EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Tony Romo hadn't thrown multiple interceptions in a game since his first meaningful snaps of the season - against the Giants at Texas Stadium back on Oct. 23.
Romo was intercepted three times replacing Drew Bledsoe in the second half of the Cowboys' 36-22 loss. The first-year starter then led Dallas to four wins in their next five games heading into Sunday's showdown with the Giants here at the Meadowlands.
Romo's NFL-best 110.8 quarterback rating took a hit thanks to a pair of first-half interceptions, but he coolly led the Cowboys on two scoring drives in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-20 win over New York.
Romo fired a 42-yard pass to tight end Jason Witten on the Cowboys' final drive, setting up Martin Gramatica's game-winning 46-yard field goal.
"If I've got one drive, I want that guy as my quarterback," Witten said. "That's a bold statement, but I think that's the way I feel because he's so competitive. He wants to win so bad. He's willing to do what it takes.
"That wasn't his best game (Sunday), but he showed a lot of poise doing what he did there in the last couple of drives."
Romo finished 20 of 34 for 257 yards and zero touchdowns for only the second time since taking over as the starter six games ago. His two interceptions contributed heavily to his 58.1 rating Sunday.
But he completed 6 of 9 passes in the fourth quarter, none bigger than his 42-yard strike to Witten.
"I'm always confident when I'm out there," Romo said. "In the fourth quarter you feel like if you're team is in the game, that's what you play this game for."
Wide receiver Terrell Owens has now led or tied for the team lead in catches eight times this season after somewhat quietly hauling in eight passes for 84 yards Sunday.
Owens had three catches on the Cowboys' initial scoring drive in the fourth quarter, which put them ahead 20-13. He caught passes of 11, 11 and 6 yards in the drive's first five plays, leading the Cowboys into Giants territory and eventually setting up Marion Barber's 7-yard touchdown run.
"Obviously, they beat us up pretty bad the first time," Owens said of the Giants' 14-point win the first time around. "We knew there was a lot of emotional around here with all the things that had been going on. We knew we just had to come here and just fight."
Marion Barber's nose for the end zone grows by the week.
Barber scored his 10th and 11th rushing touchdowns of the season and led the Cowboys with 76 yards on a team-high 12 carries (6.3 avg.). Starter Julius Jones rushed 11 times for 24 yards.
Barber's 7-yard touchdown appeared to be the game-winning score with 3:33 remaining, but Giants receiver Plaxico Burress hauled in a 5-yard TD on the ensuing drive.
Right Place, Right Time
Once again, rookie receiver Sam Hurd was in the right place at the right time.
Hurd pounced on Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka's fumbled interception return in the first quarter, preventing favorable field position for New York and stealing back momentum lost by Romo's first-quarter pick that bounced off Terry Glenn's hands.
Hurd also recovered a critical fumble on a kickoff return against Carolina back in Week 8, which led to Julius Jones' touchdown run in the Cowboys' 35-14 victory.
The Cowboys entered Sunday's game with the NFL's second-best efficiency percentage on third down, converting 49 percent of their attempts. They were 6 of 11 on third down against the Giants, and converted three straight attempts on Barber's touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
"Those are the types of things that you need to do in those types of situations," Jones said. "You're away, in a hostile environment."
Safety Keith Davis easily could have lost his cool after taking two cheap shots from Burress in the first half. The second time, Burress was handed a 15-yard personal foul penalty for decking Davis low after the whistle.
"I just tried to keep my poise because I didn't want to give us 15 yards (in penalties)," Davis said.
Davis stayed cool, and the Cowboys finished with seven penalties for 58 yards. The Giants had only two more penalties, but their nine infractions totaled 94 yards.
While it's certainly no secret Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has many fond memories at Giants Stadium, having coached eight years with the Giants and three more with the Jets, he admitted the Cowboys are starting to provide some, too.
Parcells recorded his first win with the Cowboys in 2003 when kicker Billy Cundiff made seven field goals in a 35-32 overtime win on Monday night over New York at Giants Stadium. Sunday's win, thanks to Martin Gramatica's game-winning kick, will also go down as one of his favorites.
"This is a very important place in Bill Parcells' life . . . this stadium here," Parcells said in rare third-person. "Most of the great memories are really centered in this place - the fact that I coached two teams that played here. But the Cowboys are adding to them, with a game like that. With so much on the line for us today, I'm really happy for my guys."
The win ended the Giants' two-game winning streak over the Cowboys at Giants Stadium, where they had beaten the Cowboys six of the previous seven meetings.
*-- Nick Eatman *
The Cowboys certainly helped their chances of winning the NFC East by gaining a two-game lead on the Giants with four to play. But if the Giants can come back to tie the Cowboys, they'll likely win the tiebreaker, which would come down to division record.
The Giants, who suffered their first division loss, are 3-1 in the NFC East with a road game at Washington and a home game against the Eagles forthcoming.
The Cowboys are now 2-3 in the division with only Philadelphia to play at home.
But as long as the Cowboys keep winning, not only can they wrap up a division title, which would be their first since 1998, but possibly a first-round bye in the NFC Playoffs.
Next Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Saints could ultimately decide who gets the second seed in the playoffs behind the Bears, who improved to 10-2 and are expected to earn home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
After Chicago, the Cowboys, Saints and Seahawks all have 8-4 records and are leading their respective divisions.
*-- Nick Eatman *
- Owens recorded his second straight eight-catch game, giving him 69 receptions in 12 games. However, 46 of those passes have come from Romo, who started just his sixth game Sunday.
- Sunday was the first game this season the Cowboys failed to record either a sack or an interception.
- Even though the Cowboys had the ball for just 26:39, they still were able to win their first game of the season without having the time-of-possession advantage.
- Julius Jones has had only 11 carries in each of the last two games, tying his season-low. His 24 rushing yards Sunday against the Giants also was his lowest output of the season. Jones has 877 rushing yards this year, and now needs 123 yards in the final four games to record the first 1,000-yard season of his career.
- Tiki Barber's 90 yards rushing gives him the two highest rushing performances against the Cowboys this season. Barber remains the only running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards against the Cowboys, going for 114 in the first meeting on Oct. 23. The Giants, with 126 yards rushing, now own half of the four 100-yard rushing performances against the Cowboys defense this year.
Will Demps' interception of Tony Romo was the first by a Giants defensive back since the first meeting with the Cowboys . . . Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress tied tight end Jeremy Shockey for the team lead with six catches, but he didn't catch his first pass until there was 13:39 left in the third quarter. In fact, Eli Manning didn't complete a pass to a wide receiver until there was 5:26 left in the first half . . . Inactives for the Cowboys included running back Skyler Green, cornerback Nate Jones, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley, defensive end Stephen Bowen, offensive tackle Pat McQuistan and guards Joe Berger, Travis Leffew and Cory Procter.