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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Osi Umenyiora saw the officials lift their arms up to the enormous Cowboys Stadium ceiling and his stomach began churning.
"Sickness," Umenyiora said of what he felt when he saw Dez Bryant come down with the potential game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds remaining. "I felt pretty sick."
|For Andre Brown, Martellus Bennett & Co., it's all about livin' on the edge.|
High above the field in the press box, Giants co-owner John Mara, who typically lives and dies with every play, was riding an emotional roller coaster. He had watched his team storm out to a commanding 23-0 lead only to lose it in just more than a quarter, then come back and take the lead.
But now here was Tony Romo, who was practically booed by the entire state of Texas in a disastrous first half, attempting to lead the kind of dramatic comeback his counterpart, Eli Manning, usually executes.
With 16 seconds left on a second-and-6 from the Giants' 37, Romo hit Bryant, who had somehow gotten behind the Giants' prevent defense, in the back of the end zone.
Bryant got past Corey Webster and caught the ball before Michael Coe could get there while hurtling toward the back of the end zone. He planted his right hand on the back line as he came crashing down. Initially, the officials ruled it a touchdown catch.
But Bryant had planted a couple of fingers out of bounds and the Giants escaped Texas with a 29-24 victory.
Only the Giants can turn a 23-0 lead into a nail-biting game decided by a few fingernails. The defending champions like to fill their Sundays with the kind of drama reserved for cable television.
"We wanted to give the fans their money's worth," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "And I know Jerry [Jones] has some high prices on tickets so we definitely wanted to give them their money's worth."
For the second straight week, the Giants pulled a victory out of their magic hat. And for the second straight season, the Giants left Dallas fans feeling blue after pulling out another down-to-the-wire victory.
Last season, they needed Jason Pierre-Paul's big hand to block a field goal to keep their season alive and eventually help them win the division. This season, it was Bryant's fingers that could give them an assist in winning a second consecutive division title.
The Giants are far from playing their best football and that is what may be the truly scary thing about Tom Coughlin's team as they near Halloween. Last week, they barely survived Robert Griffin III.
On Sunday, they let Romo rise from the ashes after 94,067 wanted to hunt down the Cowboys quarterback with pitchforks following three first-half interceptions, one resulting in a pick-six by Pierre-Paul to put the Giants up 23-0 with 13:05 left in the second quarter.
But then the Giants acted as if Romo to Jason Witten and Romo to Miles Austin were new offensive wrinkles they had never seen before. Witten exploded for 18 receptions for 167 yards while Austin tallied nine catches for 133.
Dallas scored 24 unanswered, to Jones' glee, and soon the Giants appeared on the verge of a heartbreaking collapse.
Yet even though Eli Manning had an off game by his standards for a second straight week and Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were locked down by Dallas' improved secondary for the second time this season, the Giants still found a way to win. Manning made just enough plays and the Giants' defense got just enough stops -- even if they needed every inch of the football field to get them.
They are 6-2 at the halfway point -- stop me if you have heard that one before -- and, yes, there is always the possibility of another mid-season swoon.
But the Giants are exactly where they need to be as they embark on a treacherous second half of the season, which starts with Pittsburgh next Sunday and includes games against the Bengals, Packers, Saints, Redskins, Falcons, Ravens and Eagles.
At some point, the Giants will get healthier, though they lost Antrel Rolle to a possible concussion and Chase Blackburn (hamstring), Keith Rivers (calf) and Bear Pascoe (ankle) to injuries in Dallas.
And they hope they will be playing their best football at the end of the season, just like last year but without their backs up against the wall.
Some might say the Giants are very fortunate to be 6-2. They could easily be 4-4 with two straight losses to the Redskins and Cowboys instead of riding high on a four-game winning streak.
"We are," Tuck said when asked if the Giants are lucky. "I don't mind luck. But I also say that the lucky is the prepared. You make your own luck. I rather be lucky than unlucky any day. I am sure a lot of Cowboys fans will say they were unlucky so you take your pick at which one you want to be."
While Coughlin may not be happy with his offense's efficiency in the "green zone" after having to settle for five Lawrence Tynes' field goals and his defense's inability to stop Romo and Witten, the Giants found a way to win despite an off game from Manning and his playmaking receivers. The Giants forced six turnovers, got a terrific performance from backup safety Stevie Brown (two interceptions, one fumble recovery) and were clutch yet again with a little help from the Cowboys.
"I couldn't quite believe it," Manning said of Bryant's catch, after it was initially signaled a touchdown. "I couldn't quite believe they could get a touchdown in that situation."
The way things have gone for the Giants the past two seasons and especially here in Jerry World, it really would have been unbelievable if the Cowboys pulled out a dramatic win over the defending champs.
As Jones will painfully attest to, his team has watched the Giants get all the breaks in his $1.2 billion palace.
Money can buy the largest high definition television screen ever constructed. But Jones still can't buy a home win over the Giants in his new pad after a fourth consecutive defeat here.
"Sometimes you have to win games by an inch or two, and this one's literally by an inch," Mara said with a smile.
When asked about the Giants' penchant for making life tough on their owner, Mara chuckled.
"We kept the TV ratings up," he said, practically shaking his head.