ARLINGTON, Texas — The New York Giants and new coach Ben McAdoo showed how they will try to protect a lead going forward.
After Eli Manning’s third touchdown pass put the Giants in front for good, McAdoo did what he promised before the season: He ran the ball to try to run out the clock.
Now the Dallas Cowboys are the team with a clock management problem.
Victor Cruz caught the go-ahead scoring pass from Manning in the fourth quarter of the Giants’ 20-19 victory Sunday, and New York held on in the opener after questionable play-calling contributed to six losses either late in regulation or overtime during a 6-10 season in 2015.
“We look through the windshield; we’re not looking through the rear-view mirror,” said McAdoo, who replaced Tom Coughlin after 12 seasons and two Super Bowl titles. “We’re focused on everything that’s out in front of us. We’ve learned from the past and moved on.”
McAdoo was the play-caller as offensive coordinator the past two seasons, including last year when Coughlin was taking the heat for all the late-game meltdowns.
While McAdoo refused to say who would call the plays before the opener, it seemed clear it was him. And he acknowledged it after the game.
Protecting the one-point lead, the Giants (1-0) ran Rashad Jennings all seven times on a drive that ended with a punt to give Dallas (0-1) the ball back at its 20 with 1:05 remaining. Jennings had a game-high 75 yards on 18 carries.
Williams had a chance to get out of bounds on a 14-yard completion to the New York 40 but chose to go upfield rather than race to the sideline with about 7 seconds left. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott couldn’t get the ball snapped again.
Dan Bailey already had four field goals, had matched a career long at 56 yards and added another from 54.
“It was like a bang-bang moment and now that I have the chance to sit back and think about it, I should have just gone out of bounds,” Williams said. “Getting up, that’s when it finally hit me.”
Things we learned as the Giants beat the Cowboys in an opener for the first time in nine tries:
HERE THEY GO AGAIN? The Cowboys dropped to 1-12 without Tony Romo since their star quarterback went out in Week 2 last year with the first of two broken left collarbones. They’re likely without him at least another month, and Prescott will have to make teams pay if they stack the line of scrimmage to stop fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott the way the Giants did.
REINFORCEMENTS: The opener brightened the outlook for the New York defense after its overhaul in free agency. Two newcomers, Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon, combined for the team’s two tackles for loss. While the Giants didn’t sack Prescott, allowing 328 yards in the opener was a boost for the NFL’s worst defense a year ago.
WHERE’S DEZ: Prescott looked for star receiver Dez Bryant a few times, but the 2014 All-Pro had just one catch for 8 yards on Prescott’s first pass. Bryant had another catch-that-wasn’t moment similar to the Green Bay playoff game in 2014 on what was originally ruled a 24-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The replay showed that he didn’t have control of the ball as he slid out of bounds in the end zone.
POWER PAIR: Watch out for New York’s receiving corp. Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. were paired for the first time since Beckham blossomed as a star. It was Cruz’s first game in nearly two years because of injuries. Although the numbers weren’t staggering (73 yards for Beckham, 34 for Cruz), the prospect of star pass-catchers on either side of Manning bodes well for the Giants.
AND ONE MORE ROOKIE: There’s another option brewing for Manning. Second-round pick Sterling Shepard had the most athletic catch for the Giants, a leaping grab over rookie Dallas cornerback Anthony Brown for a 13-9 lead just before halftime. “We’re just excited to be on the field together,” Cruz said. “We’re all brothers and will continue to make plays.”
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler