Drive of the Game: Cowboys in the fourth

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
1:26
AM ET


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning and the Giants were masterful at engineering fourth-quarter comebacks a season ago -- including against the Cowboys.

But on Wednesday night, it was Dallas that owned the fourth quarter -- including the biggest drive of the game, an 82-yard march that essentially salted away the Cowboys' 24-17 victory.

[+] EnlargeMiles Austin
Al Bello/Getty ImagesMiles Austin makes a catch that turns into a 34-yard TD.
The Giants actually had the ball to start the fourth quarter, trailing by a touchdown, 17-10. They were going to be forced to punt from deep in their own territory, but were bailed out by a roughing-the-passer penalty after a Manning incompletion on third down. Still, the Giants could not take advantage, and were forced to punt the ball away.

That's when the drive of the game commenced, with the Cowboys taking over on their own 18-yard line and 13:03 remaining. It was up to the Giants' defense to stop Tony Romo & Co., and give the offense another chance to tie the game. But they couldn't do so.

Instead, Dallas went 82 yards in eight plays, taking a precious seven minutes and six seconds off the clock in the process.

The Cowboys utilized a mixture of the run and the pass during this critical stretch. DeMarco Murray had a couple of nice rushes, and Romo connected with both Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree on big plays.

The most remarkable thing about this climactic drive? The Cowboys committed five penalties -- five! -- yet still stuck the ball in the end zone.

Dallas never even faced a third down. But they did face a first-and-30 from the Giants' 34-yard line after back-to-back 10-yard penalties. That's when Romo hit the jackpot, lofting a ball down the left-hand side that Austin reeled in over Giants cornerback Justin Tryon, taking it in for the score.

After the extra point, the Cowboys led 24-10. The Giants had less than six minutes on the clock, needing two touchdowns to tie. And that was too much to ask this time around.
Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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