Three Thoughts: Cowboys overcome Odell Beckham Jr.'s brilliance
It has been five years since the Dallas Cowboys advanced to the postseason. It felt like Tony Romo had that long to stand in the pocket on his team's game-winning drive Sunday night to defeat the Giants 31-28.
With the Cowboys in need of a touchdown, their powerful offensive line took control. Romo took advantage of his undisturbed pocket, connecting on 6 of 6 passes in the closing moments. The last was a 13-yard TD toss to Dez Bryant, a play on which Dallas' line kept New York off Romo for nearly 10 seconds.
"It was really amazing," Romo told NBC's Michele Tafoya. "You might be afforded three snaps like that all year. For it to happen on a big play like that made my job easier. It's a special group."
The Giants had one last opportunity to swing the outcome back in their favor. As has so often been the case this season, however, they came up just short -- literally. A 4th-and-2 pass from Eli Manning to Rashad Jennings gained about one and three-quarters yards, turning the ball back over to Dallas on downs.
Three more thoughts on the Cowboys' comeback win:
1. Another late win for Tony Romo
The numbers really belie his reputation. Romo's clutch work Sunday night bumped his career total of game-winning drives (fourth quarter or overtime) to 27.
Has Romo had his share of hiccups along the way? No question. From his infamous botched-snap playoff fumble in Seattle to three straight seasons with 8-8 finishes, Romo often makes it difficult to stand fully behind him as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
But the truth is that, well, he is.
Were it not for Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt and possibly his own teammate, DeMarco Murray, Romo would be a frontrunner for the MVP award this season. Aside from a disappointing Week 8 overtime loss to Washington, Romo has repeatedly delivered for the Cowboys with the game on the line.
"I think you gain experience a little bit, just the understanding of where your mindset needs to be," said Romo of why he's been able to have late-game success. "You've been through it so you can kind of give yourself an advantage, just mentally."
The Giants were firing on all cylinders early, taking a 21-10 lead into halftime. Dallas needed Romo to be at his absolute best, mere weeks removed from a back injury that initially threatened the remainder of his season. He responded in the second half Sunday with three touchdown passes -- he threw four total -- and pushed the Cowboys back into a first place tie with Philadelphia at 8-3.
2. Odell Beckham Jr. is a gem
For a long while Sunday night, Beckham Jr. was on pace to turn "Three Thoughts" into a one-man tribute. His remarkable, sprawling touchdown grab in the first half, one that announcer and former NFL wide receiver Cris Collinsworth repeatedly said might have been the best catch he'd ever seen, threatened to overshadow the rest of the game.
The Cowboys had no answers for Beckham Jr. in the first half, as he found the end zone twice. All told, the rookie finished with 10 catches on 11 targets for 146 yards.
The superhuman touchdown grab might have been a once-in-a-lifetime play, but the production has become par for the course for Beckham with Victor Cruz sidelined. Over the Giants' last four games, Beckham has averaged 125.8 yards receiving.
"He's got a gift," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said following Sunday's defeat. "[His future] sure is bright."
3. Dez, DeMarco and defense
The Dallas O-line pummeling its opposition was not the only trend that re-emerged after halftime Sunday. Once again, the Cowboys found themselves relying on Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and their overachieving defense to pull out a victory.
Let's start with the offensive stars. While Murray did not find the end zone, he did total 143 yards with 72 coming after halftime. A nine-yard burst on third down moved the chains for Dallas at the second half's two-minute warning, setting up the decisive Romo-to-Bryant scoring strike.
Bryant, like Beckham, scored twice Sunday. That makes 10 touchdowns on the year for the impending free agent, six coming in Dallas' last four games. Few receivers have been as consistently dominant this season.
The Dallas defense was not nearly as good Sunday night. Bryant's heroics were needed only because the Giants put together a 14-play touchdown drive to take a 24-21 lead with three minutes left in the game. When push came to shove, however, that Dallas D came up with enough plays to get the job done.
An opportunistic Barry Church interception snuffed out an early Giants possession off an awful pass by Manning. Later came the fourth-down stop to cement the victory.
After permitting 21 Giants points in the first half, Dallas held its NFC East rivals to just the one touchdown over the final 30 minutes. Romo and the offense did the rest.