EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — A change in coaches is all the Dallas Cowboys needed to play like — well — the Cowboys of old.
Give interim coach Jason Garrett credit, for at least one game.
Jon Kitna passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns and the Cowboys looked revitalized with Garrett running the team in a 33-20 victory that served as a reality check for the New York Giants on Sunday.
“I thought the intensity was there in all three areas,” Garrett said after a wild game that featured two power outages in the new $1.6 billion stadium, one that left some 81,000 fans in total darkness for a couple of seconds. “Guys were fighting for each other. We were challenged in all areas and I think we stepped up.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took notice and gave the game ball to Garrett and the Cowboys (2-7) snapped a five-game losing streak and ended a five-game winning streak for the Giants (6-3).
“The timing is more important than what it means specifically to the future,” Jones said. “It’s a good time to have a good feeling, we needed it. The players needed it and our fans needed it most of all. But it’s just that, a feel good. We have to get a lot of things worked out.”
Kitna, who was 13 of 22 with one interception, had everything working. He had TD passes of 13 yards to rookie Dez Bryant, 71 to halfback Felix Jones and 24 to Miles Austin in the Cowboys’ first action since Wade Phillips was fired on Monday.
“I think the difference, first and foremost, is the freakish disasters that have kind of defined our season didn’t happen tonight for us,” Kitna said after making his third straight since replacing the injured Tony Romo, “There was no tipped balls for interceptions and things like that.”
Rookie cornerback Bryan McCann scored on a team-record 101-yard interception return in a game highlighted by big plays and two third-quarter power failures that delayed the game for 11 minutes.
Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes and Lawrence Tynes kicked two field goals for the banged-up Giants, who played without receiver Steve Smith and offensive tackle David Diehl.
Dallas gained 427 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked defense and forced three turnovers in avoiding its first six-game losing streak since a run at the end of 2000 and the start of 2001.
“They did a lot different,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “Give them credit. They did a good job of isolating, getting the one-on-ones they look for.”
Jones said the performance would be only one game used to evaluate Garrett as coach.
The bottom line though was Dallas finally looked like a talented team that many expected to be playing at home in the Super Bowl in February.
“We needed this,” said Bryant, who had five catches for 104 yards. “I knew it was in all of us. I just felt like we had to come together and we did that tonight.”
Coming off a near-perfect 41-7 thrashing of Seattle, the Giants made way too many mistakes and the pundits who have been calling them the best team in the NFC need to guess again.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Coughlin said. “We didn’t execute the way we’ve been executing. We gave up big plays and didn’t make as many big plays. We hung in there. We gave a good effort at the end, but it was too little too late.”
The Cowboys made one big play after another.
With the lights dimmed for the first time, Kitna found Jones on a screen on the left side and the halfback scampered 71 yards untouched for a 26-6 lead.
Manning answered with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham to cap an eight-play, 58-yard drive that was delayed eight minutes by the second outage, one that took out every light in the stadium.
Kitna, who had not won a game since 2007, needed only six plays to move the Cowboys 85 yards on their next possession. He capped the drive with the TD pass to Austin, which came a play after finding Roy Williams for 27 yards on a third-and-22.
A 35-yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Kevin Boss got the Giants within 33-20 in the third quarter.
New York appeared to cut the margin to less than a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when Manning and Hakeem Nicks connected on a 48-yard scoring pass down the right sideline, but the play was called back by a questionable holding penalty against guard Kevin Boothe, who was playing his first game of the season.
The Cowboys made big play after big play in this game with none changing the momentum more than McCann’s interception in the second quarter.
With New York down 9-3 and at the Dallas 2 and facing a third-and-goal, Manning threw to a spot on a quick slant to Nicks, only to find McCann waiting. The rookie took off for the other end of the field and no one got close to him as he gave Dallas a 16-3 lead.
Kitna, who faced little or no pressure, made the other big plays, hitting Bryant for 45 yards, Austin for 44 and tight end Martellus Bennett for 32 yards.
The long pass to Bryant set up a 13-yard TD toss to the rookie. The play was originally called incomplete, but Garrett challenged the call and it was overturned after a replay.
The passes to Austin and Bennett set up short field goals by David Buehler, whose extra point on Bryant’s touchdown was blocked.
“I’ll tell you what, they played well,” Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “They hit us with a lot of big plays. And we can’t afford to let an offense do that against us. All the credit goes to them.”
NOTES: Kevin Boothe, who came off the physically unable to perform list this week, started at guard for the Giants. … Manningham had 10 catches for 91 yards to lead the Giants. … Manning finished 33 of 48 for 373 yards and two interceptions. Giants DT Barry Cofield blocked the extra point on Dallas’ first touchdown.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.