Only in a Cowboys-Giants game can Tony Romo come back from an injury to lead a win, and become almost a footnote.
Romo played well enough for long enough to hang on for a 36-31 Cowboys win, despite clearly not feeling well after a second-quarter shot to the ribs. But the story was the Giants coughing up a game they had a chance to win, even after committing five turnovers.
The sixth, inside the two-minute warning, was more than they could withstand. Eli Manning’s futile chase of Brandon Carr after his third interception was symbolic of the night, the frustration of repeated errors boiled over.
Romo may or may not be completely well, he’s played with rib injuries before. But he missed just one play and threw for a pair of touchdowns, showing the kind of toughness he has so many times. It wasn’t the most efficient, as he wasn’t able to bury the game when the Giants were begging him to.
But unlike every other time the Giants have been to Jerry Jones’ new stadium, it worked.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. David Wilson was a first-round pick in 2012, taken one spot after Doug Martin.
But we may never see him again, at least carrying the ball for the Giants.
Fumbling on his second NFL carry found him a place in the doghouse last year, and fumbling twice in this year’s opener may make him a return man for the rest of his career.
He’s clearly a talented back, but he might not going to get many more chances to show it for Tom Coughlin. Ball security isn’t the only issue, as his pass protection isn’t sufficient either.
They can’t turn to Ahmad Bradshaw now, he’s a Colt. And with Andre Brown on short-term IR, it will be another few months before he can fix things.
The Giants sniffed around some veteran backs last week (working out Beanie Wells and Jonathan Dwyer among others), and it’ll be a surprise if they don’t add one this week.
2. Monte Kiffin still has it.
The Cowboys managed a grand total of 16 turnovers last year.
It looked like they were going to match it in the first half. The Cowboys forced three turnovers in the first quarter alone, picking Manning twice and forcing the first Wilson fumble.
The elder coordinator’s legacy in the NFL is well-established, but if he can keep the Cowboys playing this well — especially given the injury depleted defensive line — it might be as impressive as anything he’s done.
Turning a middling 3-4 defense to a productive 4-3 is a feat, and doing it with Nick Hayden and George Selvie instead of Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer is practically alchemy.
3. Jason Witten has it too, sort of.
The veteran tight end was caught on camera having a bit of gastro-intestinal distress, but continued to play his guts out after surrendering his pre-game meal.
Early in the game, Romo seemed to be making a conscious effort to get the ball to Miles Austin, as Dez Bryant was drawing so much attention from the Giants’ secondary.
But it didn’t take long to get the 31-year-old back into the flow. He caught 110 passes last year, but only three for touchdowns. That doesn’t appear to be case this time through, with two already.
4. It’s fun to see hustle pay off.
Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray finished the night with 86 rushing yards.
But his biggest contribution might have been the four points he saved when the game was in doubt.
Murray had the tackle when Giants safety Ryan Mundy picked off a Romo pass in the first quarter and returned it 91 yards.
Murray’s tackle dropped Mundy at the 1, and when the Cowboys defense held, the Giants were forced into a field goal.
It wasn’t quite Don Beebe-Leon Lett, but it was an effort play that paid off.
5. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz isn’t playing like a guy who just got paid.
After getting his big contract this summer, the Giants’ slot receiver continued to make big plays. His 70-yard touchdown was nice, the second one was a tougher play, and the third was meaningful.
With Hakeem Nicks in a contract drive, the Giants knew they were going to have at least one highly motivated receiver. Having two could make them dangerous, and getting Rueben Randle incorporated gives them plenty of options, as long as Manning doesn’t continue throwing it to the other team.