Jerry Jones refused to say so, but the Dallas Cowboys’ season was on the line on Sunday. A loss would have allowed the Giants to tie the Cowboys in the standings and given the Eagles a one-game lead in the division.
Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal as time expired gave the Cowboys a 24-21 win over the New York Giants.
The team did not look great in the first half but managed to take a 14-6 halftime lead. A 65-yard drive early in the third quarter ended with a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten to give Dallas a 21-6 lead.
Up to that point, the Giants had moved the ball but could not punch it into end zone. On the drive before the Cowboys’ touchdown in the third quarter, the Giants had failed convert a 4th-and-6 play in Dallas territory.
The Cowboys could have buried the Giants on New York’s drive after the Dallas score. The Giants had the ball on the Dallas 27 but faced a 4th-and-3.
Eli Manning looped a pass to tight end Brandon Myers, who had only one score all season. Myers caught the pass near the 10 and fell down. The NFL rules are pretty clear that a defender needs to touch a downed runner, but neither Bruce Carter nor Jeff Heath bothered to look at Myers, who got up and ran in to complete a 27-yard touchdown. New York cut the Dallas lead to 21-13.
The Cowboys only managed a total of 57 yards on the next three drives. On one of those drives, Dez Bryant caught a pass that would have been a five-yard gain, but Bryant fumbled the ball, which rolled 20 yards in the other direction.
Yes, these are the stupid ways the Cowboys lose games.
The Dallas defense forced two punts, but the Giants managed a drive midway through the fourth quarter. Manning hit Victor Cruz on a 22-yard pass to convert a 3rd-and-5 play, and Manning found Louis Murphy for a 4-yard touchdown. Andre Brown ran the ball in on a two-point attempt to tie the game.
With the game and the season on the line, Dallas took over on its own 20. At that point, a few Cowboys redeemed themselves.
With the Cowboys facing a 3rd-and-7 from the Dallas 23, Bryant made a clutch catch for a 19-yard gain, giving Dallas another set of downs. Bryant later caught an 8-yard pass on a 3rd-and-5 play.
Miles Austin had not caught a pass since September, and he dropped an easy pass on the last drive. However, on the next play, he caught a 17-yarder over the middle to move the ball into field-goal range.
Bryant appeared to catch a pass that would have put the ball inside the 10, but the referees ruled he did not maintain possession. On the next play, though, Romo hit Cole Beasley, who was able to move down to the New York 15.
Two plays later, Dan Bailey nailed a 35-yard field goal to give Dallas a 24-21 win.
Dallas is now 6-5 and 4-0 in the NFC East. Dallas faces Oakland and Washington in the next two games.
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Fun with church signs:
The win will allow Cowboys fans to forget the whiff by Carter and Heath that allowed the Giants to score.
In the first quarter, Heath made a heads-up play, snagging Cruz fumble out of the air and returning it 50 yards for a touchdown. His touchdown makes it a bit easier to forgive him for the mistake on the Myers score.
That was still dumb a play, though.
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The Cowboys continue to have hamstring problems. Miles Austin and Morris Claiborne returned from hamstring injuries, but Claiborne could not finish the game because he hurt his again.
Dallas also lost returner and receiver Dwayne Harris to a hamstring, and the team had to play without linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant because of hamstring injuries.