ARLINGTON, Texas — Lawrence Tynes sent home the largest regular-season crowd in NFL history muttering about what might've been. Tynes kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired, giving the New York Giants a 33-31 victory over the turnover-prone Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night and ruining the debut of their rival's $1.15 billion stadium.
A crowd of 105,121 saw the Cowboys (1-1) go ahead 31-30 on a touchdown run by Felix Jones with 3:40 left. It was the seventh lead change of a game in which neither team led by more than six points and it didn't last.
Eli Manning drove New York 56 yards in seven plays. He got out of a first-and-20 on his 15 to start it and converted two third downs, including one on a tipped pass caught by Mario Manningham. Tynes actually made the winning kick twice; Dallas called time just before the first one was snapped, so he had to do it again.
"Well, we just knew we had to go and get in field goal range," Manning said. "We had enough time, we had timeouts."
Former President George W. Bush, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and fans began filling Cowboys Stadium more than four hours before kickoff. There were all sorts of ceremonies to mark the occasion, but the tight game was the biggest treat – well, until the end, as far as the locals were concerned.
"I think we definitely wanted to win this one, extra motivation," Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. "It's frustrating. I'm just really, really disappointed in myself right now."
Other than field goals on their first and last drives, the Giants' other 27 points all were set up by turnovers. New York (2-0) scored three touchdowns off interceptions of Romo and won despite losing defensive end Justin Tuck to a shoulder injury and receiver Domenik Hixon to a sprained knee.
Manning was 25 of 38 for 330 yards with 22-yard touchdowns to Mario Manningham and Steve Smith. Each caught 10 passes, with Manningham's covering 150 yards and Smith's going for 134. They had to rely on Manning's arm because Dallas limited Brandon Jacobs to 58 yards and Ahmad Bradshaw to 37.
On one of the biggest settings of his career, Romo turned in one of his worst outings. He was 13 of 29 for 127 yards with a touchdown and those three interceptions. The first was returned for a touchdown, the second was a bit of a fluke (it bounced up off Jason Witten's shoe) and the third a punt-like heave into double coverage.
It was his fewest yards in a full game and his passer rating of 29.6 was the second-lowest of his career. It also was a dramatic reversal from the opener, when Romo showed the poise and patience he supposedly worked on all offseason and didn't have a turnover. Even worse was that it came against a New York secondary that already was missing two starters to injury before Tuck got hurt late in the first half.
The Cowboys stayed in it thanks to their running game. Marion Barber ran for 124 yards and a touchdown and Jones added 96. Jones also had a fumble of a kickoff that led to a New York field goal.
"Any time you don't get any turnovers and the other (team) gets four, it's hard to overcome," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said.
Had Tynes not made the winner, the Giants' fans might've blamed him for the loss. He'd missed a 29-yarder early in the third quarter.
Months of hype led up to quite a pregame scene: Fans streaming in four hours before kickoff, especially the 30,000 or so who were looking for places to stand; the roof and end-zone doors sliding open with about 90 minutes to go; an unveiling of midfield logo after a cartoon showed the blue star emblem being transferred from Texas Stadium via outer space. After video clips comparing this place to the Egyptian Pyramids and the Roman Colosseum, a flag was unfurled that covered the entire field.
"I suspect we're going to have an incredible home-field advantage with this place," Romo said.
Bush and his wife, Laura, handled the coin toss, then watched from a luxury suite that also included Goodell, John Madden and Pat Summerall. Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were among those taking part in a halftime ceremony to unveil the new Ring of Honor.
The crowd was loudest at the very start, but Manning quieted them by hitting a couple of deep passes on the way to a 30-yard field goal by Tynes and a 3-0 lead.
Dallas answered with the first stadium's first touchdown, a 2-yard run up the middle by Barber. He celebrated by throwing the ball straight up while on his back and receiver Roy Williams quickly fetched it. He tried giving Barber the souvenir, but he wouldn't take it. An equipment manager put the souvenir aside anyway.
Cornerback Bruce Johnson put New York back ahead by intercepting an overthrow to Williams and returning it 34 yards for a touchdown. Jones' fumble led to a field goal that stretched the lead to 13-7.
Romo put Dallas back on top with a perfect 2-yard throw to Witten between two defenders, then Dallas got the ball back right after the 2-minute warning. Romo threw a pass behind Witten that he appeared to knock to the ground. However, replays clearly showed that it hit Witten's foot and bounced right into the hands of safety Kenny Phillips. He'd returned it into the end zone but because officials initially whistled it dead all they could give New York was the ball.
Two plays later, Manning threw into the end zone and Manningham made a terrific juggling catch on his back to put New York ahead 20-14 with 46 seconds left. Romo managed to move the Cowboys enough for Nick Folk to hit a 47-yard field goal that made it 20-17 at the half.