NFC East: 2012 Week 8 Rapid Reaction

ARLINGTON, Texas –- The New York Giants love to make things hard on themselves, blowing a 23-0 second-quarter lead and needing one final defensive stop -- and a near game-winning touchdown catch by Dez Bryant with six seconds left -- before escaping with a 29-24 victory over Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys.

What it means: The Giants even things up with the Cowboys after losing the season opener to Dallas and now are 6-2 with a little cushion in the NFC East overall standings with the Cowboys and Eagles losing Sunday.

The Giants are also back to 2-2 in the division with two straight division wins. It wasn’t their prettiest victory, but they got the job done and overcame a sluggish offensive performance.

Disastrous Dallas start: The Cowboys got off to a nightmarish start. Romo threw three picks, including a pick-six to Jason Pierre-Paul, and Bryant muffed a punt only to collect it and fumble it away in the first half.

But the Giants were able to convert the turnovers into only a 23-0 lead in the second quarter. The Giants had to settle for three Lawrence Tynes field goals.

And that kept it close enough for the Cowboys, who scored 10 straight to cut the deficit to 23-10 at the half.

No offense: The Giants' offense allowed the Cowboys to get back into the game with its inability to move the ball.

Manning and the Giants’ receivers were cold for much of the first three quarters. With 10 minutes remaining in the game, Eli Manning still had not thrown for more than 187 yards while Victor Cruz had only two catches for 23 yards at that point.

Ahmad Bradshaw had gained only 48 yards on the ground at that point as well. The Giants converted only three of their first 14 third-down conversions.

Then no defense: Meanwhile, the Giants couldn’t stop Romo, who got hot. He started going to his two favorite receivers -- Miles Austin and Jason Witten -- and the Giants had no answer. Romo scored on a 1-yard bootleg and then threw for a 1-yard touchdown to push the Cowboys up 24-23 late in the third quarter.

But Manning was able to move the ball just enough to set up two more Tynes field goals in the fourth to regain the lead, 29-24, with 3:31 remaining.

The Giants nearly lost the game when officials initially ruled a Romo 37-yard pass to Bryant in the back of the end zone as a touchdown. But upon further review, it was determined that Bryant's hand touched out of bounds on his landing.

Stevie wonder: Safety Stevie Brown picked off his fourth pass in six games and had a big fumble recovery with 6:40 remaining in the game when Felix Jones coughed up the ball. The fumble recovery gave the Giants the ball at the Cowboys’ 45 with a 26-24 lead as Dallas was moving the ball.

Brown also nearly sealed the game with an interception on fourth down at the end while getting both of his feet in bounds.

Brown has been terrific filling in for the injured Kenny Phillips.

Giant injuries: The Giants lost two key players when Chase Blackburn suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and tight end Bear Pascoe injured his ankle.

Blackburn had to come out in the third quarter. Pascoe injured his ankle in the first half and underwent X-rays, which were negative.

What’s next: The Giants return home for what should be a slugfest with the Steelers.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- These games between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants are always close. Nearly all of them, it seems. Sunday's was no different, and it came down to the final moments again.

The Giants held on for a dramatic 29-24 victory at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday afternoon. They are now 4-0 at Cowboys Stadium since the $1.2 billion palace opened.

What it means: The Cowboys are 3-4 overall and are 1-1 in the division with four NFC East games remaining. The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins both lost Sunday. This is a difficult loss for the Cowboys, who will be on the road next week at Atlanta.

The miracle catch that wasn't: With six seconds left, Dez Bryant made what appeared to be a leaping 37-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo. One problem: As Bryant came down with the catch, his right hand landed on the wide part of the end zone. The referees ruled touchdown and Cowboys Stadium went crazy. Bryant fell down after making the catch and needed help off the field. After a review of the play, it was ruled that Bryant was out of bounds.

Comebacks for Romo, Manning: Eli Manning has done it again. He has 23 regular-season comeback victories and is 27-5 in October. He continues to outplay Romo down the stretch. The Cowboys took the lead after rallying from a 23-point deficit, which would have been the Cowboys' and Romo's biggest comeback.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers: The Cowboys had a season-high six turnovers, five of them leading to New York scores. The last came when Romo scrambled and directed a pass at tight end Jason Witten, but it was picked off by Stevie Brown with 1:03 left to play, sealing the victory for the Giants.

Bryant benched on punts: Bryant has struggled on punt returns all season. In the first half he muffed a punt, secured it and then fumbled it, eventually leading to a Giants' score. Bryant was replaced by Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris on punt returns. As far as receiver play, Bryant made one mistake on a route, leading to an interception, but he also caught a 55-yard bomb and finished the day with five catches for 110 yards. Bryant returned as the punt returner with less than a minute to play.

The fourth-down play: The Cowboys were faced with a fourth-and-1 from the New York 19 and Romo was flushed out of the pocket. He moved to the Giants' 40 and lofted the pass to Witten that was intercepted by Brown. It was Romo's fourth interception of the day. You could say, with three timeouts, the Cowboys could have run the ball with Felix Jones, who was in the backfield as the Cowboys had a four-receiver set. Instead, the Cowboys tried to throw the ball and the play failed them.


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Cowboys lose Connor: Linebacker Dan Connor, who earned the start with Sean Lee out with a toe injury, suffered a neck strain in the first half and didn't return. Orie Lemon replaced Connor in the starting lineup. It's another example of how defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has to juggle the lineup. Ryan has missed numerous starters, including nose tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Gerald Sensabaugh. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware left the game with an undisclosed injury but returned.

What gets lost: Tight end Jason Witten had a wonderful day. He finished with a career-high 18 catches for 167 yards and no touchdowns. Romo targeted Witten 21 times. It was a sharp contract to the season opener for Witten, who was playing after being cleared from a lacerated spleen to participate in the Week 1 victory. That night, Witten had two catches for 10 yards and numerous drops.

What's next? The Cowboys visit the Atlanta Falcons, who are coming off a 30-17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Falcons (7-0) are 29-6 at the Georgia Dome, the third most home victories in the NFL since 2008. Only the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots have more.

Rapid Reaction: Falcons 30, Eagles 17

October, 28, 2012

PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts from the Philadelphia Eagles' pancake-flat loss to the still-unbeaten Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

What it means: Big trouble for Eagles coach Andy Reid, who's got a mandate to produce a winning record this year and now must win six of his final nine games in order to accomplish that. This is the first time in his 14 seasons as Eagles head coach that Reid has lost a game immediately following a bye week, and the worst part of this day was that his team looked completely uninspired. Two weeks after Reid fired his defensive coordinator in a clear desperation move, the defense played its worst game of the season as the Falcons scored on each of their first six possessions and ran away with the game.

Helpless: The Eagles' defense allowed an 80-yard, 16-play, 8:44 touchdown drive to begin the game. They gave up a 63-yard touchdown bomb to Julio Jones on the Falcons' third offensive possession. Atlanta scored touchdowns on each of its first three drives and field goals on the next three. Cedric Thornton, of all people, broke through in the third quarter to get to Matt Ryan and record the Eagles' first sack of October. But there was precious little pressure when it mattered, too many drive-extending penalties in the secondary, and in general, Ryan and the Falcons looked as though they were well ahead of the Eagles on almost every play. Atlanta did not punt until there was 5:35 left on the game clock in the fourth quarter.

Offensively speaking: The Falcons dominated the time of possession for the first three quarters, so the Eagles' offense didn't get much of a chance to affect the competitive portion of the game. And for just the second time this season, they did not commit a turnover. Still, there wasn't much to love about what the Eagles did or tried to do on offense. The line is a mess, obviously, down three starters now with right guard Danny Watkins hurt and inactive for the game. But they didn't start feeding the ball to running back LeSean McCoy until the fourth quarter, and doing so earlier in the game might be a good way to ameliorate the line's problems and keep the pass rush away.

What's next: The Eagles travel to New Orleans next week, where they'll try to get back to .500 against the Saints on "Monday Night Football." New Orleans has won two games in a row following an 0-4 start and plays the Broncos in Denver on Sunday night.



Sunday, 10/26
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