In 2006, Tony Romo’s first season as the starting quarterback, the Cowboys’ franchise had been rejuvenated with a shot at making the playoffs finally at stake.
But the Giants stood in the way in an early-December meeting up in the Meadowlands. The Cowboys held a one-game lead on the Giants, who were both chasing the Eagles in the NFC East standings.
The Cowboys were rolling on offense and defense but special teams was an issue as the club had to waive struggling kicker Mike Vanderjagt. Veteran Martin Gramatica was signed but the Cowboys never realized he would be called upon to be the hero in his first game.
A back-and-forth struggle took place at Giants Stadium but Marion Barber powered the Cowboys into the lead with a 7-yard touchdown run with 3:33 to play for his second score of the game. The Cowboys led 20-13 but saw Eli Manning march his offense down the field for a game-tying touchdown when he connected with Plaxico Burress with 1:07 remaining.
But that was still plenty of time for Romo, who found his trusted tight end Jason Witten for a 42-yard gain down the middle of the field to get the Cowboys in position to win the game. All Gramatica had to do was hit the field goal from 42 yards out.
At this point, nothing was a sure thing for the Cowboys, who had thought they were erasing their kicking problems by signing Vanderjagt before the season started, considering he was once the NFL’s most accurate kicker of all time. But he had already missed five field goals, including two in a game against the Colts, his former team. That prompted Bill Parcells to make the switch to Gramatica, who had the entire Cowboys Nation on his side as he attempted to win the game in his Cowboys debut.
He had already made two of three attempts in the game, but this 46-yard attempt sailed right through the uprights with one second remaining, giving the Cowboys a much-needed victory to improve to 8-4 on the season. They would finish 10-6 and earn their first playoff berth since 2003.