EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Don’t tell Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys that their regular-season finale against the Giants was a meaningless game.
They played it to the end and got momentum for the playoffs.
Prescott threw a 32-yard fourth-down touchdown pass to Cole Beasley on a play that was reversed by video replay and added a winning 2-point conversion pass to Michael Gallup with 1 minute 12 seconds to play as the Cowboys, the N.F.C. East champions, rallied twice in the final 10 minutes to beat the Giants, 36-35, on Sunday.
“You saw it out there the intensity that we played with, the ups and the downs and how we stayed through it,” Prescott said after going 27 of 44 for 387 yards and a season-high four touchdowns, three to tight end Blake Jarwin. “We stayed positive, knowing we were going to give ourselves a chance to come out on the end. It was a great win.”
The win was the seventh in eight games for the Cowboys, and it had them looking forward to next weekend’s wild-card game at home.
Dallas Coach Jason Garrett played down the idea that the game had been meaningless, even though he rested Ezekiel Elliott, the N.F.L.’s leading rusher, and two of his top offensive linemen.
“That might be for people outside our building, talking about the meaningful or meaningless nature of a game,” Garrett said. “They’re all very meaningful to us. It’s opportunity for us to improve as a football team, to finish strong, to have some momentum going into the playoffs.”
For the Giants (5-11), it was another late loss. They lost eight games by 7 points or fewer in Pat Shurmur’s first season, the last two by a total of 2 points.
This also could have been quarterback Eli Manning’s final start for them after a 15-year career. He has a year left on a four-year contract, but his salary will count against the cap for $23 million next season.
Manning, who is soon to be 38 and is not very mobile, still loves to play, but the Giants have made the playoffs only once since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.
“The losses hurt, and they are tough to deal with,” said Manning, who went 24 of 41 for 301 yards with two touchdowns. “They are tougher now than in the past because you know your opportunities are running low to make playoffs and championship runs. When you are not doing as well as you want to, it is tough to handle.”
Saquon Barkley capped a record-setting rookie season with a sensational 2-yard touchdown dive with 3:21 to play to put the Giants ahead, 35-28.
However, Prescott engineered a nine-play, 70-yard drive that he ended with an arching pass to Beasley in the back of the end zone. There was no doubt he had caught the ball, and a review showed he had gotten his knee down in bounds.
Speaking of Prescott, Garrett said, “That was as good a play as I’ve ever seen him make, and Beas made a big-time catch at the end of it.” Garrett added that it made no sense to go to overtime with a playoff game next week.
Barkley finished with 109 yards rushing and 142 yards from scrimmage. He ended the season with 91 catches, breaking Reggie Bush’s N.F.L. record (88) for most receptions by a rookie running back. Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick, also finished with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, joining the Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (2,212 yards in 1983) and Edgerrin James (2,139 in 1999) as the only rookies with at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage in N.F.L. history.
Prescott hit Jarwin on scoring passes of 13, 19 and 39 yards. His 49-yard pass set up Rod Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Manning had touchdown passes of 21 yards to Cody Latimer and 6 to Evan Engram, who also caught a pass for a 2-point conversion. Wayne Gallman added a 2-yard touchdown run, and Aldrick Rosas kicked two field goals.
COWBOYS Guard Xavier Su’-a-Filo started with Zack Martin out and was hurt in the third quarter. Wide receiver Tavon Austin, who has been sidelined since Week 6 with a groin injury, returned to action. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch left the field with a lower-leg injury. He said it was minor.
GIANTS Grant Haley, a backup cornerback, left in the first half with a concussion. Wide receiver-returner Corey Coleman sustained a foot injury in the second half.
Rushing Title While Resting
Elliott won the N.F.L. rushing title with 1,434 yards. Barkley finished second with 1,307, and Todd Gurley, who like Elliott did not play on Sunday, dropped to third with 1,251 yards. Barkley’s 142 yards from scrimmage allowed him to lead the league. Elliott finished second with 2,001, and Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers was third with 1,965.
Blake Jarwin’s touchdown catches were his first three in the N.F.L. … Giants linebacker Olivier Vernon had two and a half sacks and six quarterback hits. … Dallas cornerback Chidobe Awuzie had an end zone interception on the Giants’ opening drive. Dallas’s DeMarcus Lawrence had a strip sack that his fellow lineman Antwaun Woods recovered. … Giants linebacker B. J. Goodson recovered Amari Cooper’s fumble, which had been caused by defensive lineman Kerry Wynn.
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