybody was concerned as he was being carted off," Garrett said Monday. "I didn't get a great look at what happened, but it didn't look good. Sure enough, by the end of the night last night and by today we are a little more optimistic. It's a significant injury."
Ryan Cook is Dallas' top candidate to take over at center and saw action in the season opener when Costa tweaked his back. Dallas' offensive line must keep tabs on Jason Pierre-Paul, who has three sacks in the past two games. Cook made it clear that staying strong up front is important against the likes of Osi Umenyiora and Chris Canty, who did not play in the first meeting.
Hearts will be heavy for the Cowboys after the recent death of Jones' mother, Arminta. She celebrated her 90th birthday last week and there's no better way to commemorate her loss than to defeat the rival Giants at home. New York, however, is on a roll since losing to the Cowboys in the 2012 lid-lifter, but will get knocked around Sunday. With New York's inability to run the ball lately, look for the Cowboys to pin their ears back and rush Manning early and often to get over the .500 mark.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 33, Giants 24