Cowboys 16, Giants 13
-- A day of gritty but inelegant football at Texas Stadium ended with the Dallas Cowboys taking over first place in the bunched-up NFC East. The Cowboys stymied quarterback Eli Manning and bottled up the New York Giants' powerful offense for most of the afternoon before surrendering a tying touchdown in the final seconds of regulation, but kicker Jose Cortez made a 45-yard field goal less than four minutes into overtime for a 16-13 triumph.
A week after giving a performance as crisp as they come in a lopsided victory here over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys (4-2) survived on a day when each team lost three fumbles and threw an interception.
"You don't get to win many of them doing those things," Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells said. "We have to consider ourselves pretty fortunate to win that one."
The Giants (3-2) fell into a second-place tie with the Washington Redskins and the idle Eagles in an NFC East race that has become highly competitive this season after four straight division titles by Philadelphia.
"This definitely hurts," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said. "I definitely feel like we should have won the game."
The Giants were kicking themselves for failing to capitalize on three first-half turnovers. The Giants managed a pair of field goals by kicker Jay Feely, and the Cowboys put together one solid drive in the second quarter to take a 7-6 lead into halftime. Dallas increased its advantage to 13-6 on a pair of short fourth-quarter field goals by Cortez and seemed to wrap up the game when Giants rookie tailback Brandon Jacobs lost a fumble at the Cowboys 1-yard line with just over a minute to play.
The Cowboys couldn't get a first down and had to punt, and Manning and the Giants got the ball back at their 48 with 52 seconds left in regulation. It took them two plays and 33 seconds to tie the score, as Manning connected with wide receiver Plaxico Burress for a 28-yard gain and with tight end Jeremy Shockey for a 24-yard touchdown with 19 seconds to go.
On the Cowboys' sideline, there was wariness that the club might be on its way to duplicating its late-game folding act in a home loss to the Redskins in the second week of the season.
"It was kind of the same situation," defensive end Greg Ellis said. "It was like, man, you feel like you're doing good, and they get that at the end. You do get a feeling like it's the same thing. I'm glad we won the coin toss."
The Cowboys got the ball first in overtime and ended the game without surrendering possession. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe found tight end Jason Witten for a 26-yard completion that moved Dallas into field goal range, and Cortez came through with his third field goal of the game after two earlier misses.
"That's a big steppingstone for us," Cowboys safety Roy Williams said. "It helps our confidence. Our defense is playing real well, and our offense came through when it had to. It's a great win. It's something we can build on."
Bledsoe completed 26 of 37 passes for 312 yards for a Dallas offense that was without tailback Julius Jones, who was sidelined by an ankle injury suffered during the win over the Eagles. A week after having a sideline spat with Bledsoe, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson had eight catches for 120 yards. It was the first 100-yard receiving game of the season for Johnson, who also reached 700 career receptions.
The Giants were the league's highest-scoring team entering the game, and Manning was coming off back-to-back big outings before the club's bye week. But he had moments Sunday that reminded observers he's a quarterback with less than a full season of NFL starting experience, and he completed 14 of 30 throws for 215 yards.
"We couldn't get anything going," Manning said. "We couldn't get in a rhythm. We couldn't convert any third downs. We couldn't take advantage of any opportunities. We'd make mental mistakes, either by me or someone else. You can't beat a good team like that."
The Giants recovered a fumbled snap by Bledsoe and took a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter on Feely's 50-yard field goal. Johnson's second-quarter fumble -- without the sideline theatrics this time -- set up a 45-yarder by Feely that made it 6-0. The Cowboys responded by capping a 16-play, 83-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe to Witten.
Cortez had a 49-yard field goal try blocked as time expired in the first half and yanked a 48-yarder wide left in the third quarter. But the Cowboys stayed in front thanks to their defense. Manning, looking for Burress, threw a third-quarter pass into the chest of Dallas cornerback Anthony Henry on third down from the Cowboys 13 for an interception. Burress lost a fumble on the Giants' next drive, and Manning lost a fumble on a sack on a fourth-quarter play from the Cowboys 21.
"Some games are just like that," Burress said. "Not every game are you going to come out and sling the ball around. We shot ourselves in the foot a few times."
Still, the Giants didn't wilt when facing a 13-6 deficit after field goals of 29 and 28 yards by Cortez. Jacobs seemed on his way toward bulling his way into the end zone for a tying touchdown when Williams knocked the ball loose, then fell on the fumble with 1 minute 18 seconds left. Dallas took 26 seconds off the clock, leaving the Giants time to get even before the coin toss, but one solid drive in overtime by the Cowboys left them and their fans savoring their first-place status.
"I think it's going to be a competitive division," Parcells said. "The sides are pretty even. Like I said last week, I don't think that's reflective of what Philadelphia is. They have been better than that, and I look for them to come back. I think the Giants are going to be a pretty competitive team. They have weapons. We will have our hands full."