The NFL can sometimes be a game of inches.
That was the distance that stopped the Dallas Cowboys from completing the greatest comeback in franchise history.
Dez Bryant’s 37-yard touchdown catch was overturned after replays showed his hand narrowly hitting out of bounds in the back of the end zone and the New York Giants escaped with a 29-24 victory in front of a frenzied crowd of 94,067 at Cowboys Stadium.
“Dez ran a really good route. Tony made a good throw. Apparently we missed by about an inch or so,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.
Dallas trailed 23-0 in the first half but rallied to take a 24-23 lead late in the third quarter.
Two Lawrence Tynes field goals in the fourth quarter, one from 43 and the other from 37, proved to be the difference. Tynes’ second field goal came after a Felix Jones fumble.
A Stevie Brown interception killed the Cowboys' next drive after Dallas had reached the Giants’ 19 with 1:03 left in the game.
After forcing a punt, the Cowboys got the ball back with 44 seconds left and no timeouts.
They marched to the Giants’ 37 where Romo threw a pass to Bryant, who made a leaping grab but his hand hit first on the backline first before the rest of his body landed inbounds. After a review, the pass was ruled incomplete.
After two more completions to the Giants’ 27, Romo’s last pass sailed out of the end zone to end the game.
“It was reported to me right away what happened, that the hand was out of bounds,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “I must say it’s been a long time since I’ve seen three plays in 10 seconds. That was an incredible thing that happened there. We thought it was over.”
New York, with five field goals by Tynes and Jason Pierre-Paul’s 28-yard interception for a touchdown, improves to 6-2.
“We’re happy to win, no doubt. It was a struggle from the get-go,” Coughlin said. “Every time we come here it’s a nail-biter in some way, shape or form. You can’t describe it. I’m sure there is an awful lot we are going to learn from this.”
Dallas, now 3-4 on the season, committed six turnovers, including four interceptions off Romo, and was never in rhythm on offense in the first half.
“Forty-six guys gave tremendous effort for 60 minutes. We didn’t take care of the football. We put our defense and our team in difficult situations,” Garrett said. “The early turnovers were too difficult to overcome. I thought the effort was unbelievable.”
The Giants took the opening kickoff and drove 57 yards for a field goal. The key play was a third-and-9 conversion when Eli Manning hit Rueben Randle for 56 yards to the Dallas 22. Tynes made a 41-yard field goal to make it 3-0.
Dallas turned the ball over on their first possession when Romo was intercepted by Stevie Brown, who returned the ball 37 yards to the Dallas 27.
The Cowboys held, forcing a Tynes 37-yard field goal to make it 6-0 at the 7:11 mark.
Dallas turned the ball over again on their second possession when Romo was intercepted by Corey Webster, who returned the ball 38 yards to the Cowboys’ 31.
Four plays later, Andre Brown ran 1-yard for a touchdown to make it 13-0 with 3:41 left in the opening quarter. On the Giants drive, DeMarcus Ware was injured but returned later.
After a 44-yard kickoff return by rookie Lance Dunbar, the Cowboys faced a third-and-5 play, but the snap sailed high and wide to Romo’s right. Romo scooped up the ball and threw incomplete forcing Dallas to punt.
The defense forced a three-and-out series.
However, Bryant fumbled the punt and Michael Coe recovered at the Dallas 15.
Two plays later, the first quarter ended with Dallas having three turnovers and trailing 13-0.
On the first play of the second quarter, Martellus Bennett dropped a pass at the 1 on a third-and-3 play.
Tynes came on to make his third field goal, from 23 yards, to make it 16-0 with 14:22 left in the first half.
Three plays after the kickoff, Romo was intercepted a third time. While attempting a swing pass left, Jason Pierre-Paul intercepted the ball and ran 28 yards for a touchdown and a 23-0 lead.
The crowd began to boo Romo the next time he took the field.
“I would have booed us too. We deserved that at that time,” Romo said. “We did not start the game the way we wanted to.”
Dallas finally got on the board on Felix Jones’ 4-yard run to make it 23-6 with 5:22 left in the half.
The defense held and Dallas followed with Dan Bailey’s 51-yard field goal to make it 23-10 at halftime.
“There’s a lot to learn from this game in particularly ball security,” Garrett said. “A couple of those throws, he [Romo] has to make. He’s in charge of the ball. Our turnovers are a team thing.”
Dallas took the second half kickoff and marched 86 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown.
The touchdown came on a fourth-and-goal play at the 1 when Romo rolled right on a bootleg play and ran untouched into the end zone to make it 23-17 at the 9:11 mark of the third quarter.
With momentum on their side, Dallas forced another punt and Romo and company went on another scoring drive.
Dallas drove 59 yards on eight plays when Romo, on another bootleg play, threw a 1-yard touchdown to John Phillips. Dan Bailey’s extra point gave Dallas a 24-23 lead at the 3:43 mark.
“We had to come back from Carolina last week, so we did it there. You just have to make the plays when they’re there,” Romo said.
“The best thing we did in this game was throw it,” Garrett said.
On the Giants’ next possession and facing a third-and-2 play, Manning threw over the middle to Victor Cruz. Gerald Sensabaugh collided with Cruz and the ball popped up in the air. Danny McCray caught the ball off Sensabaugh’s butt at the Dallas 35.
However, Dallas was stalled, keyed by a Chris Canty sack, and had to punt.
The Giants turned the defensive stand into points.
New York drove 60 yards in eight plays with Tynes making a 43-yard field goal to give the Giants a 26-24 lead with 10:20 left in the game.
Dallas fumbled away their next possession and again, New York capitalized.
Tynes made his fifth field goal, from 37 yards, to stretch the Giants’ lead to 29-24 with 3:31 left in the game.
That set the stage for a wild finish.
“It was an inches type thing. Apparently, he [Bryant] was out of bounds,” Garrett said.
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