New York Giants stun Dallas Cowboys with fourth-quarter rally, move into tie for NFC East lead


The New York Giants celebrate after Dallas kicker Dan Bailey, center, had his field goal attempt blocked during the final seconds. (Sharon Ellman/Associated Press)
December 12, 2011

Just when the Dallas Cowboys seemed to have the NFC East race all but wrapped up, the New York Giants made it a competition again. The Giants erased a 12-point deficit in the game’s final six minutes and beat the Cowboys, 37-34, here Sunday night to move into a first-place tie.

The two teams have matching 7-6 records with three games left in the regular season. The Giants ended a four-game losing streak and handed the Cowboys their second defeat in a row.

“It was a big win, no doubt,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning said after throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns. “We’re excited. It’s been a while since we’ve had that winning feeling.”

The Cowboys led, 34-22, with just less than six minutes to play after quarterback Tony Romo’s 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant. But the Giants got an eight-yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Jake Ballard with a little more than three minutes remaining. They got the ball back and drove to tailback Brandon Jacobs’s one-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds to go, and added a two-point conversion.

Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with one second left. The Giants called a timeout just before Bailey made the kick on his first try, then Jason Pierre-Paul blocked the ensuing attempt that counted.

“It wasn’t easy, obviously,” Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said. “Gosh, there’s plays out there you just shake your head.”

Manning also connected with wide receiver Mario Manningham for a third-quarter touchdown pass. He threw what appeared, at the time, to be a costly fourth-quarter interception to linebacker Sean Lee, just before Romo’s touchdown pass to Bryant. But the Giants persevered for their first victory in more than a month.

“We were just clicking,” Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “We understood what we had to do. We understood we had to get down there and get down there fast, and that’s what we did.”

Manning added to what has been a superb season for him, although it largely has been overshadowed by the potential record-breaking exploits of other quarterbacks like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, New England’s Tom Brady and Drew Brees of New Orleans.

“He was really upset over the interception,” Coughlin said. “But he comes right back. He made some great plays coming down the stretch.”

Said Jacobs, who also had a first-half touchdown run: “If you ask me, he’s the best in the business when we have our backs to the wall and we need a score.”

The defeat was particularly painful for the Cowboys, who lost rookie tailback DeMarco Murray to a season-ending ankle injury suffered on a first-quarter carry. The team announced that Murray suffered a fractured right ankle and a high ankle sprain, and Coach Jason Garrett said after the game that he doesn’t expect Murray to play again this season.

Felix Jones filled in capably at running back and Romo threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers. But it wasn’t enough for the Cowboys.

“I just think you have to keep going,” Garrett said. “We’ve won probably four or five games this way, too.”

This was the first of the two games that these teams will play against one another in the season’s final four weeks. They face each other again in the regular season finale at the Meadowlands.

The Giants were trying to gather themselves after their fourth straight losses since their most recent victory on Nov. 6. But three of those defeats had come to a trio of the league’s top teams — the San Francisco 49ers, the Saints and the Packers — and the Giants actually seemed to have a sliver of momentum, curiously.

They’d pushed the unbeaten Packers to the limit a week earlier at MetLife Stadium, tying the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the final minute before Rodgers calmly directed Green Bay to the winning field goal. They needed to build on that performance against the Packers.

The Cowboys were attempting to bounce back from an overtime loss at Arizona that had produced a week’s-worth of scrutiny of Garrett’s late-game clock management. Garrett first failed to call a timeout on the Cowboys’ final drive of regulation, opting instead to settle for a field goal try by Bailey, then called a timeout just before the kick was taken and missed.

The Giants had the early advantage Sunday night. On the Cowboys’ second possession, Romo was shoved backward into his own end zone on a sack by Pierre-Paul. Romo stumbled and then fell in the end zone for a safety. The Giants took the free-kick punt and Manning connected with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks on a deep pass for a 64-yard gain and a first down at the Dallas 4-yard line. But the Cowboys toughened on defense and the Giants had to settle for a field goal by kicker Lawrence Tynes and a 5-0 lead.

The Cowboys had an immediate reply. Murray, who had ignited the Dallas running game since late October, left the field after hurting his ankle on an eight-yard run on the next drive. But Jones took over and provided a 26-yard run that set up Romo’s 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Phillips on a screen pass.

Jacobs’s one-yard touchdown run put the Giants back in front early in the second quarter. The Cowboys seemed to have stopped the Giants on a third-and-goal incompletion by Manning on a throw toward Ballard. But Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh was called for pass interference, giving the Giants a first down at the 1-yard line. Jacobs scored on the next play.

It was Romo’s turn, and he delivered by zipping a throw to wide receiver Laurent Robinson for a nine-yard touchdown after Jones’s effective running had moved the Cowboys into scoring position. But Jones lost a fumble on a hit by Pierre-Paul late in the first half, and safety Deon Grant’s recovery gave the Giants possession of the ball at the Cowboys 14. They could manage only a field goal by Tynes, however, and the Cowboys got a 49-yard field goal by Bailey 15 seconds before halftime for a 17-15 edge at the break.

Another 49-yarder by Bailey in the third quarter upped the Cowboys’ lead to five points. But the Dallas defense made a mistake on a blitz, leaving Manningham wide open. Manningham caught Manning’s pass and coasted to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.

Romo used a 74-yard completion to Robinson early in the fourth quarter to move the Cowboys into position for his third touchdown pass of the night, a six-yard throw to wide receiver Miles Austin.

ust when the Dallas Cowboys seemed to have the NFC East race all but wrapped up, the New York Giants made it a competition again. The Giants erased a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Cowboys, 37-34, here Sunday night and move into a first-place tie.

The teams are both 7-6 with three games left in the regular season. The Giants ended a four-game losing streak and handed the Cowboys their second defeat in a row.

The Cowboys led, 34-22, in the fourth quarter after quarterback Tony Romo’s 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant. But the Giants got a touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Manning to tight end Jake Ballard with a little more than three minutes remaining. They got the ball back and drove to tailback Brandon Jacobs’s one-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds to go, and added a two-point conversion on a run by D.J. Ware.

Cowboys place kicker Dan Bailey missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with one second left. The Giants called a timeout just before Bailey made the kick on his first try, then blocked the ensuing attempt that counted.

Manning also connected with wide receiver Mario Manningham for a third-quarter touchdown pass. Manning threw what appeared, at the time, to be a costly fourth-quarter interception to linebacker Sean Lee, just before Romo’s touchdown pass to Bryant. But the Giants persevered for their first victory in more than a month.

Manning completed 27 of 47 passes for 400 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the interception. Jacobs also had a first-half touchdown run.

The defeat was particularly painful for the Cowboys, who lost rookie tailback DeMarco Murray to an ankle injury suffered on a first-quarter carry. The team announced that Murray suffered a fractured right ankle and a high ankle sprain. Felix Jones filled in capably at running back and Romo threw four touchdown passes to four receivers. But it wasn’t enough for the Cowboys.

This was the first of the two times these teams will play one another in the season’s final four weeks. They face each other again in the regular season finale at the Meadowlands.

The Giants were trying to gather themselves after their four straight losses since their most recent victory on Nov. 6. But three of those defeats had come to a trio of the league’s top teams — the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers — and the Giants actually seemed to have a sliver of momentum, curiously.

They’d pushed the unbeaten Packers to the limit a week earlier, tying the score with a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the final minute before quarterback Aaron Rodgers directed Green Bay to the winning field goal.

The Cowboys were attempting to bounce back from an overtime loss at Arizona that had produced a week’s-worth of scrutiny of Coach Jason Garrett’s late-game clock management. Garrett first failed to call a timeout on the Cowboys’ final drive of regulation, opting instead to settle for a field goal try, then called a timeout just before the kick was taken and missed.

The Giants had the early advantage Sunday night. On the Cowboys’ second possession, Romo was shoved backward into his own end zone on a sack by Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Romo stumbled and then fell in the end zone for a safety. The Giants took the free-kick punt and Manning connected with wide receiver Hakeem Nicks on a deep pass for a 64-yard gain and a first down at the Dallas 4-yard line. But the Cowboys toughened on defense and the Giants had to settle for a field goal by kicker Lawrence Tynes and a 5-0 lead.

The Cowboys had a quick reply. Murray, who had ignited the Dallas running game since late October, left the field after hurting his ankle on an eight-yard run on the next drive. But Jones took over and provided a 26-yard run that set up Romo’s 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end John Phillips on a screen pass.

Jacobs’s one-yard touchdown run put the Giants back in front early in the second quarter. The Cowboys seemed to have stopped the Giants on a third-and-goal incompletion by Manning on a throw toward Ballard. But Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh was called for pass interference, giving the Giants a first down at the 1-yard line. Jacobs scored on the next play.

It was Romo’s turn, and he delivered by zipping a throw to wide receiver Laurent Robinson for a nine-yard touchdown after Jones’s effective running had moved the Cowboys into scoring position. But Jones lost a fumble on a hit by Pierre-Paul late in the first half, and safety Deon Grant’s recovery gave the Giants possession of the ball at the Cowboys 14. They could manage only a field goal by Tynes, however, and the Cowboys got a 49-yard field goal by Bailey 15 seconds before halftime for a 17-15 edge at the break.

Another 49-yarder by Bailey in the third quarter upped the Cowboys’ lead to five points. But the Dallas defense made a mistake on a blitz, leaving Manningham wide open. Manningham caught Manning’s pass and coasted to the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.

Romo used a 74-yard completion to Robinson early in the fourth quarter to move the Cowboys into position for his third touchdown pass of the night, a six-yard throw to wide receiver Miles Austin.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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