Dallas hasn’t lost both regular season games to the Giants since 2001 and the defense once again stepped up large as the Cowboys defeated New York tonight for the last time at Texas Stadium, 20-8 in front of a nationally televised audience on NBC.
DeMarcus Ware upped his league leading sack total to 19 with three tonight against Eli Manning and the Cowboys managed to sack him a total of eight times for the evening. If he wasn’t sacked, he was rushed, hit and otherwise harassed by the Cowboys’ front three. Jay Ratliff continued his strong play as he and the rest of the defense stopped the Giants running game holding them to only 72 yards on the ground. Manning was also picked off twice by Terrence Newman, the second time icing the game with under a minute left on a hail mary throw by Manning to Domenik Hixon. Newman kept the tandem silent for most of the night and jumped a route early in the second quarter for his first interception.
While Romo was a little more effective tonight, he himself was sacked four times by the Giants defenders, and otherwise hit and rushed almost every play. Even the first touchdown throw to Patrick Crayton came while he was scrambling an almost past the line of scrimmage. The play held up to review and gave Dallas a 7-0 lead just a minute or so into the second quarter. He was tackled just after throwing a pass earlier in the game and suffered a lower back contusion that obviously caused him discomfort for the rest of the night.
The Giants were limited offensively by the loss of RB Brandon Jacobs and WR Plaxico Burress, but the offenses biggest problem was the Cowboys defense, which has really improved its play the last four or five games. They were only able to get two John Karney FG’s and a safety for scores. The safety in the fourth quarter was due to an early snap by C Andre Gurode that caught Romo and the offensive line off guard and allowed two Giatns’ defenders an open shot on Romo. He fumbled the ball but managed to knock it out of the back of the endzone for the safety before the Giants’ Justin Tuck could recover it for a touchdown.
While Marion Barber seemed to not quite be up to 100% health, he did get a crucial first down for the team late in the game that almost sealed the win. But the true story of the night was the effort of rookie RB Tashard Choice, who had a good game against the Steelers last week in relief of the injure Barber. Choice started making some good runs off of play action and the draw, but also caught several passes and turned them into big gains. Of course the 38-yard scamper up the middle with just over two minutes remaining effectively closed the door on the Giants, making it a 20-8 lead and no timeouts left for the Giants. He finished his night with 91-yards on just 9 carries and the one touchdown.
Jason Witten was again the main target for Romo although they failed to connect on about half of the passes. Patrick Crayton actually led the team in receiving this game with only two catches for 49-yards and a touchdown. Terrell Owens was mercilessly booed by the fans when he was introduced at the first of the game and again shortly after on a dropped pass during Dallas’ first possession. But after the game, all three, Witten, Owens and Romo were interviewed and laughed off the notion of any problems between them. Romo even made a facecious joke about it all being a part of the gameplan.
The win now puts the Cowboys in the 5 seed for the NFC Playoffs ahead of Atlanta and Tampa Bay would be out with the same 9-5 record. But there are still two games to be played, one of them next week against Baltimore for the last home game in Texas Stadium. Dallas really needs to win that one to essentially clinch a playoff spot and do so at home. That would just be too good to believe, so let’s just hope and pray it happens.