EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Dec. 3, 2006) -- Bill Parcells has never been
crazy about kickers.
Gramatica, signed six days ago after Parcells cut the enigmatic Mike Vanderjagt, kicked a 46-yard field goal with a second left to
give the Dallas Cowboys a 23-20 victory against
the New York Giants and a two-game lead in the
"I've got to thank the Cowboys for giving me a second chance," said
Gramatica, once a top kicker who had only one field goal in three games
"It's been a rough couple of years for me," the journeyman said, "being
out all last year and then not making any teams this year."
The winning score was set up by a 42-yard pass by Tony Romo to Jason Witten and
came a little over a minute after the Giants, wearing their red jerseys
for the first and only time this season, had tied the game at 20 on a
5-yard TD pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress.
Gramatica, who also kicked field goals of 41 and 35 yards, was signed
last week after the Cowboys cut Vanderjagt, who had received a
three-year contract in the offseason.
But being the new guy didn't keep Gramatica from bursting into one of
his over-the-top celebrations: The diminutive kicker leaped into the
arms of his teammates, while coach Bill Parcells broke into a wide smile
on the sidelines as the ball sailed through.
"Gramatica made me look good," Parcells said with a smile. "For a first
game back in the league, you can't get more pressure than that for the
It didn't look so good for Parcells on Gramatica's first kick -- a
44-yard attempt on the Cowboys' opening drive. But the last kick, which
went right down the middle with power to spare, more than made up for it.
|Week 13's top games|
Watch some of the best games from Week 13 all over again with NFL Replay on NFL Network. Airing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, the broadcasts will feature a 90-minute fast-paced format complete with original television announcers and cameras. An additional game of the week will be shown on Friday. Week 13's games to be replayed are:
· DAL at NYG, Dec. 5, 8 ET
· KC at CLE, Dec. 5, 10:30 ET
· IND at TEN, Dec. 6, 8 ET
· CAR at PHI, Dec. 6, 10:30 ET
· DAL at NYG, Dec. 8, 9:30 ET
Click here to find out more about NFL Replay.
"For a guy who hadn't been kicking with regularity," Giants coach Tom
Coughlin said, "it was a difficult thing to do."
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Giants (6-6) and the fifth
victory in six games for Dallas (8-4) since Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at quarterback at halftime of a 36-22 loss to New York
on Oct. 23. He finished 20-for-34 for 257 yards with two interceptions.
"Any time you come up to this place you know it's not going to go
smoothly," Romo said. "We made mistakes today. I know I did. You just
have to have a chance to do something at the end of the game to win."
Both teams did -- there were three scores in the final 3:33 -- but the
Cowboys had the last chance.
First, Marion Barber scored on a 1-yard
run at the end of a 66-yard drive. Then Manning drove the Giants 63
yards for the tying score on the pass to Burress.
But Romo hit Witten on the first play after the kickoff with a strong
throw to take the Cowboys to the Giants 26.
The Giants took an early 7-0 lead on their first possession, driving 66
yards on 10 plays with Manning hitting Jeremy
Shockey on a 17-yard pass for the score. But they couldn't
score a touchdown again until the fourth quarter, despite first downs at
the Dallas 4-yard-line twice in the second half -- in each case, New
York had to settle for field goals.
Dallas tied it at 7 on Barber's first plunge, which was set up by a
bizarre sequence: Matthias Kiwanuka
picked off a Romo pass and returned it 12 yards before he was stripped
of the ball and Sam Hurd recovered for
Martin Gramatica has ended Bill Parcells' search for a reliable kicker ... for now.
It was the second successive game that the Giants' rookie defensive end
started to make a big play that turned into a mistake -- last week he
had Tennessee's Vince Young in his arms
for what could have been a game-winning fourth-down sack but released
him because he thought Young had released the ball. Young then scampered
for a first town and Tennessee went on to win.
This time, the key sequence came right before halftime.
With a fourth-and-short and 1:30 left, the Giants went for it, running
short yardage specialist Brandon Jacobs
outside, where he was stopped for a 3-yard loss. Romo then drove the
Cowboys down the field for a 41-yard field goal by Gramatica.
In the second half, Gramatica and Jay Feely
alternated field goals -- the Giants kept getting closer than the Cowboys but
couldn't score a touchdown. Manning, who had been slumping lately, was
24-for-36 for 270 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The loss leaves the Giants, who were 6-2 at one point, with little
margin for error if they want to make the playoffs -- most likely as a
"We have to approach it as if we have to win all four games," Manning
said. "Maybe three of four will get us in, but we can't look at it that
way. We have to approach it if we have to win them all."
Five of Romo's seven interceptions are against the Giants.
All-Pro defensive end Osi Umenyiora
returned for the Giants after missing five games with a hip injury but
did not register a tackle.
Dallas had three kickers last season and gave Vanderjagt, who had been
the most accurate kicker in NFL history, a huge signing bonus in hopes
of solving their problems. He was 12-for-17 when he was cut.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2006, The
Associated Press, All Rights Reserved