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5 Most Important Giants-Cowboys Games Of The Last 5 Years

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Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images.

This Sunday, the New York Giants will play their most important game of the season thus far. Riding high off four consecutive wins, the 4-6 Giants must win a fifth in a row to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive NFC playoff race. A loss and the season is all but over.

So who will be marching into the Meadowlands on a blustery late-November Sunday afternoon with guns drawn? None other than the Dallas Cowboys, the Joker to the Giants' Batman; the Gus Fring to the Giants' Heisenberg.

As tends to be the case with these decades-old division rivalries like the one the Giants and Cowboys share, the two teams have played a great deal of very competitive, very meaningful games over the course of the last few seasons. In preparation for the next chapter of the rivalry, here are the five biggest Giants-Cowboys games from the last half-decade:

December 14, 2008: Cowboys 20, Giants 8 (Week 15)

The 2008 Giants were the defending Super Bowl champs, and they looked like it for the first 12 weeks of the season, going 11-1 and demolishing nearly everything in their path. They looked prime to be the first team to repeat since the '03-'04 Patriots … that is, until Plaxico Burress decided to wear sweatpants to a nightclub.

The Giants came into this Sunday night game with an 11-2 record and looking for a win to wrap up the top seed in the NFC playoffs, but instead played one of their worst games of the season. Demarcus Ware and the Cowboys defensive line feasted on Eli Manning all night, and it became clear to just about everyone that Burress was a pretty important cog in the well-oiled machine that was the Giants offense.

The Giants would secure the top seed the following week, only to squander it by getting embarrassed by the Eagles in the playoffs.

September 20, 2009: Giants 33, Cowboys 31 (Week 2)

This Sunday night game, in Week 2 of the 2009 season, was important because it was the first regular season game played at the new Cowboys Stadium, and the Giants made themselves at home right from the start. The defense wreaked havoc on Tony Romo, who posted a quarterback rating of 29.6, and the offense controlled the time of possession, holding the ball nearly 10 minutes more than the Cowboys. Yet the Giants trailed 31-30 with a few seconds left on the clock until Lawrence Tynes drilled a 37-yarder as time expired to give the Giants a dramatic 33-31 win — the first of four straight wins the Giants would enjoy at "JerryWorld".

December 11, 2011: Giants 37, Cowboys 34 (Week 14)

The Giants were coming off four straight losses, and their hopes for a division title were hanging in the balance as they took a 22-20 lead into the fourth quarter of this Sunday night game. But with 5:41 to go, Romo connected with a wide open Dez Bryant on a 50-yard touchdown pass to put the Cowboys up 34-22, and the Giants' season looked just about over — then something magical happened.

Manning took the Giants down the field in a little over two minutes to bring them within 34-29, and then, following a huge defensive stand, engineered yet another late-game touchdown drive to bring the Giants back from the dead and give them a 37-34 lead with 0:46 remaining.

But, of course, it couldn't be that easy. In typical Giants fashion, they let Romo take the Cowboys into field goal range and set up Dan Bailey for a 47-yarder to tie it up and force overtime. Then, out of nowhere, Jason Pierre-Paul reached up and swatted the kick out of the air, giving the Giants one of their most heart-stopping and dramatic victories in recent memory.

January 1, 2012: Giants 31, Cowboys 14 (Week 17)

Only three weeks after JPP saved the Giants' season, they were back facing the Cowboys (yes, again on a Sunday night), this time for the NFC East title. With both teams deadlocked at 8-7, the winner of this New Year's Day tilt would head to the playoffs as the NFC East champs, and the loser would head home.

The Giants were in control of this one from the start, jumping out to a 21-0 first-half lead. Manning shredded the Dallas defense for 346 yards and three touchdowns, and the Giants cruised to another NFC East title, eventually riding the wave to Super Bowl XLVI.

January 13, 2008: Giants 21, Cowboys 17 (NFC Divisional Playoffs)

In the most important Giants-Cowboys game of the last five years, the Giants faced the 13-3 Cowboys (on a Sunday night!) in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The Cowboys were the NFC's top seeded team and were coming off of a first-round bye, while the Giants were coming off of Manning's first playoff victory against Tampa Bay the week before and riding a hot-streak that would take them all the way to Super Bowl XLII. But not before they pulled one of the biggest playoff upsets in franchise history in their only postseason meeting with the Cowboys in the 53-year history of the rivalry.

The game ended, like most Cowboys losses tend to end, with a Tony Romo interception, as R.W. McQuarters sealed the victory for the Giants and led to Terrell Owens' now infamous tear-filled post-game press conference — something Giants fans will undoubtedly use for cannon fodder for years to come … or until the next time they knock the Cowboys out of the playoffs.