While the last-minute electrifying drive by the Dallas Cowboys rightfully will garner all the headlines during Sunday night’s wild 27-26 win over the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium, what the defense did prior to that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Giants had possession, were nursing a three-point lead and were charging toward making it a two-possession game in the waning moments. But on third-and-1from the Cowboys’ 1-yard line, the Giants tossed a pass — Eli Manning’s attempt was incomplete — stopping the clock with under two minutes left.
The play was inexplicable because the Cowboys were out of timeouts. Even if the Giants had come up short on a run play, it would have eaten up valuable clock time.
But apparently the Giants saw something in the Cowboys’ defensive stance — a la Seattle in similar fashion against New England in the last Super Bowl — and decided to test fate. Nevertheless, like the Seahawks against the Patriots, the Cowboys got new life with a giant faux pas by the Giants.
I thought it was a big win for us. The defense made some critical stops, and we needed them to.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
Following that defensive surge by the Cowboys, a 19-yard field goal by Josh Brown padded the Giants’ lead to 26-20 with 1:37 left. But that was plenty of time for Tony Romo to work his magic.
Even with wide receiver Dez Bryant out with a broken bone in his right foot, Romo marched the Cowboys all the way down the field in dramatic fashion. And his 11-yard scoring strike to tight end Jason Witten gave the Cowboys an improbable one-point lead with only 7 seconds remaining.
The Cowboys controlled the ball for 22:06 of the first half but trailed 13-6 at halftime.
“I thought it was a big win for us,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “The defense made some critical stops, and we needed them to.”
Indeed, this was an uneven game where the Cowboys were fortunate to walk away with a victory.
While the Cowboys’ offense was suspect — until the very end — it did their defense no favors by committing three turnovers that directly led to 17 points by New York.
Tremaine McBride picked up a fumble by Cowboys wide receiver Devin Street and ran it 19 yards to the Cowboys 1. On the ensuing play, Rashad Jennings bolted a yard to put New York ahead 23-13 with 8:01 remaining in the game.
The Cowboys were second in the NFL in takeaways last year with 31. Although the defense failed to pull off any takeaways Sunday, they were nonetheless solid on a night when the offense was in an extremely gift-giving mood.
The Cowboys’ offense did the defense no favors by committing three turnovers that directly led to 17 points by New York.
With 93,579 fans in attendance, the Cowboys improved to 8-0 against the Giants in home openers.
The Cowboys managed to control the ball for 22:06 of the first half’s 30 minutes. But all it got them was a 10-point deficit, thanks to a pair of ugly turnovers in rapid fashion.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned a Cole Beasley fumble 57 yards for a touchdown and a 10-6 lead with just 56 seconds left in the first half. On the very next play, quarterback Tony Romo’s pass was thrown behind Jason Witten, tipped off Witten’s hand and was intercepted by Uani ‘Unga. The turnover led to a 40-yard field goal by Josh Brown that gave the Giants a 13-6 lead with 14 seconds to go.
That defensive stand, along with the sequence at the end of the game, were big keys to Sunday’s victory.
“I thought our defense did an amazing job down there in close,” Garrett said. “To hold them to a field goal in that situation and get us the ball back was pretty remarkable.”