Cowboys' defense dominates Manning, Giants

IRVING, Texas — Jerry Jones has been through enough weeks like the one the Dallas Cowboys just had to know all that drama — real or perceived — rarely affects what happens when it's game time.

"This reinforces it for me," the Cowboys owner said late Sunday night after a much-needed 20-8 victory over New York Giants.

The Cowboys spent more time during the week answering questions about their own squabbles than about playing New York — including talk of Terrell Owens being upset about Tony Romo's close relationship with Jason Witten and confirmed meetings of T.O. and two other receivers with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

Yet when the game was over, and even on the sideline before that, T.O., Romo and Witten were standing together and all smiling.

"Sometimes people think that stuff that gets talked about decides football games," Romo said. "What decides it is the execution of the players on the field and the preparation you put in."

For the record, Romo's first pass was intended for Witten, an incompletion. Owens dropped a catchable deep ball on the next play, drawing more boos like he got during pregame introductions.

But on third-and-9 with 3 minutes left, Witten caught a short pass from Romo and surged ahead for the extra yards to get a first down. T.O. was there for a celebratory fist-bump, and Tashard Choice ran 38 yards for the game-clinching touchdown on the next play.

The Cowboys (9-5) moved to the top of the NFC wild-card standings heading into their Texas Stadium finale Saturday night against Baltimore.

"It was just something we had to deal with," said Owens, no stranger to controversy. "We just stuck together. We knew what was important and that was the game today."

New York (11-3) locked up the NFC East title last Sunday, but has lost consecutive games for the first time since starting 0-2 last season. Both losses have come since star receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg and was lost for the season. Still, New York can clinch the NFC's top playoff seed by winning at home Sunday night against Carolina.

"I'm disappointed, a little frustrated, but not concerned," said Manning, who was 18-of-35 for 191 yards with two interceptions. "We have to get back to playing good football. We'll have our hands full. The defense is playing well, but offensively we're not doing our part."

Manning was sacked on the Giants' first snap by DeMarcus Ware, and was taken down seven more times after that. The Giants had only 218 total yards and were held without a touchdown for the first time since November 2004.

Romo was 20-of-30 for 244 yards and two touchdowns — to third receiver Patrick Crayton and seldom thrown-to fullback Deon Anderson, not Witten or T.O. Witten caught five passes for 44 yards, and Owens had three catches for 38 yards.

"Obviously, this win helps everything," Witten said. "Obviously, a lot of guys were frustrated because we were losing."

Dallas lost 35-14 to the Giants on Nov. 2, when Romo was still out because of a broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand. Romo then came back and led Dallas to three straight victories before last week's loss at Pittsburgh.

The Steelers got the game-winning TD on the return of an interception of a pass that was intended for Witten. When Dallas got the ball back with one last chance, Romo's fourth-down pass was incomplete to Witten, who never turned to see the ball — on a play that Owens said he was open.

By the end of the week, before facing the Giants, there were even reports of a confrontation between Owens and Witten.

"There wasn't a fight that I know of and all that kind of stuff," Witten said.

Jones said all that made for "entertaining reading" throughout the week, stuff that didn't matter Sunday night.

"But I'm proud of this bunch, they competed good," Jones said. "It would be wrong to portray this game as 'in spite of all the media attention and all the things that were written about it.' The story of this game was how they came back from a disappointing loss in Pittsburgh."

And kept their playoff hopes intact.

Notes: New York became the third Dallas opponent this season held without a touchdown. ... Ware's three sacks pushed his NFL-leading total to 19, 31/2; shy of Michael Strahan's NFL record. ... Terence Newman had both interceptions. ... RB Marion Barber, back after not going to Pittsburgh because of a dislocated pinkie toe, had eight carries for 2 yards. Tashard Choice ran 91 yards on nine carries and had a team-high 52 receiving yards on four catches. ... John Carney had field goals of 37 and 47 yards for the Giants, who also got a safety by sacking Romo in the end zone.

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