IRVING, Texas - Going into the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, neither team's Pro Bowl tight end had made much of an impression.
At the time, Jason Witten had four catches for 30 yards and the Cowboys' only touchdown, while the Giants' Jeremy Shockey had only one catch for 14 yards.
That all changed late in the game. Shockey picked up 115 yards on four catches in the fourth quarter, including a touchdown to tie the game at 13-13, while Witten caught a 26-yard pass in overtime that set up Jose Cortez' 45-yard field goal that gave the Cowboys a 16-13 win.
Witten finished with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Shockey's most important plays were on New York's last two drives. Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed a 14-yard pass to Shockey, who was crossing over the middle, on a fourth-and-14 at the Cowboys 26-yard line. Safety Roy Williams failed to pick up Shockey, who was eventually tripped up by safety Willie Pile.
The Giants tried the same play again on their last drive of the game, finding Shockey on a crossing pattern for a 24-yard touchdown, a completion Pile blamed on lack of communication from the defense.
Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells agreed.
"We had a mental error right there at the end of the game," Parcells said. "One of those where not everybody got the call. You know that is what they always say when they come to the sidelines. I wish I had one of those . . . 'I didn't know there was a game today.'"
Shockey finished the game with five catches for 129 yards and one touchdown to lead all New York receivers.
Witten, for his part, had a 2-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. He caught three other passes for 28 yards during regulation, and only one was for a first down.
But in overtime, Witten caught the key pass on a 51-yard drive that led to the winning field goal. Bledsoe's 26-yard pass to Witten on the left sideline got the Cowboys to the Giants' 28-yard line - and comfortably into field-goal range.
And when the Cowboys lost six yards on the next three plays, the margin of error created by Witten's catch came into play.
"I think we just kind of had a mindset that we were going to take over a little bit," Witten said. "And we did a good job converting every opportunity we had."
Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams suffered a right knee injury that took him out of the game in the second half. The eighth-year player is scheduled to have an MRI Monday on the knee, which was injured when running back Anthony Thomas fell on it trying to scamper up the middle.
But even before the injury, Adams was having difficulty containing the Giants' offensive line. He went down early in the first quarter, and when he returned later in the drive, he let Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora get past him to tackle Thomas in the backfield.
He missed another block on the next drive, this time on defensive end Michael Strahan, who sacked Bledsoe for an eight-yard loss. He also was flagged for a false start in the third quarter and was among those beaten by defensive end Justin Tuck on the blocked field goal at the end of the first half.
Adams, who was replaced by Torrin Tucker after his injury, wasn't the only Cowboys lineman that struggled. The entire line had a rough day, giving up three sacks on Bledsoe and struggling to give the veteran time to throw.
"What about it?" Parcells responded when asked about the performance of the offensive line.
But when asked if they were the ones causing all the problems on offense, Parcells bristled.
"I'm not saying all that," he said. "They aren't fumbling the ball. They had a couple penalties. I mean, it was not great."
One of those penalties cost the Cowboys a touchdown, when center Al Johnson took a holding call that nullified a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten. Johnson also short-armed the snap on an early fumble and took another holding penalty early in the game.
The Cowboys had hoped their 2005 draft picks would make an immediate impact in the NFL, and four of those picks played key roles against the Giants.
First-round pick DeMarcus Ware registered a sack for the fourth straight game, the longest streak by a Cowboys player since 1992, when Jim Jeffcoat had five consecutive games with a sack. Fellow first-round pick Marcus Spears didn't have a tackle in the game but was once again used at fullback in the second quarter when the Cowboys were on the goal line.
Another defensive rookie, fourth-round pick Chris Canty, spent a lot of time in Greg Ellis' usual role at right defensive end and picked up two tackles. And Marion Barber, another fourth-round pick, was solid at running back, gaining 30 yards on 11 attempts and catching two passes for 21 yards.
Henry Solid Again
The off-season signing of Anthony Henry once again paid dividends, as the cornerback led the team with seven tackles and four passes defensed in Sunday's win over the Giants.
Henry is now tied for the team lead in tackles (31) with injured linebacker Dat Nguyen. He leads the team in interceptions and passes defensed.
Henry had an interception early in the third quarter when he stepped in front of a pass intended for Plaxico Burress in the end zone and returned it 43 yards near midfield. He also forced a fumble on the Giants' next drive that was recovered by nose tackle Jason Ferguson.
Sunday's win over the Giants was the 23rd overtime game in club history. The last overtime game came against the Giants in 2003 at Giants Stadium when kicker Billy Cundiff connected on a 25-yard field goal to win the game, 35-32.
This was the first overtime game played at Texas Stadium since Oct. 29, 2000, when the Cowboys lost 23-17 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cowboys hadn't won an overtime game at home since 1984.
The Cowboys now have a 13-10 record in overtime games and are 3-2 against the Giants. Before the 2003 game against the Giants, the Cowboys had lost four straight overtime games dating back to 2000.
- Bledsoe went 26-for-37 for 312 yards with one touchdown and one interception and a quarterback rating of 93.5. This was his second 300-yard game of the season and 30th of his career. His 26 completions were a season high and his best since completing 27 passes against the Eagles in 2003.
- Bledsoe's touchdown pass tied him with Steve Young at 232 for 18th place on the NFL's all-time passing touchdowns list.
- The Giants converted just one third down attempt on 11 tries for a conversion rate of 9.1 percent. That's the best performance on third down by a Cowboys defense since the Eagles went 1-for-15 on third downs in 1998.
- The Cowboys sacked Giants quarterback Eli Manning four times. That's the third time this season the Cowboys have at least four sacks in a game.
- Speaking of sacks, nose tackle La'Roi Glover had his second sack of the season, giving him 70.5 for his career. That ties him for third among active defensive tackles.
- After a week of speculation, both running back Julius Jones (ankle) and linebacker Dat Nguyen (neck) were listed as inactive for Sunday's game against the Giants. Nguyen was replaced in the starting lineup by Scott Shanle while Anthony Thomas started for Jones, but was rotated with Barber and Tyson Thompson. Other notable inactives were defensive end Jay Ratliff and wide receiver Peerless Price.
Sunday's win over the Giants was Parcells' 169th career victory, moving him past Bud Grant into sole possession of 10th place on the NFL's all-time win list . . . Receiver Keyshawn Johnson also hit a career milestone Sunday, making his 700th career catch on a nice grab in the third quarter. Johnson is the 22nd player in NFL history to hit the 700-reception plateau. His 120 receiving yards marked his first 100-yard game of the season.