EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Standing in front of the Dallas Cowboys the night before his coaching debut, Jason Garrett talked about pride and playing in the moment.
"He said, 'Let's not look back and let's not look forward,'" tight end Jason Witten recalled. "'Let's be in the now. Let's build on the good things we are doing and eliminate the bad.'"
Twenty-four hours later, a revitalized group of Cowboys abandoned their error-prone ways that led to the firing of coach Wade Phillips. They returned to playing like one of the NFC's top teams in a 33-20 win over the New York Giants in a game delayed twice by short power outages Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium.
"The key today was we made the plays when we had to make the plays as opposed to not making the plays the first eight weeks of the season," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "We stuck together. We fought and we did everything in our power to get the win today. This was a tough week. This game is tough. This league is tough and it's made for tough people and we found out what we were about today."
In ending a five-game losing skid and snapping a five-game winning streak for the Giants (6-3), the Cowboys (2-7) played like the team that won the NFC East last season. It was one big play after another after another.
Jon Kitna passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns. He hit 10 passes of 13 yards or more, including four for 44 yards or more in a game that featured two third-quarter power outages that delayed play for 11 minutes.
Kitna, who was 13 of 22 with one interception, had TD passes of 13 yards to rookie Dez Bryant, 71 to halfback Felix Jones and 24 to Miles Austin.
Rookie cornerback Bryan McCann scored on a team-record 101-yard interception return and the Cowboys defense forced three turnovers despite allowing 480 yards of offense to the Giants.
"There was more a sense of urgency today," said McCann, whose interception was set up when Hakeem Nicks broke off a slant route and made Eli Manning look bad.
"We had a good coach who got put out the door. Coach Garrett came in, added a little more spark and intensity in practice and obviously it showed up on game day."
Garrett was impressed with his team's mental toughness after a week of adversity.
"I thought the intensity was there in all three areas," Garrett said. "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 the 44-year-old Garrett, who has seven more games to prove himself.
"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."
Manning, who was 33 of 48 for 373 yards, threw two touchdown passes and Lawrence Tynes kicked two field goals for the banged-up Giants, who played without receiver Steve Smith and offensive lineman David Diehl.
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 might need to guess again.
"Sometimes you play lights-out, literally, and sometimes you just don't have it," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Today I don't think we brought the energy that we had brought the last five games, for whatever reason I don't know."
Kitna's touchdown pass to Bryant and McCann's interception return helped the Cowboys take a 19-6 halftime lead.
The Cowboys put the Giants away after the lights went out early in the third quarter.
Kitna found Jones on a screen pass 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 and left 81,000 fans in total darkness for about six or seven seconds.Comment on this story
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 Nicks connected on a 48-yard scoring pass down the 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.
"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."