Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As kicker Lawrence Tynes drilled a 37-yard field goal with no time remaining, the only sound in the packed press box was Giants co-owner John Mara slapping the back of his seat repeatedly. A crowd of 105,121 -- the largest in NFL history -- fell silent as Giants players and coaches raced onto the field to celebrate a 33-31 win.
Now the Giants begin the puff-pastry portion of their schedule with sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Before kickoff, they watched former president and Dallas resident George W. Bush and his wife Laura conduct the coin toss. Moments earlier, the Cowboys had unveiled their blue and white star at midfield following a video that compared their new stadium to lesser-known venues, such as The Great Wall of China and the Parthenon.
It was a perfect night for Cowboys fans -- right up until Giants quarterback Eli Manning trotted onto the field with 3:34 left in the game. Manning has made a habit of fourth-quarter comebacks, and the Cowboys left him entirely too much time when they took a 31-30 lead on Felix Jones' 7-yard touchdown run.
After a holding penalty put the Giants in a first-and-20 hole at their 15-yard line, Manning went to work. He said he tried to calm down his teammates by "not saying anything.'' On second-and-18, he scrambled to find a Derek Hagan for a 12-yard gain. With first-round pick Hakeem Nicks not suited up because of an injury and Domenik Hixon out of the game in the first half with a knee sprain, the Giants had to turn to Hagan. When the special-teams ace saw Manning in trouble, he came racing back toward him to make a play.
"Hagan earned a spot on this roster," Manning said after the game. "He did a really nice job on the scramble drill."
Manning then started firing passes to wide receivers Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, who combined for 284 yards and two touchdowns. At this rate, all the questions about the Giants' ability to replace Plaxico Burress' production will disappear by the end of this month. Smith and Manningham toyed with Cowboys cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Terence Newman. The deep balls that had been so hard to come by the last couple years were there for the taking against an overwhelmed Cowboys secondary.
The Giants had a third-and-4 at the Cowboys' 41-yard line with 39 seconds left when Manning delivered a ball toward Manningham that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by nose tackle Jay Ratliff. Manningham adjusted nicely and his 8-yard grab put the Giants in good shape.
"They came out with an all-out blitz," Manning said. "We had a slant backside to Mario. He got open, he won. He did a great job of staying with it and concentrating on getting the catch. It was a big play for us."
Manning was 25-of-38 for 330 yards and two touchdowns. He was frustrated by the Giants' lack of production in the red zone, but he never got greedy. Meanwhile, Tony Romo was having one of the worst performances of his career. The only reason the Cowboys had a chance to win the game was because they gashed the Giants in the running game for 251 yards. Marion Barber and Felix Jones were brilliant in locating seams in the Giants' defense -- and it certainly helped that Pro Bowl defensive end Justin Tuck was on the sideline with a shoulder injury following a Flozell Adams tripping penalty.
Romo had three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by undrafted rookie cornerback Bruce Johnson. But late in the third quarter, Romo and the Cowboys had a chance to put the Giants away. With a first-and-10 from the Giants' 46-yard line, Romo inexplicably threw a deep ball to Sam Hurd, who was bracketed by two defenders. Safety Kenny Phillips made the easiest interception of his career, which happened to be his second of the evening -- and the Giants were given new life.
Romo spent most of training camp promising that he would protect the ball this season, but he made too many careless throws Sunday night and ended up issuing an apology after the game.
"I'm really, really disappointed in myself right now," Romo said. "You work so hard on something and you try to do certain things to change them. It's disappointing and frustrating. I'm really not OK with it right now and I'll try to rectify tomorrow and tonight to get better and improve."
At least he didn't turn to his "life goes on" speech from last year's Philly game. But that was the only positive sign from Romo. On a night he simply needed to make the smart plays, he came up woefully short.
Jacobs sounds off on Jerry Jones: Last week, running back Brandon Jacobs told me that the Cowboys should have scheduled the Lions instead of the Giants for the stadium opener. And Sunday, he tried to explain to me where his hatred for the Cowboys comes from.
"I hate the Cowboys straight up," Jacobs told me. "It's beginning to be a personal thing. And it's been like that since I was a kid. I've been wishing bad things on them for a long time. I was a hateful little kid. Everyone loves them, so I had to hate them."
Asked what he thought about the new stadium, Jacobs said: "It's a beautiful place. It was nice of Jerry to invite us down here. But he better be careful what he asks for next time. Last year, [Jones] said he wanted to play us on Broadway, and then he got his ass beat. They got whooped 35-14 on Broadway."