Monday Night Football invited the Cowboys for the first time in two seasons to meet Bill Parcells former team, the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. The Giants, a team on the cusp of greatness last season, came rolling in off a victory over the St. Louis Rams and the Greatest Show on Turf.
Dallas was set to take a real hammering in front of a sell-out crowd and the Monday Night viewing audience. Trouble is, no one told Bill Parcells his upstart Cowboys weren't supposed to win.
The heavy weight Giants and the pretender Cowboys traded blows during the first period until Quincy Carter heaved a pass that was intercepted by Ralph Brown who raced 29-yards for a touchdown. The Giants craftily disguised their double coverage of Joey Galloway by having Brown, a nickel back, face the slot receiver. Just as the ball was snapped he took away the out route, which caused the pick and return.
Dallas immediately took the ensuing kick-off to the 47 yard line. A nice return by Zuriel Smith, the kick return phenmon from the football Mecca - Hampton College.
Both teams were very assertive on defense and it took a nice 6-plus minute drive for Dallas' Billy Cundiff to kick a field goal right after the second period began.
Quincy looked sharp, even with the interception. He didn't go in the tank because of the small hiccup, but came back and took charge. This may have been the best game he has played as a pro. He was deadly accurate the entire evening and was clearly the leader on the field.
Troy Hambrick wasn't stellar but his numbers seemed to come at the time the team needed a solid run. He led all players with 60-yards on 23 carries, but did churn up some significant real estate when the team needed yards on the ground to keep the Giants honest. It would pay huge dividends later in the game.
Dallas again kicked a field goal in the second quarter after a nice drive stalled because of penalties. Parcells is known for his mistake free teams, but this night they shot themselves in the foot posting 11 miscues for a total of 108-yards.
But Dallas also turned another corner that has plagued them in the past by holding the ball for 42:30 including an 8 minute and 57 second overtime period.
Dallas cashed a Kerry Collins pass, which was intercepted by Al Singleton, and he and Dexter Coakley convoyed to the endzone. Dallas now owned a 20-7 lead they would take into the locker room at the half.
But this was clearly a tale of two halves as the Giants regrouped. After trading a few blows Dallas put together a drive and Cundiff nailed a 42-yarder for a 23-7 lead. Billy missed a 51-yarder earlier by inches. It would prove to be important.
But the Giants are not a weak team physically or mentally. Collins rallied his troops and they mounted a 2:49 minute drive that ended with an Ike Hilliard touchdown.
Yet this team is not last year's version that would fold at the sign of resistance. Quincy led them on a nice 6 play 69-yard drive of their own. It started with a terrific pass by Carter to Terry Glenn for 27-yards.
Antonio Bryant got cornerback William Peterson to play hand slap and drew a penalty that took the team to the Giants 11. What was wasted on this play was a one-handed catch by Bryant as he fell out of bounds. But three plays later Cundiff hit his 4th field goal of the game. Dallas 26, Giants 14.
Dallas would score again on a Cundiff field goal to take a 29-14 lead into the fourth quarter. But the Giants would throw on the brakes at this point. Two great drives both lead to a touchdown to Jeremy Shockey and Amani Toomer.
The Giants needed to tie the score and they had three shots since Pete Hunter and Roy Williams drew pass interference penalties on solid defensive plays. Tiki Barber ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 29 all.
Dallas couldn't move the ball and the Giants made a championship drive at the end of the game, finally kicking a field goal from the Cowboys 12 to lead 32 to 29. They left 11-seconds on the clock and the New York crowd was going wild.
On the following kick-off Matt Bryant, who would have been the hero for nailing the winning kick, did the unthinkable. His only job was to boot a squib kick so the clock would run out. His hook rolled to the corner and ended up bouncing out at the 1, which drew the penalty.
Dallas took the ball over at their forty. Carter did a masterful job of avoiding tacklers and hit Bryant on a deep sideline route moving the ball to the Giant 34. Cundiff entered the game again with 4 seconds left and split the uprights to tie the game at 32. The Giants, who had been celebrating were stunned.
In overtime both teams had the ball but couldn't do much. Dallas did move enough to get solid field position for their defense that seemed to be fading toward the end of the game.
Yet when Quincy, who had been limping noticeably took over at the Cowboys 43, the crowd and the Giants knew they had waited too long to pull this out.
The last drive was a Carter beauty. He passed the ball twice to Glenn and Hambrick had a nice 9-yard run to set up the game winning play. Carter and the Cowboys were on the Giant 29 when they ran an off-tackle play that fooled the entire defense. Because Quincy faked the hand-off and naked bootlegged to the right and hit Dan Campbell who sprinted to the Giants 6.
Cundiff came in for the chip shot and Parcells and company won.
Many things happened right for this victory. Some were players that had heart and lived up to their potential. Carter going 25/40 and 321-yards was the key to this win.
But when Parcells takes a 12-point lead heading into the 4th quarter, he was 49-0 in his career. His guidance led the team to post the 50th victory for him, keeping his no-hitter intact.
It has been said that the addition of Parcells would be worth at least two wins over last year's fiasco. You may not be able to prove that, but on this Monday Night, it certainly looked like a fact.
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