The fourth quarter belonged to the Cowboys this time.
For the last few years, the Giants' plan when it came to the Cowboys was to wait until the final 15 minutes because Dallas would inevitably find a way to blow the game. It's a new year, though, and old habits were nowhere to be found on Wednesday night.
Tony Romo hit Miles Austin with a 34-yard touchdown pass with just over six minutes to play to put the Cowboys ahead 24-10. Eli Manning answered with a touchdown drive of his own, hitting Martellus Bennett to bring the Giants back within a touchdown and call to mind the 12-point comeback he led in the final five minutes in Dallas last season.
Romo found Queens' own Kevin Ogletree for a first down after the Cowboys put themselves in a third-and-13 with a holding penalty that negated a previous first down. It was academic from there and the Cowboys won 24-17 thanks in large part to Romo.
Time and time again, Romo kept plays alive by eluding Cowboys pass rushers and delivering passes downfield to receivers who had beaten the rather lax coverage employed by the Giants defensive backs. Each of his first two touchdown passes -- both of which went to Kevin Ogletree who will become the most coveted player on fantasy football waiver wires -- came as a result of such plays.
But Romo also did a better job of standing tough in the face of Jason Pierre-Paul and sustained interior pressure than he's done in past years. The Cowboys offensive line didn't look much better, but the quarterback certainly did.
He got a little help from Corey Webster on the second one when Webster bit on a double move by Ogletree and got left watching the Cowboys receiver scoot into the end zone. Austin's touchdown came when he outleaped Justin Tryon, who was forced into action when Michael Coe became the latest Giants cornerback to come down with an injury.
But Tryon's play wouldn't have mattered nearly as much if the Giants defense had been able to come up with a stop. The Cowboys kept shooting themselves in the foot with penalties, but they kept getting the yards back as Murray bled the Giants and the clock on the way to the clinching touchdown and the final whistle.
Murray had more heroic moments, notably a jitterbugging 48-yard run that featured two changes of field and a missed tackle by Justin Tuck, but he was most impressive grinding out a win in the final moments. That was something the Cowboys couldn't do in the past and it was one of two welcome changes for their team.
The other was the play of their defense, specifically the two corners brought to town in large part because of what the Giants did to the Cowboys last season. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne weren't perfect, but the Giants hit just one big pass all night and it came when a safety blew his help coverage on Domenik Hixon.
There were other problems for a sloppy Giants offense. Some were predictable, David Diehl playing turnstile for DeMarcus Ware and the running game struggling to do anything, while some were a surprise.
Victor Cruz dropping three passes and committing a dumb penalty would qualify. It's enough to make you wonder if there will be an addendum coming to the autobiography Cruz wrote after his first season in the NFL.
Even Manning looked out of sync for stretches, although the pressure from Ware and the play of the corners likely contributed a fair amount to those difficulties. All in all, it looked like a Giants team that was a lot less ready for the regular season than it appeared in August.
So a night that started with a celebration ended with a revelation. The Cowboys aren't a pushover any longer.