If the surging New York Giants were to have any chance of becoming the first NFL team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium when the Big Game is held here in two months, they knew this was a game they had to have.
Trailing by 15 points midway through the third quarter and playing lifelessly, it seemed the Giants were doomed.
But the Dallas Cowboys let a reeling team get off the mat as Eli Manning brought the Giants back to life with a pair of touchdown passes.
But Manning never saw the ball again.
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Tony Romo and the offense answered the call. Three times Romo converted third downs — twice to Dez Bryant — running the clock down to four seconds before Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal gave the Cowboys a 24-21 victory.
Playing under blustery conditions, Manning found it difficult to maintain a rhythm, throwing for just 95 yards in the first half while the Cowboys built a 14-6 lead. Not until the margin had ballooned to 21-6 on Romo’s second touchdown pass of the day to Jason Witten did Manning find his groove.
Manning drove New York 67 yards in six plays to make it a one-score game. Brandon Myers’ 27-yard TD catch finished it off when two Cowboys watched Myers get off the ground after the catch and run into the end zone to cut it to 21-13.
Then Manning finished a 58-yard drive by throwing a pass to Louis Murphy in the corner of the end zone from the Dallas 4. Andre Brown’s run for the 2-point conversion tied the game at 21-21.
Two years ago, the NFC East was decided in the same stadium between these same two teams.
So why couldn’t it happen again?
Romo, Bryant and the rest made sure it didn’t.
As a result, this 2013 Giants fairy-tale comeback of a season from an 0-6 start likely won’t have a happy ending.