EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For awesomeness, Odell Beckham Jr.’s catch couldn’t be topped.
For timely rallies, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant trumped it.
The Cowboys momentarily might have been in awe of Beckham’s one-handed stab as he fell backward into the end zone while he was interfered with by cornerback Brandon Carr.
When it came to making the critical plays to beat the New York Giants on Nov. 23, though, Dallas had all it needed in Romo and Bryant.
Romo threw two touchdown passes to Bryant, the winner from 13 yards with 1:01 remaining, lifting the Cowboys to a comeback 31-28 victory.
“You gain an understanding that you’re never really out of it,” Romo said. “You are comfortable being in uncomfortable situations. That comes from having been through it and going out and finding a way to win. Once you do that a few times, the team can believe in that.”
Romo could have written a book on winning drives while staging this one; he never was pressured in leading the Cowboys 80 yards to the winning score.
“Any time you’re afforded the amount of time at the end of the game, it’s huge,” he said. “They (the offensive line) are a special group of guys who work their butts off and deserve a lot of credit for this game and this season.”
Romo threw for two TDs in the third quarter and Barry Church’s interception helped turn things in the Cowboys’ favor. But the Giants (3-8), trailing 24-21, staged a 93-yard drive capped by Adrien Robinson’s first career TD catch. That 1-yard score with 3 minutes remaining could have snapped New York’s slide that now is at six losses.
Back came Dallas (8-3). Romo found Bryant in the back of the end zone to win it, setting up an NFC East showdown with Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day for first place.
“Now we have another challenge coming up real quick,” Romo said. “Philly is playing great football so we’re going to have to play better than we did tonight to win that game.”
Dallas, which was treated to chants of “Let’s Go Cowboys!” in the second half from hundreds of fans in Cowboys garb, is 5-0 on the road. New York was eliminated from division contention.
Thanks to Beckham’s incredible one-handed catch, one of the rookie’s two first-half touchdowns, New York built a 21-10 halftime lead.
But Romo hit Cole Beasley with a short pass that he turned into a 45-yard score, and the quarterback’s 31-yarder to an uncovered Bryant put Dallas on top for the first time.
Beckham left briefly in the fourth quarter with a back problem, but returned for the next series. He finished with 10 receptions for 146 yards.
League rushing leader DeMarco Murray managed his 10th 100-yard game this season with 121 on 24 carries for Dallas.
The Cowboys didn’t get much going after falling behind 21-10 until reserve receiver Beasley took a short pass, eluded a tackle by Zack Bowman and sped untouched to the end zone midway in the third quarter.
When Eli Manning overthrew a wide-open Preston Parker deep in Dallas territory, Church ran back the interception 45 yards. Four plays later, Romo hit an open Bryant and he squeezed into the end zone for the Cowboys’ first lead.
Beckham’s right-handed stab of Manning’s 43-yard rainbow pass could be the catch of the year. The rookie, who regularly practices such receptions, outreached Carr at the goal line and tumbled backward into the end zone to make it 14-3.
“I have played this game for 10 years,” Giants safety Antrel Rolle said, “and that was the greatest catch I’ve seen.”
Beckham wants there to be plenty more of those. “I hope it is not the greatest catch because with time I hope I can make more,” Beckham said.
That catch already was dominating highlight reels by halftime and was his second TD of the game. The 80-yard drive to Beckham’s first touchdown marked the second straight week the Giants got into the end zone on their opening possession after going 20 games without doing so.
Dallas’ offense hardly sat still following Beckham’s one-hander. Romo guided the Cowboys 77 yards and used a shovel pass to Jason Witten — yes, the tight end used two hands — from the 4 immediately after Beckham’s stunner.
So the kid from LSU went right back to overwhelming the Cowboys. He made three catches for 32 yards on New York’s next series, including a spin move that would make a figure skater proud. Andre Williams concluded that 80-yard march with a 3-yard run for a 21-10 lead.
In the first half alone, Beckham had eight catches for 125 yards, while Manning went 14 of 16 for 191 yards. But the second half belonged to Dallas.
(BARRY WILNER, AP Pro Football Writer)