ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tom Coughlin called this game, like all the others the Giants and Cowboys play, a nail-biter. Had Dez Bryant been one to chew on his fingertips to trim them, perhaps the outcome would have been a bit different.
The Cowboys receiver caught what appeared to be a 37-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo with 10 seconds left Sunday. But replays showed that the ends of the fingers on his right hand touched the white that signals out of bounds at the back of the end zone, and after review, the TD call was overturned and the pass was ruled incomplete. That allowed the Giants to hold on for a 29-24 victory in a game in which they led 23-0 but came down to just those two inches or so on Bryant's hand.
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A few inches.
"What more do you need?" Coughlin asked. "Maybe it was a half an inch. How about that?"
The way the game ended -- in dramatic contrast with how it began -- gave the Giants a jittery sense that they escaped Cowboys Stadium with a victory.
"It's a sickening feeling, because we almost let one get away," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "It felt like we let the game get away. It didn't have to be that kind of game for us. We let them hang around, and most of the time you let teams hang around in this league, it costs you."
Most of the time. But not this time. On what Corey Webster called a "long foul ball," the Giants were able to regroup and stop three plays in the final 10 seconds (cough, cough).
The Giants' offense didn't reach the end zone more than once, but Lawrence Tynes kicked five field goals, the last two of critical importance.
The first of those two, after a critical three-and-out by the Giants' defense, gave them a 26-24 lead and stopped the Cowboys' scoring streak at 24 straight points. The second, which came after Stevie Brown scooped up a fumble by Felix Jones with 6:40 left, made sure that Dallas would need a touchdown to win. That proved to be important.
"They were both big kicks," Tynes said. "That's why we're here.''
It was the Giants' fourth win in four visits to Cowboys Stadium. It also gave the Giants (6-2) a submission-hold grip on first in the NFC East with the Cowboys at 3-4 and the Eagles (3-4) and Redskins (3-5) both losing. Then again, they had a similar grasp on the lead in this game before that melted away.
This was the game that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pointed to in preseason when he invited fans to come to Cowboys Stadium to watch his team "kick the Giants' [butts]."
The Giants were fired up by that remark, as well as their loss to the Cowboys in the opener, and showed it early.
The Giants dominated most of the first half, scoring the first 23 points with the help of three turnovers. Still, Coughlin was ruing getting the threes instead of sevens. "I kept calculating in the first half with those field goals [instead of] touchdowns," he said of a lead that should have been upwards of 30-0 instead of 23-0.
Romo threw three interceptions in the first half, including one returned 28 yards by Jason Pierre-Paul for a TD. That left the crowd booing Romo lustily (although their real venom was saved for Jones, who appeared in a PSA for breast cancer awareness on the video board).
"I would have booed us, too," Romo said. "We deserved it at that time. We did not start the game the way we wanted to."
They turned that around. Felix Jones started the comeback with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 23-7. The Cowboys opened the third quarter with Romo's 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal. That made it 23-17. It also made it a ballgame and started to evoke memories of the Giants' last big collapse against a division rival, the December 2010 loss to the Eagles.
After a three-and-out by the Giants on their first possession of the second half, the Cowboys scored on a 1-yard pass from Romo to John Phillips to take their first lead in a game in which they seemed out of it in the first quarter. The extra point gave them a 24-23 edge. But that key three-and-out after an Eli Manning interception gave the Giants the momentum back, even if it was just by the tips of their fingers.
In this game, that was an appropriate measure.