The 2012 Giants have become a high-wire act in helmets and shoulder pads. You're never sure what you're going to get, but it's virtually guaranteed to thrill.
Twice at home this season, they rebounded from 14-point deficits to win games. Last week, they needed a late 77-yard touchdown pass to defeat Washington.
Sunday in Dallas, they added another chapter to their living-on-the-edge, how-do-they-do-it season in a wild and crazy game. They jumped out to a 23-0 lead, lost it all and trailed by a point in the fourth quarter, regained the advantage, couldn't clinch the game despite intercepting a pass with 1:03 remaining, and in the final moments survived a) a defensive pass interference penalty that was waived off, b) a touchdown that was overturned after a replay review, and c) the Cowboys somehow getting three shots to throw the ball into the end zone in the final 10 seconds.
Did we mention that Tony Romo threw for 437 yards, Jason Witten's 18 receptions were the most ever against the Giants, and three Dallas receivers each had more than 100 yards?
Somehow it all worked out in the Giants' favor and they walked out of Cowboys Stadium with a 29-24 victory. The last two of Lawrence Tynes' five field goals were the only points scored in the fourth quarter.
"That's the way it is in this division," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Every time we come here it's a nail-biter in some way, shape or form. You can't always describe it."
The Giants improved to 6-2 at midseason for the sixth time in Coughlin's nine seasons as head coach and to 4-0 in Cowboys Stadium, which opened in 2009.
"I think we understand that when we're here, we've got to play up and we've got to play big in any circumstance," Manning said. "We understand that. I think just coming here brings the best out of us, and I think that shows every time we are here."
After dominating the game early, the Giants appeared to have lost the game when Dez Bryant got behind the secondary and caught a pass from Romo in the back of the end zone with 10 seconds to play. But while 94,067 fans screamed in delirium and the Giants worried they had suffered an excruciating defeat, the touchdown, like all scoring plays, was reviewed. The replay clearly showed Bryant's hand (his first body part to make contact with the ground) hit the white end line when he landed. No touchdown.
"It was really bad," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said of the wait while referee Scott Green looked at the replay. "After going up 23 to nothing and having them come back like that and win, it was a very bad feeling. But, thankfully, it wasn't in bounds."
"I couldn't quite believe they could get a touchdown in that situation," said quarterback Eli Manning. "I kept looking for the replay to see if he caught the ball. They never showed a replay, so I was thinking it might be a good sign. I heard a few rumors on the sideline that he had a hand out. I was hoping it was true and got the reversal. They still ran three plays in 10 seconds. You knew the game would not be over until the clock said zero."
Stevie Brown, who was defending the Bryant play in the end zone, and Coughlin were confident the call would be overturned.
"When I saw it live on the field, it looked like he came down out of bounds," Brown said. "I was thinking, I was glad it was going to be able to be challenged, because I didn't think he caught it in bounds."
"It was reported down to me right away that that is what happened, that the hand was out of bounds," Coughlin said. "It was just a matter of the official having the necessary time to make that call. But I must say it's been a long time since I've seen three plays in 10 seconds. That was an incredible thing that happened there. We thought it was over."
The last of those plays was a Romo pass that flew far past the end zone. Once it did, the Giants were able to celebrate.
"We scratched and scraped," defensive lineman Chris Canty said. "At the end, we still had to have a little luck to pull that one out."
Tynes tied a career-high by kicking five field goals in five attempts for the second time this season (he also did it at Carolina on Sept. 20).
Andre Brown scored on a one-yard run, and Jason Pierre-Paul returned an interception 28 yards for the Giants' touchdowns.
The Giants had six takeaways – four interceptions, including two by Stevie Brown – and two fumble recoveries (one by Brown).
Dallas scored on touchdown runs of four yards by Felix Jones and one yard by Romo, John Phillips' one-yard scoring reception and Dan Bailey's 51-yard field goal.
After owning a 23-point lead in the first half, the Giants were trailing early in the fourth quarter, 24-23. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the first time the Giants blew a 23-point lead in a regular-season game (in which the opposing team came back to at least tie the game at some point).
"They did some things to get back into the game and make it an instant classic," defensive end Justin Tuck said.
Tynes made sure the note became little more than trivia and not a fact the Giants would lament forever when he put the Giants back in front, 26-24, with his longest field goal of the night, a 43-yarder, with 10:20 remaining.
Before the kick, the Giants drove 60 yards in seven plays following a Dallas punt. The series began with Manning's 29-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks. He later connected with Rueben Randle and Martellus Bennett for 12 yards apiece. But a pass to Domenik Hixon gained just three yards on third-and-five and Tynes came on to kick the field goal.
"You've just got to go out there and do your job," Tynes said. "Those points were obviously big and we knew it. However we can win, we don't care."
On Dallas' next possession, Brown recovered Jones' fumble at the Cowboy's 45-yard line. That led to Tynes' 37-yard field goal and a five-point lead, which forced Dallas to try to score a touchdown instead of a potential game-winning field goal – which they almost did.
"They were both big kicks," Tynes said. "We knew it when we went out there. We executed. We did a good job on the snap and hold and protection. That's why we are here. We're here to play in these big games and make big kicks. I feel like we helped our team today."
Dallas drove from its own 22 to the Giants' 19 on its next possession, but on fourth-and-one Romo's pass was intercepted on the right sideline by Stevie Brown at the Giants' 17. The Giants needed only one first down to clinch the victory, but three Ahmad Bradshaw runs came up inches short. Steve Weatherford punted and the Cowboys took over at their 30 to set up the wild ending.
"We let them come back in the game and we shouldn't have," Umenyiora said. "But at the end of the game, we win the game and that's pretty much all I can say."
The third quarter began with the Cowboys continuing the surge that began late in the second period. They took the second-half kickoff, traveled 86 yards in 11 plays and scored on Romo's one-yard bootleg around right end on fourth down. That pulled Dallas to within 23-17 with 9:16 remaining in the third.
The series began with a 20-yard pass interference penalty called on Prince Amukamara. Two plays later, Romo and Bryant hooked up for a 28-yard gain down the left sideline. Later in the drive, Miles Austin's 15-yard catch gave the Cowboys a first-and-goal at the one. Phillip Tanner was stopped twice for no gain and Romo's pass for James Hanna sailed out of the end zone, setting up a fourth down. Dallas coach Jason Garrett elected to go for it and the decision paid off when Romo raced around right end for the touchdown that cut the Cowboys' deficit to six.
Dallas took its first lead 5½ minutes later on Phillips' touchdown catch. On second-and-goal, Romo faked a handoff and moved his right. When Pierre-Paul pursued the quarterback, Phillips was left all alone. Romo then flipped the ball to the tight end for the touchdown.
The score capped an eight-play, 59-yard drive following a Giants punt. Romo completed passes to Austin for 25 yards and 14 yards to Witten, the latter which advanced the ball to the one-yard line. Phillips scored two plays later.
The Giants took advantage of four takeaways – three interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) and a fumble recovery – in a span of five Dallas possessions to take a 23-0 lead early in the second quarter.
They began stealing the ball after Tynes' 41-yard field goal on the game's first series. Less than three minutes later, Stevie Brown picked off a Romo pass for Bryant in the center of the field and returned it 37 yards to the Cowboys' 27-yard line.
Manning's pass to Bennett gained six yards on first down, but when Bradshaw was stopped for no gain on third-and-two, Tynes came on to kick his second field goal, a 37-yarder, for a 6-0 lead.
Three plays later, the Giants again took the ball away, this time on Corey Webster's interception of a Romo pass down the right sideline that was intended for Austin. Webster returned the ball 38 yards to the Dallas 31.
The Giants took full advantage of this takeaway when Brown scored their first touchdown on a one-yard run around left end to complete a four-play drive.
The score was set up by a pair of 12-yard plays, Manning's throw to Bennett and Bradshaw's run, the latter of which was followed by a six-yard carry to the one. Brown scored on the next play.
The teams then traded punts, an exchange that worked to the Giants' advantage when Zak DeOssie forced Bryant to fumble and Michael Coe recovered the ball at the Cowboys' 15-yard line.
But the Giants couldn't fully capitalize, even with the five yards they got when DeMarcus Ware was penalized for being offside. That gave the Giants a third-and-three at the eight, but Bennett couldn't hold Manning's pass at the one. Tynes came on to kick his third field goal, a 26-yarder, and the Giants led, 16-0, 38 seconds into the second quarter.
Just 1:17 later, it was 23-0, thanks to another great play by Pierre-Paul. On a second-and-seven, Romo threw to the left side for Felix Jones. Pierre-Paul raised his arms, snatched the ball out of the air and ran 28 yards untouched to the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.
It was the Giants' second 23-0 lead of the season and both of them were on the road; they also led by that margin at Carolina on Sept. 20.
"I was supposed to rush on that play," JPP said. "I was kind of patient on my rush. It looked like he was going to throw it that way. So I just jumped up and caught the ball, and ran it for a touchdown."
The 2011 Pro Bowler celebrated his score by spiking the ball over the goal post.
Pierre-Paul was the first Giants defensive lineman with an interception since Dec. 3, 2006, when Mathias Kiwanuka, then a defensive end, picked one off against Dallas.
JPP scored the Giants' first defensive touchdown since Michael Boley recovered a fumble and returned it 65 yards vs. St. Louis on Sept. 19, 2011. It was the team's first interception return for a touchdown since Dec. 21, 2009, when Terrell Thomas brought one back 14 yards at Washington. And it was the first score by a Giants defensive lineman since Osi Umenyiora scored on a 37-yard fumble return vs. the Redskins on Sept. 13, 2009.
The Giants also gave the ball up once in the half, but Bradshaw's fumble resulted in no points when Dallas was forced to punt.
Jones scored the Cowboys' first points on a four-yard touchdown run up the middle with 5:22 remaining in the second quarter. The scored capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive that included a 24-yard pass to Austin and, two plays later, a 20-yarder to Witten that advanced the ball to the four-yard line. After an incompletion, Jones scored on second down.
The Giants punted on their next possession and on Dallas' second play, Romo threw deep down the left side for Bryant, who stood uncovered at the Giants' 43-yard line. Bryant carried the ball to the 24 for a 55-yard gain. Two plays later, Pierre-Paul sacked Romo for a nine-yard loss. After Romo failed to connect with Bryant, Bailey came on to kick a 51-yard field goal with 58 seconds left, cutting the Giants' halftime lead to 23-10.