TOP 20 GAMES OF 2012
AT #20 November 22, 2012#20 Revealed May 6
AT #19 September 16, 2012#19 Revealed May 7
AT #18 November 11, 2012#18 Revealed May 8
AT #17 January 20, 2013#17 Revealed May 9
AT #16 December 16, 2012#16 Revealed May 10
AT #15 December 2, 2012#15 Revealed May 13
AT #14 September 30, 2012#14 Revealed May 14
AT #13 November 22, 2012#13 Revealed May 15
AT #12 October 14, 2012#12 Revealed May 16
AT #11 September 23, 2012#11 Revealed May 17
AT #10 October 28, 2012#10 Revealed May 20
AT #9 September 23, 2012#9 Revealed May 21
AT #8 October 15, 2012#8 Revealed May 22
AT #7 October 7, 2012#7 Revealed May 23
AT #6 December 16, 2012#6 Revealed May 24
AT #5 February 3, 2013#5 Revealed May 27
AT #4 September 24, 2012#4 Revealed May 28
AT #3 December 30, 2012#3 Revealed May 29
AT #2 January 13, 2013#2 Revealed May 30
AT #1 January 12, 2013#1 Revealed May 31
Game 10: Giants at Cowboys Week 8
Damn Lies and Statistics
If ever a game highlighted the difference between the careers of Eli Manning and Tony Romo, this was it. Despite the negative attention paid to both of these players -- particularly the second guy -- the fact is, both are top-10 quarterbacks.
Giants-Cowboys made it into the top 10 of our Top Games of 2012, in the process becoming yet another apparent example of why Manning is "clutch," a definite "have" to Romo's "have not."
But the truth is more complicated than you might surmise.
You see, what occurred in Dallas last October has been going on for years. A quality football team like the Giants makes plays when it needs to, and the Cowboys don't (see: Dez Bryant's fingertip -- about which more later). And this is true not just when the Giants and Cowboys play each other, either. Think about some of the famous plays from these proud franchises' past:
- David Tyree wedging the ball against the side of his helmet in Super Bowl XLII.
- Patrick Crayton dropping a key third-down pass in a 2007 playoff matchup, then stopping on a later route, ruining what would have been a perfect throw to win it.
- The Giants' defense holding the San Francisco 49ers to 1-13 on third downs (the definition of clutch) in the 2011 NFC Championship Game.
- Miles Austin losing the ball in the lights in the Cowboys' loss to the Giants in Week 14 of the 2011 season -- a game that cost the Cowboys the division.
- Mario Manningham doing an unbelievable job of securing a tough catch AND getting his feet inbounds to set up the go-ahead score in Super Bowl XLVI.
And wouldn't you know it? The pattern repeated itself in this one.
With both teams needing a win, the Giants pulled ahead, 23-0, despite Manning's poor play, particularly on third down. Romo stunk up the joint himself early, giving up three interceptions and providing the Giants with some short fields. Neither quarterback was playing like he belonged in the top 25, much less the top 10.
Nonetheless, the 29-24 victory that eventually resulted for Big Blue sparked the usual ridiculous conclusions -- that one quarterback is "clutch" or "elite" while the other is a "choker."
But what makes a quarterback clutch? Isn't it his ability to bring his club back from both his and his teammates' errors? Or his play with the game on the line, à la John Elway?
|Highest Fourth Quarter Passer Rating – 2004-2012*|
|Comp Pct.||TD-Int||Yds per Att||Passer Rating|
|1. Tony Romo||63.8||56-22||8.52||101.9|
|2. Aaron Rodgers||63.2||43-16||7.81||100.2|
|3. Peyton Manning||65.4||54-17||7.67||100.1|
|4. Tom Brady||62.8||59-25||7.51||95.4|
|5. Joe Flacco||62.2||26-14||7.45||90.3|
|6. Drew Brees||63.6||65-41||7.56||90.2|
|15. Eli Manning||58.8||66-42||7.23||85.1|
Romo recovered from his awful start, not only bringing the Cowboys all the way back but securing a 24-23 fourth-quarter lead. It was a new game ... anybody's game.
After Romo made amends for his cruddy performance from earlier in the day, Manning followed suit, leading his team to a couple of field goals to pull ahead, 29-24.
Romo got the ball on the final drive, putting Dallas in position to have a shot. Yet, his teammates couldn't make the kind of improbable play that Tyree, Manningham and several other Giants have made over the years.
With eight seconds left, Romo delivered a long ball into the end zone that only Bryant could get to -- and he made a heckuva grab. The problem was, he didn't keep his whole body -- er, finger -- inbounds. Yes, it would have been a great catch. The bottom line, though, is that premier receivers -- like Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne in their prime -- complete that kind of play (Manningham already has).
Two plays later, Austin dropped a pass just shy of the goal line, one he would have at least had a chance to score on. While it also would have been a tough catch, it was the kind of catch that Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz generally make.
Once again, after playing a lousy game, Manning walked off the field with the spoils of victory. Romo? Vilified by all, as per usual.
So let's get back to it. Who is more clutch, Manning or Romo?
Neither. The Giants are.
Did You Know? The Bears made headlines in 2012 for scoring so many points off of takeaways (145), but the Giants were right behind them with 133 -- including 17 in Week 8.
Historical Symmetry: The Giants and Cowboys also played a thriller in Dallas two seasons ago -- No. 2 on our list of the Top Games of 2011 -- that also came down to the wire. A big comeback was again necessary, except that time, it was the Giants storming back from 12-point deficit with five minutes to play to win the game.
Historical Symmetry 2: The Giants have owned Jerry World -- er, Cowboys Stadium. Dallas has lost all four games played between the two teams there, including the stadium opener in 2009.
Can't Miss Play: With less than a minute to go in the third quarter, Lady Fortune did not smile on the Giants. Instead, she kicked them in the rear.
Having completely blown their 23-zip advantage, the Giants needed to make something happen offensively. Looking to at least move into field goal range, Manning forced the ball into double coverage ... to strange results.
The ball caromed off of Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh and Cruz -- who arrived almost simultaneously -- then literally bounced off of Sensabaugh's butt. Fellow Cowboys safety Danny McCray cherry-picked it, and the already cold Giants offense stalled again.
(Defensive) Play of the Game: Jason Pierre-Paul has a way of spoiling the fun in Cowboys Stadium. In 2011, he blocked Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal attempt at the end of the game. Without that block, the Giants would've spent the playoffs -- and the Super Bowl -- on the couch at home.
This time, Pierre-Paul's pick-six helped the Giants to a 23-0 lead in the second quarter, nearly putting the game out of reach shortly after it had started. Watch again as JPP feigns the pass rush, only to step back and pluck Romo's swing pass from the air. It was an incredible example of read-and-react by a defensive end. Call it Jason Taylor-esque.
Best Player on the Field: The Giants could not cover No. 82. Jason Witten was so open that he was targeted 23 times -- 23! -- en route to an 18-catch, 167-yard performance.
This truly was a case of an All-Pro performer putting up a ridiculous performance. At some points in the second half, the Giants were double-covering Witten with two defensive backs. Unreal.
By the way, the 18 catches were an NFL record for a tight end in a game.
Why This Game is No. 10: Giants-Cowboys Week 8 had a little bit of everything, but the way it ended was unbelievable. So was seeing the Giants blaze their way to a 23-0 first-half lead. Or how about the Cowboys roaring back with 24 unanswered points? Finally, the Giants got the big fourth-down, fourth-quarter stop when they needed it.
Nonetheless, the 10th Top Game of 2012 will always be remembered for Bryant coming up half-a-digit long. Every once in awhile, a great matchup is defined by an oh-so-close-to-great play. That's why they call this a game of inches.
Visit NFL Game Center for more on Giants at Cowboys.