ARLINGTON, Texas — Lawrence Tynes
sent home the largest regular-season crowd in NFL history muttering
about what might’ve been.
Tynes kicked a 37-yard field goal as
time expired, giving the New York Giants a 33-31 victory over the
turnover-prone Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night and ruining the debut of
their rival’s $1.15 billion stadium.
A crowd of 105,121 saw the Cowboys
(1-1) go ahead 31-30 on a touchdown run by Felix Jones with 3:40 left.
It was the seventh lead change of a game in which neither team led by
more than six points and it didn’t last.
Eli Manning drove New York 56 yards
in seven plays. He got out of a first-and-20 on his 15 to start it and
converted two third downs, including one on a tipped pass caught by
Mario Manningham. Tynes actually made the winning kick twice; Dallas
called time just before the first one was snapped, so he had to do it
“Well, we just knew we had to go and get in field goal range,” Manning said. “We had enough time, we had timeouts.”
Former President George W. Bush, NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell and fans began filling Cowboys Stadium more
than four hours before kickoff. There were all sorts of ceremonies to
mark the occasion, but the tight game was the biggest treat — well,
until the end, as far as the locals were concerned.
“I think we definitely wanted to win
this one, extra motivation,” Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. “It’s
frustrating. I’m just really, really disappointed in myself right now.”
Other than field goals on their first
and last drives, the Giants’ other 27 points all were set up by
turnovers. New York (2-0) scored three touchdowns off interceptions of
Romo and won despite losing defensive end Justin Tuck to a shoulder
injury and receiver Domenik Hixon to a sprained knee.
Manning was 25 of 38 for 330 yards
with 22-yard touchdowns to Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. Each
caught 10 passes, with Manningham’s covering 150 yards and Smith’s
going for 134. They had to rely on Manning’s arm because Dallas limited
Brandon Jacobs to 58 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw to 37.
On one of the biggest settings of
his career, Romo turned in one of his worst outings. He was 13 of 29
for 127 yards with a touchdown and those three interceptions. The first
was returned for a touchdown, the second was a bit of a fluke (it
bounced up off Jason Witten‘s shoe) and the third a punt-like heave
into double coverage.
It was his fewest yards in a full
game and his passer rating of 29.6 was the second-lowest of his career.
It also was a dramatic reversal from the opener, when Romo showed the
poise and patience he supposedly worked on all offseason and didn’t
have a turnover. Even worse was that it came against a New York
secondary that already was missing two starters to injury before Tuck
got hurt late in the first half.
The Cowboys stayed in it thanks to
their running game. Marion Barber ran for 124 yards and a touchdown and
Jones added 96. Jones also had a fumble of a kickoff that led to a New
York field goal.
“Any time you don’t get any turnovers and the other (team) gets four, it’s hard to overcome,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.
Had Tynes not made the winner, the
Giants’ fans might’ve blamed him for the loss. He’d missed a 29-yarder
early in the third quarter.
Months of hype led up to quite a
pregame scene: Fans streaming in four hours before kickoff, especially
the 30,000 or so who were looking for places to stand; the roof and
end-zone doors sliding open with about 90 minutes to go; an unveiling
of the midfield logo after a cartoon showed the blue star emblem being
transferred from Texas Stadium via outer space. After video clips
comparing this place to the Egyptian Pyramids and the Roman Colosseum,
a flag was unfurled that covered the entire field.
“I suspect we’re going to have an incredible home-field advantage with this place,” Romo said.
Bush and his wife, Laura, handled
the coin toss, then watched from a luxury suite that also included
Goodell, John Madden and Pat Summerall. Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Troy
Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were among those taking part in
a halftime ceremony to unveil the new Ring of Honor.
The crowd was loudest at the very
start, but Manning quieted them by hitting a couple of deep passes on
the way to a 30-yard field goal by Tynes and a 3-0 lead.
Dallas answered with the first
stadium’s first touchdown, a 2-yard run up the middle by Barber. He
celebrated by throwing the ball straight up while on his back and
receiver Roy Williams quickly fetched it. He tried giving Barber the
souvenir, but he wouldn’t take it. An equipment manager put the
souvenir aside anyway.
Cornerback Bruce Johnson put New
York back ahead by intercepting an overthrow to Williams and returning
it 34 yards for a touchdown. Jones’ fumble led to a field goal that
stretched the lead to 13-7.
Romo put Dallas back on top with a
perfect 2-yard throw to Witten between two defenders, then Dallas got
the ball back right after the 2-minute warning. Romo threw a pass
behind Witten that he appeared to knock to the ground. However, replays
clearly showed that it hit Witten’s foot and bounced right into the
hands of safety Kenny Phillips. He’d returned it into the end zone but
because officials initially whistled it dead all they could give New
York was the ball.
Two plays later, Manning threw into
the end zone and Manningham made a terrific juggling catch on his back
to put New York ahead 20-14 with 46 seconds left. Romo managed to move
the Cowboys enough for Nick Folk to hit a 47-yard field goal that made
it 20-17 at the half.