By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 2:02 AM
ARLINGTON, TEX. -
The New York Giants again looked like the team to beat in the NFC East, and helped to move the competitive portion of the Dallas Cowboys' season a few significant steps closer to being over. The Giants beat the Cowboys, 41-35, here Monday night and knocked quarterback Tony Romo from the Dallas lineup with a fractured left clavicle.
Quarterback Eli Manning threw four touchdown passes as the Giants won their fourth straight game to improve their record to 5-2, putting them a game ahead of the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles atop the division. The Cowboys suffered their third loss in a row to fall to 1-5, and a season that began with them hoping to play in the Super Bowl on their home field now seems irreparable.
"I've been surprised and disappointed at our start," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "Tonight was certainly not something I want to think about [but] we have a huge amount of season left."
Romo walked off the field after having his left shoulder driven into the turf on a second-quarter hit by Giants linebacker Michael Boley after a pass. Romo remained on the sideline temporarily and apparently tried to talk his way back into the game unsuccessfully. He was taken for X-rays soon thereafter and the Cowboys announced that he'd suffered a fractured clavicle.
Jones said that Romo is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, although it's not clear yet whether surgery will be required.
"I'm sticking with this football team," Romo said. "I'm going to work my butt off to come back and do as much as I canâ¦. It'll be tough. I'm still going to be part of it, but I'm not the guy. That will be different."
It probably doesn't matter because the Cowboys are headed nowhere. They generated little on offense while it still mattered with backup Jon Kitna at quarterback, and an early 20-7 lead-courtesy of 13 points off three Giants' turnovers-evaporated before halftime. Romo's touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten, rookie Dez Bryant's touchdown on a 93-yard punt return and two field goals by kicker David Buehler were distant memories by night's end. The Cowboys were booed by their home crowd regularly in the second half.
"We're disappointed," Witten said. "It bothers you. But give them credit. They've got a good team.. . . Let's not kid ourselves. Any time you lose a guy like Tony, it hurts."
Manning shrugged off two early interceptions and threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and one each to wideouts Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Tailback Brandon Jacobs ran for a third-quarter touchdown for the Giants.
The Giants did have five turnovers, including a third interception thrown by Manning late in the game. That led to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Kitna to Bryant as the Cowboys broke a string of 31 unanswered points by the Giants. Another Kitna-to-Bryant touchdown in the final minute gave Bryant his third touchdown of the game, but the stadium was mostly empty by then and the Giants ran out the clock after recovering the Cowboys' final onside kick.
"A lot of great football is being played by the Giants at times," Manning said. "It's just streaky. We got off toa bad start, then we played about as well as we can play. You just have to be patient."
The Texas Rangers play just up the street from the Cowboys' palatial second-year stadium and are readying to participate in their first World Series. But it would be a stretch to call this a baseball-first town even under such highly unusual circumstances, and the level of angst among the locals was understandably high as the Cowboys prepared to try to keep their season from unraveling any further.
There was the usual speculation about the possibility that Jones would replace Wade Phillips as the team's coach with another loss. There also was plenty of talk by practically everyone within the organization about the need for the Cowboys to stop beating themselves with costly mistakes like penalties and turnovers.
It was Manning and the Giants, not the Cowboys, committing the gaffes in the early going of Monday's game. Manning's pass toward Smith on the Giants' third offensive play sailed a bit too high. The ball went through Smith's hands to Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, who made the interception and weaved his way through would-be tacklers for a 30-yard return to the New York 5-yard line.
The Cowboys scored on second down from the 4, with Romo sending a pass to the open Witten on the right side for the touchdown.
Manning threw another interception on the Giants' second possession. The ball deflected off Nicks's hands directly to Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh. The Cowboys got the ball at the 18-yard line of the Giants this time, but had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Buehler after wide receiver Miles Austin dropped a third-down pass from Romo near the goal line.
"It kind of lifted us to not give up a touchdown there," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said.
The Giants steadied themselves on their third drive, aided by an apparently generous spot for a first down - upheld by the officials on a failed instant replay challenge by Phillips - and a successful replay challenge of their own that gave Nicks a catch for another first down on a juggling grab on the sideline. Manning cashed in with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Nicks.
Buehler connected on a 41-yard field goal in the second quarter after Jacobs lost a fumble. Romo's exit came just before the field goal, as he became the fifth quarterback this season to be knocked from a game by the defense of the Giants.
"I just couldn't move without it really being painful," Romo said. "I was having a hard time just breathing. That's when you kind of realize. That's disappointing when you're in that situation."
The Cowboys suffered no immediate letdown as Bryant ran back to field a punt over his shoulder at his own 7-yard line, eluded the Giants' Duke Calhoun and easily outran punter Matt Dodge en route to the end zone. It was the Cowboys' longest punt return since 1974.
No matter. The Giants still had the lead before halftime. Manning's second touchdown pass of the half to Nicks, an eight-yarder, got them to within 20-14. They got the ball back and Manning threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Smith for a 21-20 lead. Witten lost a fumble on a play with another replay reversal in the Giants' favor, and kicker Lawrence Tynes provided a 53-yard field goal just after having a 43-yarder nullified by a holding penalty. The Giants had 272 total yards on offense in the first half, to 75 for the Cowboys.
The Giants just kept going in the third quarter when Manningham turned a short pass from Manning into a 25-yard touchdown and Jacobs ran for a 30-yard touchdown.