EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No matter how hard he tries, even if he takes the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl, Tony Romo will have to deal with the prevailing thought so many people had early Sunday night.
When the Cowboys took possession with their game against the Giants tied at 21 with 4:45 left, many of you probably winced while thinking about how Romo would lose this one.
Admit it: More of you thought about the fourth-quarter interception against the Denver Broncos that led to the Cowboys' 51-48 loss on Oct. 6 than the 90-yard game-winning drive he directed three weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings.
Only this time, Romo didn't lose this one. With the season on the line, Romo directed a 14-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal for a 24-21 victory that pushed the Cowboys back into first place in the NFC East.
This game won’t qualify as a come-from-behind victory for Romo (Dallas led 21-6 at one point), but it was as meaningful.
“You either feel comfortable in those situations or you don’t,” Romo said. “You feel all the experiences and times you’ve put yourself in that position as a team and you feel good. We’ve done that a couple of times in these last three or four weeks. You just go out and do it.”
The Cowboys had not had a drive last 14 plays since their season-opening win against the Giants. Only three of their past 32 drives reached even 10 plays because their third-down offense had been so bad.
Before the final drive, the only third down the Cowboys converted on Sunday was a Jason Witten touchdown catch, which happened to be the 200th scoring throw of Romo’s career. Only six of Romo’s previous 31 third-down attempts resulted in a first down.
Yet on the final drive, Romo completed all three third-down attempts.
After a Tyron Smith false-start penalty moved a third-and-2 to third-and-7, Romo hit Bryant for 19 yards on a throw down the sideline. On third-and-5 from the Dallas 47, he hit Bryant on a slant for 8 yards.
“Yeah, I just made sure to save all of our good third downs for that last drive,” Romo said. “I think we had some good plays up. Guys made some good plays and ran some good routes. It just comes down to execution at that point.”
And he saved Miles Austin for the end, too. Austin caught his first pass since Sept. 22 (against the St. Louis Rams) for 17 yards to the Giants' 28 one snap after he dropped a Romo pass on the sideline.
“He just showed confidence in me,” Austin said, “and he put the ball on the money. I made sure I wasn’t going to drop that one.”
There would be one more crucial third-down conversion with the Cowboys using their empty package on third-and-10 from the 28. If they did not convert, they were looking at a 45-yard field goal in a swirling wind inside MetLife Stadium.
Romo did not go to Bryant or Austin or Witten. Instead he checked the ball down to Cole Beasley, who turned up field for 13 yards.
“There’s a definite high chance,” Beasley said of getting the ball there. “It’s pretty much a 50 percent chance. I run every route like everyone is coming to me, especially that route because that’s pretty much the route that gave me playing time.”
With his work over, Romo took a knee on the next two snaps to set up Bailey’s game winner.
“It’s a tough environment against a team who is ready to go, obviously had their season, in some ways they felt like their season was on the line in this game,” Romo said. “It was a playoff-like game. It was a very similar feeling to the win or go home from a couple of years ago. I think we had to find a way to win. I was proud of the guys’ effort, commitment and the way they handled it.”