EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — This one wasn't a Giants-sized gift. Tony Romo and the embattled Dallas Cowboys took this pivotal game and all but buried New York's slim hopes of making the playoff.
Romo threw two touchdown passes and led a 14-play drive that set up Dan Bailey's 35-yard field goal on the final play as the Cowboys won 24-21 Sunday, ending the Giants' four-game winning streak and denying them a place in NFL history.
"I thought it was a great drive," coach Jason Garrett said after the Cowboys (6-5) moved into a first-place tie with idle Philadelphia in the NFC East with five games left. "That's really when you separate yourself as a quarterback, as an offensive team, as a team in general."
Romo was 6 of 9 passing for 67 yards, including two crucial third-down throws, on the winning drive that covered the final 4:45. It came right after New York (4-7) tied the game on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Louis Murphy Jr., and a 2-point conversion run by Andre Brown, who rushed for 127 yards.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant, who kept the drive alive with a 19-yard catch on third-and-7 from the Dallas 23, said Romo had one message entering the final huddle.
"We're about to do down there and score this touchdown and win," Bryant recalled Romo saying.
It was about the only mistake Romo made in the closing minutes. However, a field goal was just as good.
"Everyone understood how important the game was for both teams," said Romo, who finished 23 of 38 for 250 yards. "They won four in a row to put themselves back into position. They had a home game. I could tell by their words leading up to it that they were confident. That's what makes the game great. It was a big buildup, but we understood that the game was going to be played on Sunday."
Romo said his only thoughts on the final drive were scoring.
"You've got to go get a field goal or touchdown and win the game," he said. "You either feel comfortable in those situations or you don't. I've been in that situation the past three or four weeks. You just have to go out and do it."
Romo did it, and it left the Giants wondering about what they gave away in two losses to Dallas.
"This is tough," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, whose roughing the passer penalty set up one of Romo's TD passes to Jason Witten. "This is the NFL and all the teams are pretty evenly matched. Obviously we have our work cut out, but until we are mathematically eliminated, we're not going to pull off the gas at all."
Eleven of the 16 teams in the NFC have better records than the Giants, so their chances of making the postseason are dim.