By Stephen Hawkins
The Associated Press
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys now must try to keep their season from slipping out of reach.
They were so close — by the length of Dez Bryant’s fingertips — to being within a half-game of the NFC East lead and having a vital tiebreaker with a season sweep of the division-leading New York Giants. But the receiver’s touchdown catch in the closing seconds was overturned on a replay review.
Dallas (3-4) hits the halfway mark of its schedule Sunday night at Atlanta (7-0), the NFL’s only undefeated team. The Cowboys then go to Philadelphia for the first of two meetings in four weeks against their division foe.
“There is a tremendous amount of urgency,” coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “Every game is critical. This is a big game.”
The Cowboys overcame an early 23-0 deficit and led going into the fourth quarter Sunday in what would have been the biggest comeback victory in team history.
But New York won 29-24 after regaining the lead with two field goals, the go-ahead points coming after Felix Jones fumbled. The Giants held on after replay showed Bryant’s fingers hit out of bounds before he landed on a leaping 37-yard grab with 10 seconds left.
Tight end Jason Witten’s franchise-record 18 catches and Tony Romo’s career-high 437 yards passing on a record 62 attempts (with 36 completions) weren’t enough to help the Cowboys overcome six turnovers, including four interceptions.
New York (6-2) now has a firm grasp on the NFC East lead because no other team in the division has a winning record. Philadelphia (3-4) and Washington (3-5) both lost Sunday.
“It’s to that point in the season where you don’t have time,” Witten said. “Nobody cares about battling. They don’t, they want to see you win. ... The clock’s ticking. You have to be able to find a way to get on top here a little bit.”
Romo has already thrown an NFL-high 13 interceptions in 283 attempts, after having only 10 picks in 522 throws last season. The Cowboys have 19 total giveaways and a minus-11 turnover margin.
Asked how much turnovers have contributed to the Cowboys’ losses, Garrett responded, “I think it’s probably been the biggest single factor.”
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos are relieved Peyton Manning wasn’t seriously injured on a hard hit by New Orleans Saints defensive end Martez Wilson.
The Broncos are expected to have the NFL look at the play from Sunday night’s game in which Manning banged his right thumb on Wilson’s helmet just before the crown of that helmet hit the quarterback in the chin.
Although no flag was thrown, it was similar to the illegal hit that cost Broncos linebacker Joe Mays a $50,000 fine and a one-game suspension last month for blasting Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
Manning acknowledged he was “probably a little bit lucky” that he banged the thumbnail and not the knuckle of his throwing hand on Wilson’s helmet.
Coach John Fox said Monday that Manning’s thumb was fine.
METAIRIE, La. — Saints interim coach Joe Vitt says he has not slept at all after returning back to New Orleans early Monday morning. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo says he got only a few hours of rest.
They know they have a lot of hard work ahead of them after the Saints’ most lopsided loss in four years, 34-14 to Denver on Sunday night.
The one-dimensional Saints (2-5) learned exactly how bad they are when their passing game fails. They rank last in the NFL in rushing and according to STATS LLC, are the first team to give up 400 or more yards in seven consecutive games since 1950.
Vitt says, “Understand this, it hurts. But you have to swallow it. It’s got to go down.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers played without eight starters last weekend, and coach Mike McCarthy added two more players to the injury list on Monday.
The flood of injuries contributed to Green Bay’s lackluster 24-15 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday, but McCarthy isn’t about to use them as an excuse. He says it’s just part of the game.
McCarthy’s coordinators did acknowledge the injuries do impact planning. For instance, with so many players down, McCarthy cut practices short on Wednesday and Thursday. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements estimated the team lost roughly 15 percent of its regular practice snaps.
Green Bay faces Arizona next Sunday.
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