The Giants and Cowboys have had their share of memorable shootouts recently. It wasn’t any different in a 29-24 Giants’ win at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.
The victory allowed the Giants (6-2) to continue their road dominance in Dallas, as they beat the Cowboys (3-4) for the fourth straight time at the new stadium. Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning (15-of-29 for 192 yards, no touchdowns and an interception) once again led his team on a fourth-quarter comeback, but a cynic would argue it shouldn’t have come down to a thrilling finish. New York forged a 23-0 lead in the first half, before Dallas scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
Alas, the Cowboys couldn’t maintain the slight margin and allowed Manning and Co. to avoid the season sweep and earn a 1-1 split. Had it not been for a near-miracle finish by the Cowboys, the death knell would’ve been a late interception by safety Stevie Brown with under a minute remaining, as Dallas was driving for the potential game-winning drive. Running back Felix Jones was just as complicit down the stretch. He inexplicably lost control of the ball at the Cowboys’ 40-yard line, with 6:40 remaining, on the previous possession and Dallas down 26-24. Brown recovered the loose ball, eventually setting up a Lawrence Tynes 37-yard field goal for the final margin. The Cowboys had one final drive with under a minute left, but a seeming game-winning touchdown from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant was overturned after his hand landed out-of-bounds.
What we saw ...
1. No Romo-mentum
The Cowboys’ offense saw a Big Blue barrage early on as quarterback Tony Romo was off his game. Romo, who played superbly in Dallas’ win at Met Life Stadium in the season opener, looked flustered and indecisive to start the game and was a major reason why the Giants jumped out to a 23-0 lead. Romo (36-of-60 for 437 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions) finished strong, but it was the early giveaways that set the tone and made the Cowboys expend the necessary energy to even stay in the game. The maligned quarterback was picked off by Brown, cornerback Corey Webster and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Brown, who’s subbed in admirably for the injured Kenny Phillips for the last few weeks, picked off Romo on Dallas’ opening possession. It was Brown’s fifth takeaway (including four interceptions). He later added a fifth pick. Webster picked off Romo on Dallas’ ensuing possession and it eventually set up an Andre Brown 2-yard rushing touchdown. Pierre-Paul got in on the action when he intercepted Romo’s pass to the flat that was intended for Jones. The Pro-Bowl defensive end snatched the pass at the Cowboys’ 28-yard line and strolled untouched into the end zone, with 13:05 remaining, for the 23-0 margin. The turnovers led to a league-leading 70 points off 21 takeaways overall by Big Blue’s opportunistic defense, second only to the Bears.
2. Manning iffy
No matter how clutch Manning was down the stretch, he didn’t have a good statistical game, as he was under siege and knocked down often. Arguably the most clutch quarterback in the league today, Manning looked very normal at times, missing wide-open targets and setting up teammates to fail. One particular play that almost cost the Giants came late in the third when his late throw caused a turnover. Cowboys’ safety Gerald Sensabaugh blew up wideout Victor Cruz, jarring the ball loose from Cruz’s grasp and having it rest on Sensabaugh’s leg, before safety Danny McCray snared it for an interception. It was a heady play by McCray, but thankfully it didn’t cost the Giants in the long run.
3. Sad secondary situation
The Giants’ secondary saw a lot of passes in the sky, particularly toward tight end Jason Witten, as the Pro Bowler registered a career-high 18 catches. Witten was the object of Romo’s attention, as he continually bailed out the harried quarterback whenever the Giants’ pass rush closed in on him. Witten’s single-game franchise record 18 catches went along with his game-high in receiving yards (167), as he torched whatever Big Blue defender was on him. As excellent a defender Giants’ outside linebacker Michael Boley is in zone pass coverage, he was no match for Witten in man-to-man coverage. Overall, Cowboys receivers were running wild in the secondary, as wideouts Miles Austin (nine catches for 133 yards) and Dez Bryant (five catches, 110 yards) poured in big games as well.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.