Dec. 11, 2011. Sometime after 11 pm. The Cowboys, leading 34-29, faced 3rd and 5 with less than three minutes left in the game. A first down likely ends the game, as the Giants only had one timeout remaining. A touchdown definitely ends the game. The Giants came in on a 4-game losing streak, and a loss would have eliminated them from playoff contention, as winning the NFC East would have impossible due to tiebreakers.
Miles Austin of the Cowboys beat Aaron Ross badly – no jam at the line! – and Tony Romo saw that. But Romo’s pass was a yard too far. If it is on target, Austin hauls the pass in and races the distance for a score that ends the Giants’ season. It’s as if Cris Collinsworth knew the enormity of the pass as it hit the turf and the Dallas crowd grumbled. If that pass is complete, it ends the Tom Coughlin era. Would anyone be talking about Eli Manning’s legacy today if that pass connects? If Romo’s touch is a tad better, it renders the season-finale against Dallas – which the Giants won to get into the postseason – meaningless.
You know the rest of the story: Eli’s clutch in leading the Giants to the go-ahead score, and then Dallas had a kick to send the game to overtime, but Jason Pierre-Paul blocked it.
That Romo miss left the door slightly ajar for the Giants. New York lost the following week to Washington (it would be their final loss of the season), and Dallas beat hapless Tampa, but it didn’t matter: The win against the division rival prolonged New York’s season, and in the regular season finale against Dallas, the Giants rolled at home, 31-14.