The Cowboys–Giants rivalry involves the National Football League teams the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. The beginning of this rivalry is difficult to trace but perhaps is best defined by the first game these two teams ever played back in 1960 which resulted in a tie score of 31–31. In the early 1960s the New York Giants were beginning to wind down as an NFL powerhouse. After having been arguably the most dominant team in the Eastern Conference through the 1950s and early 1960s the Giants entered a period of poor play where they did not make the playoffs from 1964 to 1981. While the Giants dominated the Cowboys in the first few years of the rivalry, the Cowboys picked up steam and took control of the rivalry from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s, winning 17 of the 20 meetings between the 2 teams in the 1970s. In the 1980s however the Giants struck back, and the rivalry has been relatively even handed ever since with intermittent spurts of dominance (the Giants in the late 1980s and the Cowboys in the early 1990s). This is a unique rivalry in American sports in that no other Texas area team is in the same division as a New York area team, or has a consistent rivalry with one, most likely due to the relatively far geographical distance between the two regions (though during the 1960s, the New York Jets were division rivals with the Houston Oilers in the American Football League East Division).
Another important facet of this rivalry is Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry. Landry was one of the most fateful figures in the history of both franchises. Drafted by the Giants in 1947, it would be three more years before he actually played with them. He played multiple roles – defensive back, halfback, and quarterback – and in those roles he recorded one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown, two touchdowns off fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns off INTs. He made one Pro Bowl as a player, in 1954, the same season he joined the Giants' coaching staff. After he retired as a player at the end of the 1955 season, he became the Giants' defensive coordinator inventing the 4-3 Defense, serving in that role through 1959. In 1960, he became head coach of the first-year Cowboys and in his 29 seasons went 35–17–2 against the Giants.
The very first meeting between the Cowboys and NY Giants, on December 4, 1960 at Yankee Stadium, ended in a 31–31 tie. Eddie LeBaron threw three touchdowns for Dallas (two in the fourth quarter), while George Shaw and Lee Grosscup combined for three touchdown throws for the Giants. L. G. Dupree ran in one Dallas touchdown and caught two scores for the first non-loss of the Cowboys' history after opening their inaugural season with ten straight losses.
The Cowboys defeated the Giants 20–13 on October 11, 1971, the first Monday Night Football meeting between the teams and the last NFL game at the Cotton Bowl.
On December 19, 1981, the Giants defeated the Cowboys 13–10 in overtime on a frigid Saturday afternoon in Giants Stadium to clinch Big Blue's first playoff berth in 17 seasons. Joe Danelo kicked the winning field goal in overtime after missing a game-winning attempt earlier in sudden death.
In the final game of the 1993 season, with both teams at 11–4 and competing for playoff position, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith suffered a separated right shoulder in the first half, but continued to play in obvious pain, amassing 168 rushing yards, including 41 on the game-winning drive, as Dallas won 16–13 in overtime. Smith also locked up the NFL rushing title with his tough, gritty performance. After the game, sportscaster John Madden paid a visit to Smith in the locker room to congratulate him, the only time Madden (as an announcer) would pay such a visit to a player, later writing "[It] was one of the toughest efforts I've ever seen by any football player in any game." The win earned the Cowboys a bye in the playoffs, giving Smith time to heal, and he would go on to lead the Cowboys to victory over the Bills as the MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII.
The full bitterness of the rivalry played out on Monday Night Football on November 7, 1994 when the 7–1 Cowboys hosted the 3–5 Giants. After a scoreless first quarter Alvin Harper's touchdown catch from Troy Aikman and a one-yard Emmitt Smith rushing score left the Cowboys up 14–3. On the final play of the first half Aikman launched a deep bomb to Harper in the endzone; Harper was hammered in mid-air by Giants safety Tito Wooten and suffered a sprained left knee. Cowboys receivers coach Hubbard Alexander then attacked Jarvis Williams of the Giants and Michael Irvin punched Williams with a helmet. As the brawl escalated Cowboys safety James Washington grabbed a camera and monopod from a local photographer and brandished it like a sword, yelling for Giants players to take him on. Irvin was fined $12,000 and Washington $10,000 by the league. When order was finally restored the Cowboys routed the Giants on rushing touchdowns from Smith, Aikman, and Daryl Johnston en route to a 38–10 win.
In 2003, the teams met at Giants Stadium on Monday Night Football. The game marked former Giants coach Bill Parcells' first visit to Giants Stadium as head coach of the Cowboys. The Cowboys led 29–14 after three quarters, but they squandered the lead over the last 15 minutes, and found themselves down 32–29 with just 11 seconds to play. The Giants simply needed to kick off and play a "prevent" defense for 1 or 2 plays, but the kickoff went out of bounds, putting the Cowboys at their own 40 with no time elapsed, and Quincy Carter completed a deep pass to Antonio Bryant, who went out of bounds at the New York 34 to stop the clock with 4 seconds left. Billy Cundiff then converted a 52-yard field goal as time expired to send the game to overtime, and kicked a 25 yarder with 5:56 left in OT to win it for the Cowboys. Cundiff tied an NFL record with 7 field goals in the game, out of 8 total attempts.
In 2007, the Cowboys swept the Giants in the regular season (45–35 in Dallas & 31–20 in NYC), but in the playoffs, the #5 Giants came to Texas Stadium and stunned the top-seeded Cowboys 21–17 en route to winning Super Bowl XLII. Eli Manning scored his second-straight playoff win while Tony Romo suffered his second-straight playoff loss.
Amid several weeks of off-field acrimony involving Terrell Owens, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Marion Barber, and owner Jerry Jones, the Cowboys on December 14, 2008 shut down the Giants in New York's final trip to Texas Stadium (and first since the 2007 playoffs), 20–8. Owens and Witten combined for eight catches for 82 yards while Patrick Crayton and Deon Anderson had two receiving scores. Romo completed 20 of 30 throws for 244 yards despite being sacked four times (once for a Giants safety) and injuring his back in the process. The Cowboys sacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning eight times and limited him to only 191 passing yards and two INTs snatched by Terence Newman.
On September 20, 2009, Lawrence Tynes made a 37-yard field goal as the game clock expired to give the Giants a 33–31 victory and spoil the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium, with a crowd of a record-breaking 105,121 people.
On October 26, 2010, the Giants defeated the Cowboys in Cowboys Stadium 41–35, leaving the Cowboys at a disappointing 1–5 for the year. This contest is notable for the Giants linebacker Michael Boley driving Tony Romo to the turf and causing Romo to break his left clavicle and most likely ending the Cowboys chances at a playoff run.
On November 14, 2010, during the teams' first meeting at New Meadowlands Stadium, the lights briefly went out, causing a delay. The Cowboys won the game 33–20, scoring a win in Jason Garrett's head coaching debut.
On December 11, 2011, during the teams' first meeting of the season, with the NFC East lead on the line, the Cowboys led the Giants 34-22 with 5:41 left to play. Eli Manning led the Giants to a comeback, and Giant's Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Dallas kicker Dan Bailey's game-tying field goal with 6 seconds remaining. The Giants took a knee with 1 second left, and won the game 37-34.
On January 1, 2012 the New York Giants hosted the Dallas Cowboys in what amounted to a NFC East Divisional Championship game. Both teams entered the game with identical 8-7 records and a share of the lead of the NFC East. With the divisional title and a playoff berth on the line the game was flexed from 1 pm to the 8:30 pm Sunday Night Football slot. While the Giants took a 21-0 half time lead Tony Romo brought the Cowboys back, making the score 21-14 early in the 4th quarter. The Giants would hold on however, winning 31-14 and earning their first NFC East Divisional title and playoff berth since 2008 while knocking the Cowboys out of the playoffs. The Giants would eventually make another playoff run reminiscent of their 2007 season and win Super Bowl XLVI