At first glance in what is supposed to be a super season, the Dallas Cowboys saved the best for last.
And fittingly, it was the oldest tenured members of the Cowboys who clinched the miraculous victory.
Thirty-five-year-old quarterback Tony Romo tossed touchdown passes of 1 and 11 yards to tight end Jason Witten, who is 33, to rally the Cowboys from a 10-point deficit in the final five minutes.
It was the 11-yarder with 7 seconds left that provided a 27-26 victory against the New York Giants, sending the Cowboys and their 93,579 fans at AT&T Stadium into delirium.
“We’re, of course, elated,” owner Jerry Jones said. “It seemed like we couldn’t think of enough ways to lose that game and then to have the fortitude and have just the will to come back and win that game by some of our key players was very special.
“It just seemed like we couldn’t make enough mistakes to lose the game. To everyone’s credit, and it was I think the kind of win that can build, even though we’ve got a lot to work on, can build the team.”
We’re, of course, elated. It seemed like we couldn’t think of enough ways to lose that game and ... to come back and win that game by some of our key players was very special.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
Said coach Jason Garrett, “It was a great example of the relentless spirit and mental toughness of our team and continuing to play. The offense did an unbelievable job at the end of the game. It was far from a perfect game. We made a couple of critical mistakes. But it was obviously a big win for us.”
The Cowboys suffered two huge setbacks in the game. Wide receiver Dez Bryant will undergo surgery this week after fracturing a bone in his right foot and could be out four to six weeks. Rookie defensive end Randy Gregory suffered a high right ankle sprain, which generally takes four to six weeks of recovery.
For now the Cowboys are just happy to be 1-0.
It was Romo’s franchise-record 24th comeback victory in the fourth quarter or overtime, while giving the Cowboys a fifth straight victory against the Giants and sixth in the past seven meetings.
It also upped their record to 8-0 all-time against the Giants in season openers.
8-0Cowboys’ record against Giants in season openers
It was the unlikeliest in the streak, considering the Giants scored 17 points off three Cowboys turnovers, a 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and two Romo interceptions, to take a 23-13 lead with 8:09 left.
Even after Romo connected with Witten on the 1-yard score to narrow the lead to 23-20, the Giants made it 26-20 on a field goal with1:34 left.
Of course, that only set up the great finale, as Romo led the Cowboys 72 yards on six plays. He completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive, including throws of 24 and 16 yards to former Haltom and North Texas star Lance Dunbar to get things started.
The clincher to Witten came after Romo dropped a snap from center Travis Frederick.
Witten had eight catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
“We gave them the ball too many times,” Romo said. “Some random things we are not accustomed to doing. When we give them points, it’s hard to overcome. It was not us.
“But in the fourth quarter, we turned back into what we think we can be.
Romo, who completed 36 of 45 passes for 356 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, completed 11 of 12 passes on the final two touchdown drives.
“He has great poise and great understanding what he wants do,” Garrett said. “His patience is outstanding. His command is outstanding. Making the play and not making the bad play. There’s lots of confidence in that huddle and it starts with the quarterback.”
Credit the Cowboys’ defense holding the Giants to a field goal on the drive to set up the game-winning score. The Giants drove 79 yards after Witten’s first touchdown and had a first-and-goal at the 4.
But three plays later they had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from kicker Josh Brown, allowing Romo to work his final wonder.
When we give them points, it’s hard to overcome. It was not us. But in the fourth quarter, we turned back into what we think we can be.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo
The Cowboys dominated the majority of the first half, but found themselves trailing 13-6 at halftime because of red-zone miscues and two costly turnovers in the final two minutes.
The first was a fumble by receiver Cole Beasley that Rodgers-Cromartie returned for a touchdown.
The second was an interception off Romo on the first play of the next series. He threw an errant pass behind Witten, who tipped it into the hands of linebacker Uani Unga.
After the Cowboys narrowed the score to 16-13, disaster struck again. A pass to Devin Street, who was in for the injured Bryant, popped into the air after he was hit by Brandon Meriweather. It was picked off by cornerback Trumaine McBride, who returned to the 1-yard line, setting up a Rashad Jennings score to make it 23-13.
Joseph Randle had 16 carries for 65 yards and three catches for 42 yards in his first start in place of the departed DeMarco Murray. Dunbar had eight catches for 70 yards, while Darren McFadden had six carries for 16 yards.