East Rutherford, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - Tony Romo engineered a late scoring drive culminating in Dan Bailey's 34-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Dallas Cowboys to a 24-21 victory over the New York Giants in a key NFC East clash at a chilly MetLife Stadium.
Romo threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jason Witten earlier in the contest and finished with 250 yards and an interception on a 23-of-38 completion rate. His best work, however, came after taking over at his own 20 with 4:45 left to play and the Giants having scored 15 straight points to forge a 21-21 tie.
Dez Bryant came up with three catches on the deciding series as part of a 9- reception, 102-yard effort, while safety Jeff Heath returned a fumble for a touchdown to help move Dallas (6-5) into a first-place tie with Philadelphia in the NFC East and complete a season sweep of its division rival.
"Everyone understood how important the game was for both teams," said Romo. '[The Giants] had won four in a row to put themselves back into position. They had a home game. I could tell by their words leading up to it that they were confident. That's what makes the game great."
Eli Manning put up two touchdown passes of his own to rally New York (4-7) back from a 21-6 third-quarter deficit, but his team's defense couldn't hold down the stretch and the Giants saw their four-game win streak come to an end.
Andre Brown amassed 127 yards on 21 carries for New York, while Manning totaled 174 yards on 16-of-30 passing.
Witten's second touchdown of the day, a 2-yard grab midway through the third quarter, had the Cowboys seemingly in control with a 21-6 lead. Dallas' offense sputtered thereafter, however, with three straight drives ending in punts as the Giants stormed back.
Manning's 4-yard delivery to Louis Murphy pulled New York within 21-19 with 4:45 left, and Brown easily crossed the goal line on a shotgun handoff during the 2-point conversion try to even the score.
It also turned out to be the last time the Giants touched the ball.
Romo and Bryant teamed up for a pair of critical third-down conversions on the game-winning possession, a 19-yard connection early on and an 8-yarder just prior to the two-minute warning. Romo later found Miles Austin for a 17-yard gain that got the Cowboys in Bailey's range, then came up with yet another big completion -- a 13-yard strike to Cole Beasley on 3rd-and-10 that enabled Dallas to run down the clock before Bailey split the uprights.
"Every play was much needed. I think that's the mentality that we had going in on that last drive," said Bryant. "We wanted to make it the last drive and that's what we did. I think the coaches did a great job of calling plays and we did a great job of executing the plays."
The Cowboys' maligned defense was the story early on, shutting down the Giants on their initial two drives and coming up with the biggest play of the first half.
New York's Victor Cruz made a short catch in the right flat and was stripped of the football by Orlando Scandrick at midfield, with Heath alertly scooping up the fumble and racing untouched down the sideline to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with 4:33 remaining in the opening quarter.
"I just can't let those types of things happen," said Cruz afterward. "I have to take better care of the football and know that they're doing that and they're going to try and come in and strip it."
The Giants regrouped by marching 74 yards in 10 plays on the ensuing possession, highlighted by a 22-yard connection from Manning to Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-13. However, the Cowboys stood their ground after New York had a 1st-and-goal inside the 10 to force Josh Brown to come on for a 21-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Dallas countered with its best offensive series of the half, needing just five plays to reach the end zone after starting at its own 20. DeMarco Murray ripped off a 30-yard run into New York territory and Romo hit on a pair of passes, the last a 20-yard dart to Witten that extended the margin to 14-3.
The Cowboys then nearly came up with another takeaway, as Andre Brown lost a fumble on the first snap from scrimmage after Witten's score. However, an illegal contact penalty on Dallas corner Brandon Carr enabled the Giants to keep the ball.
Four plays later, Brandon Jacobs broke loose for a 37-yard run to the Cowboys' four, though the Giants again stalled down near the goal line and wound up settling for Josh Brown's 23-yard field goal 5:18 prior to the intermission.
"We were down in the green zone a couple of times in the first half and came away with field goals," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "You always hold that in the back of your mind, is that going to come back and haunt you? Obviously it did."
Dallas maintained its 14-6 edge into the break, then expanded its advantage with a 10-play, 65-yard sequence that was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Giants end Mathias Kiwanuka, negating a fumble by Beasley that New York recovered.
Another personal foul on the Giants brought the ball down to the New York six and set up Witten's second touchdown of the day.
Manning had a quick response, though, directing a 6-play, 67-yard trek to restore a one-score spread. The veteran quarterback hit Brandon Myers on a deep route in which the tight end made a diving grab at the Dallas five, then got up after Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter failed to touch him and ran into the end zone for a 27-yard score that cut the deficit to 21-13.
With Dallas' offense having its troubles, the Giants put together another extended series to draw even. Consecutive big runs from Andre Brown and Jacobs got New York inside the Cowboys' 30, and Cruz made a leaping 22-yard catch down the middle on 3rd-and-8 to create a 1st-and-goal situation.
Two plays later, Murphy hauled in Manning's fade pass in the left corner of the end zone right before Andre Brown's game-tying conversion run.
The Cowboys scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in their 36-31 Week 1 win over New York in Dallas, a game in which the Giants turned the ball over six times ... Dallas recorded its first season sweep of the Giants since 2007. New York exacted revenge by besting the Cowboys in that year's NFC Divisional Playoffs en route to winning Super Bowl XLII ... With fellow wideout Hakeem Nicks sidelined with an abdominal strain, Cruz was held to two catches for 27 yards. He had five receptions totaling 118 yards and three touchdowns in the Week 1 meeting ... The Giants rushed for 202 yards, with Jacobs adding 75 on nine carries ... Romo's second touchdown pass to Witten was the 200th of his career ... Four of Witten's six touchdowns this season have come against New York.