Dallas’ Terrell Owens (81) tries to get around New York’s R.W. McQuarters (25), right, and Sam Madison (22) after a reception during the second quarter.AP Photo
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In an NFC where nobody stands out, the Dallas Cowboys are beginning to pass for a dominant team.
Newly-signed kicker Martin Gramatica booted 46-yard field goal with 1 second left to give the Cowboys a 23-20 win over the New York Giants and a two-game lead in the NFC East. Gramatica’s winning kick went straight through the uprights with plenty of power, more than making up for his wide-right miss from 44 yards to end the Cowboys’ opening drive.
The winning score was set up by a 42-yard pass by Tony Romo to Jason Witten and came just over a minute after the Giants had tied the game at 20-all on a 5-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress.
Gramatica, who also kicked field goals of 41 and 35 yards, was signed last week after the Cowboys cut Mike Vanderjagt. But being the new guy didn’t keep Gramatica from bursting into one of his trademark wild celebrations: The diminutive kicker leaped into the arms of his teammates, while coach Bill Parcells broke into a wide smile on the sidelines as the ball sailed through.
“For a guy who hadn’t been kicking with regularity, it was a difficult thing to do,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said of the winning kick.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Giants (6-6) and the fourth win in five games for Dallas (8-4) since Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at quarterback at halftime of a 36-22 loss to New York on Oct. 23. He finished 20-of-34 for 257 yards with two interceptions.
There were three scores in the final 3:33.
First, Marion Barber III scored on a 1-yard run. Then Eli Manning drove the Giants 63 yards for the tying score on the pass to Burress.
But Romo hit Witten on the first play after the kickoff with a strong throw to take the Cowboys to the Giants 26.
The Giants took an early 7-0 lead on their first possession, driving 66 yards on 10 plays with Manning hitting Jeremy Shockey on a 17-yard pass for the score. But they couldn’t score a touchdown again until the fourth quarter although they had first downs at the Dallas four twice in the second half and had to settle for field goals.
Dallas tied it at 7-all on Barber’s first plunge, which was set up by bizarre sequence: Matthias Kiwanuka picked off a Romo pass and returned it 12 yards before he was stripped of the ball and Sam Hurd recovered for the Cowboys.
It was the second game in a row that the rookie started to make a big play that turned into a mistake — last week he had Tennessee’s Vince Young in his arms for what could have been a game-winning sack but released him because he thought Young had released the ball. Young then scampered for a first town and Tennessee went on to win.
On Sunday, the key sequence came just before the half.
With a fourth-and-short and 1:30 left, the Giants went for it, running short yardage specialist Brandon Jacobs outside, where he was stopped for a 3-yard loss. Romo then drove the Cowboys down the field for a 41-yard field goal by Gramatica.
In the second half, Gramatica and Jay Feely alternated field goals — the Giants kept getting closer than the Cowboys but couldn’t score a touchdown. Manning, who had been slumping lately, was 24-of-36 for 270 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.