ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Tony Romo wore a gray T-shirt, his left arm hanging in a sling and covered by a blue jacket. He spent the second half listening to a headset, flipping through overhead pictures of plays and trying to encourage his Dallas Cowboys teammates.
That’s pretty much how he will spend the next month or two. Maybe even the rest of the season.
Romo broke his left collarbone on a hit by New York’s Michael Boley in the second quarter Monday night. It was a season-changer for the Cowboys, and a game-changer for the Giants. New York would soon trail by 13, only to rally for a 41-35 victory.
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The Giants (5-2) scored on five straight possessions spanning the middle two quarters, putting up 31 unanswered points to grab control of more than just this clash between NFC East rivals. New York also vaulted a full game ahead of the rest of the division and matched Atlanta for the best record in the conference.
“It’s very sweet,” Boley said. “It’s a division game and it’s no secret, we don’t like the Cowboys.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he was told Romo would miss about 6 to 8 weeks. More tests are scheduled for Tuesday and should help set a timetable — but it might not matter much. Dallas is 1-5, so there may not be any reason to rush back. The 1970 Bengals are the only 1-5 team ever to make the playoffs.
“I’m staying optimistic,” Romo said. “This football team has a lot of high-character guys, a lot of competitive individuals who aren’t going to give in to a tough situation.”
Tough? Put it this way: The historically woebegone Texas Rangers could win more games in October and November than the five-time Super Bowl champion Cowboys. And with the Super Bowl coming to Cowboys Stadium in February, it’s all but certain the host team won’t be playing. Worse still, this once-promising season is now linked to 1989 — the year Jones bought the team, Jimmy Johnson took over as coach and the Cowboys went 1-15; that was the last time Dallas started 1-5. At least back then everyone knew the team was lousy.
“There are a lot of teams in this league that have had to step in and do a different direction at quarterback,” Jones said. “We’ve got to be able to play without Romo.”
This was the fourth straight win for the Giants. The really stunning number is five — that’s how many quarterbacks they’ve injured this season.
Romo had the Cowboys ahead 10-7 and driving for more when he threw a pass to Miles Austin with 12:07 left in the second quarter. Boley was charging right at him, unblocked and going full speed.
Romo landed on his left shoulder and Boley heard him “let out a little scream.” All Romo remembers was how much trouble he had breathing.
“I was really lightheaded,” he said. “It made for a feeling of it to be I couldn’t get my senses at all.”
Even in a week where the NFL is scrutinizing hard hits, Boley didn’t draw a flag. It was a clean play, a textbook example of a hard hit.
“I came in scot-free,” Boley said. “I thought it was a normal hit. After I got up and started running, I looked back and saw he was down.”
Dallas backup Jon Kitna hadn’t played since Oct. 5, 2008, when he was part of Detroit’s winless season. Whether it was the long layoff, being 38 or both, he sure looked rusty.
His first and third passes were tipped. The next time he dropped back, he was sacked for a 10-yard loss, forcing Dallas to punt from its own end zone. The Giants took advantage of the short field to score the go-ahead touchdown. His next pass was fumbled by Jason Witten, setting up Lawrence Tynes’ long field goal. It got so bad that there was a mock cheer when he completed a pass for a first down early in fourth quarter. He finished 16 of 33 for 187 yards.
“It just took him a while to get going,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. “Once he did, it gave us a chance.”
Kitna ended up throwing a pair of touchdown passes to rookie Dez Bryant in the final 3:17, but Dallas failed to recover onside kicks after each. New York got another field goal from Tynes after the first, then ran out the clock following the second.
Eli Manning was 25 of 35 for 306 yards and had four TD passes for the fourth time in his career. Hakeem Nicks caught nine passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Smith caught nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Mario Manningham had the other TD catch.
Ahmad Bradshaw ran 24 times for 126 yards and Brandon Jacobs had 75 yards on 12 carries.
“The way we started the game tonight, to be able to come back from that and show the mental toughness was big,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
The craziest part about this game was how many things the Cowboys did right: A club that had only four takeaways all season snatched five. A special teams group that was getting known for giving up big plays made a huge one — a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown by Bryant. They drew only five penalties.
But they also went 0 for 10 on third downs. And Romo wasn’t the only guy lost to injury. Defensive end Jason Hatcher and left guard Montrae Holland hurt their groins. Holland already was filling in for injured starter Kyle Kosier, so the Cowboys had to go with Phil Costa, a rookie free agent who was making his NFL debut.
The Cowboys pulled out the stops this week to try turning things around. Jones gave an encouraging speech Monday, officials worked practices on Wednesday and Thursday, and Hall of Famers Bob Lilly and Tony Dorsett were honorary captains for this game. (Hours earlier, Dorsett called the team “a bunch of underachievers.”)
They drummed up some loud applause by showing clips of the World Series-bound Rangers, then cutting to team icon Nolan Ryan in the stands.
Ryan’s team eliminated the Yankees in Arlington last weekend. The Giants can take some measure of revenge back to New York.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.