Written by Ali Jawad
This millennium in football has brought us some of the greatest moments, games, super bowls, and rivalries in NFL history. During the last twenty years of pro football, we have seen epic battles between teams such as the Steelers vs. Ravens, Colts vs. Patriots, heck even the entire NFC East against one another. Those rivalries were made great in large part due to the players we saw on the field, and while the Colts-Patriots rivalry was the must-see match up due to the rivalry of Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady. We can't discount what I believe is one of the most underrated rivalries in NFL history. Eli Manning vs. Tony Romo. Two quarterbacks that delivered jaw-dropping matchups both regular and postseason that many of us football fans will never forget. Let's go back in time and look at what I believe were the top 10 matchups in the Manning-Romo rivalry.
Number 10 Week 13 2009 Giants win 31-24 Final Matchup at Giants Stadium
On a 37 degree Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys made a trip up to Giants Stadium to take on a Giants team that was in a must-win situation. A win would keep the Giants alive in the race for the NFC East. The Cowboys led the game 10-0 when Tony Romo connected with Roy Williams on a 4-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Later in the second, the Giants would score on back to back possessions, including an Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks 21 yard touchdown to take a 14-10 lead at the half. Both teams went back and forth in the second half. Romo would connect with Williams again this time on a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Giants scored on the first play of their ensuing possession as Manning would hit Brandon Jacobs for a 74-yard touchdown pass, the longest reception of Jacobs career. The Giants Dominik Hixon pitched in as well with a career-long 79-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Cowboys kept themselves in the game after Romo would hook up with Miles Austin on a 22-yard score. However, they failed to recover the onside kick. The first round on the list belongs to Eli, who would finish the game with 241 yards passing, two touchdowns, and one interception while Romo finished the game with 392 yards passing, and three touchdown passes.
Number 9 Week 1 2007 Cowboys win 45-35 A Shootout In Texas
The Giants and Cowboys faced off in week one at Texas stadium in a game that proved to be an offensive shoot out. Eli Manning had a stellar performance going 28/41, for 312 yards and four touchdowns. The offense could not overcome a horrific performance by the defense. The Giant's defense would surrender six touchdowns to the Cowboys offense, including four passing touchdowns from Tony Romo, who would also finish the game with 345 yards passing. The Cowboys led late in the game 38-22. Eli Manning led back to back scoring drives connecting with running back Derrick Ward on a dump-off pass, and later with Plaxico Burress, who caught three of Mannings four touchdowns to cut the lead down to three points. On a crucial 3rd and seven play in the 4th quarter. Romo would hit back up WR Sam Hurd on a 51-yard touchdown pass that would help the Cowboys prevail in this match up—giving Romo the win over Manning.
Number 8 Week 13 2006 Cowboys win 23-20 Romo to Witten
Romo's first career start against Manning came weeks after Romo would relieve Drew Bledsoe in a Week 7 game against the Giants. A game in which Romo threw three interceptions in a 36-22 Giant win. Six weeks later, the two would face off in Giants stadium. 2006 is best remembered as a year full of mistakes by the Giants. After a 6-2 start, the Giants would go on to lose four consecutive games. Against Dallas, Eli Manning was solid through the air completing 24/36 passes, for 270 yards, and two touchdowns. However, as I mentioned, it was a season full of mistakes, and this game was like the icing on the cake for all errors. The Giants committed four personal foul penalties, a fumble immediately after intercepting Romo, and bad red zone play calling. Late in the fourth quarter, Manning led the Giants on a 63-yard drive capped off with a 7-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress. On that same possession, the Giants had called a timeout and preserved an additional 40 seconds on the clock. Romo and the Cowboys took advantage as he would connect with Jason Witten on a big pass play that would set up kicker Martin Gramatica for a game-winning field goal with one second left. In the end, both quarterbacks came away with late-game heroics, but round three on this list goes to Romo.
Number 7 Week 12 2013 Cowboys win 24-21 Romo Leads Clutch Drive
Another great matchup at the meadowlands this time at MetLife stadium. With the NFC East in a slugfest and both teams battling to increase their chances at winning the division, the Giants came into this game on a four-game winning streak after an 0-6 start. The Cowboys meanwhile had the opportunity to dash the playoff hopes of the Giants. The Cowboys led the game 21-6, which featured twice Tony Romo connecting with every Giants fan's nightmare Jason Witten on a pair of touchdowns. Manning, however, led the Giants back into the game with two touchdown passes to tight end Brandon Myers and wide receiver Louis Murphy Jr to tie the game 21-21. Another game coming down to the wire ended with another clutch Tony Romo game-winning drive as the Cowboys would milk out the remaining 4:53 seconds on the clock and would win it off the right leg of Dan Bailey on a 35-yard field goal. Make it three in a row now for Romo.
Number 6 Week 17 2011 Giants win NFC East 31-14 Mannings Continued Dominance
The 256th and final game of the 2011 regular season featured a flexed primetime matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. This time higher stakes were on the line; the winner takes the NFC East and advances to the playoffs, and the loser goes home. Every Giants fan remembers the 2011 version of Eli Manning, who was Mr. fourth quarter that year. Manning magic was real that season, and with the NFC East on the line, Eli Manning delivered an unforgettable performance. Manning would complete 24/33, for 346 yards, and 3-touchdowns, including a 74-yard TD to Victor Cruz, while posting a passer rating of 136.7. Manning would also go on to set the record for most 4th quarter touchdown passes that season with 15, a mark his brother Peyton Manning set years before that with 14. With the Giants up 21-0, Tony Romo led the Cowboys back into the game with a pair of scores to WR Laurent Robinson to cut the lead to 21-14. Midway through the 4th quarter with the game on the line, Eli Manning spun out of a sack and connected with Victor Cruz on an incredible 44-yard pass play. That play helped the Giants extend their lead 24-14 after a Lawrence Tynes 28 yard field goal, and later on in the 4th Manning would connect with Hakeem Nicks for the game's final touchdown. Giving the Giants the NFC East title, and over the next month, the Giants went on yet another dominating playoff run capped off with their fourth Super Bowl title in franchise history. Romo's three-game winning streak snapped as this match up belonged to Eli.
Number 5 Week 1 2015 Cowboys win 27-26 A Giant Mistake A Romo to Witten Dagger
Another week one matchup between Romo and Manning under the bright lights of AT&T stadium. A matchup that came down to the wire. The Cowboys shockingly trailed by scores of 16-6 in the 3rd quarter and 23-13 in the 4th. The Giants appeared to have this game in the books as they had the ball up 23-20 late in the 4th quarter. All the Giants had to do was run the ball, whether they scored or not. The Cowboys would have gotten the football back with virtually no time on the clock and no timeouts. Instead a miscue by QB Eli Manning rather than sliding or giving himself up on a 3rd goal pass play Manning threw the ball out of the endzone, which preserved 1:37 on the clock for the Cowboys who were trailing 26-20. Romo and the Cowboys offense took full advantage. In a blink, it made just six plays and 1:16 off the clock for the Cowboys to win the game as Romo was able to secure a poor snap and find Jason Witten for an 11-yard touchdown to win the game. This would be the final matchup between Manning and Romo.
Number 4 Week 12 Cowboys win 31-24 A Three-Fingered Catch.
Another primetime matchup between the two teams in the meadowlands. Cowboys were leaders of the NFC East, and the Giants at this point with slim hopes were playing more so as spoilers. Manning and Romo each delivered a terrific performance. The Giants were in full control of this game up 21-10 at the half. The Cowboys came out in the second half in full command scoring a pair of touchdowns as Romo would connect with Cole Beasley on a 45-yard touchdown pass and later with Dez Bryant on a 31-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 24-21 lead. At the end of the fourth quarter, Manning would engineer a 14 play, a 93-yard touchdown to put the Giants back on top 28-24. The defense again failed to come up with a stop as Romo would respond driving the Dallas offense seven plays, for 80 yards and would cap off the drive with a Dez Bryant score from 13 yards. This game, of course, will forever be remembered as the night Odell Beckham Jr made arguably the most excellent catch in NFL history. Of course, though, a win is more important, and that's precisely what Romo delivered.
Number 3 NFC Divisional round Giants win 21-17 A Giant Upset.
No game in this QB rivalry had higher stakes than the one that took place Sunday, January 13th, 2008. The heavily favored 13-3 Dallas Cowboys, which featured an NFL record 13 pro bowlers on the roster that season, would host the NFC divisional playoff matchup at Texas Stadium against the underdog 10-6 New York Giants. The Cowboys led by Tony Romo had swept Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the regular season and were expected to knock the Giants out of the postseason. Led by Manning, the Giants scored on their opening possession as Manning would connect with wide receiver Amani Toomer on a 52-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys would respond with a pair of touchdowns from running back Marion Barber and wide receiver Terrell Owens. With the Cowboys up 14-7 and milking out a majority of the clock in the second quarter, Manning would lead the Giants on a seven-play drive that lasted just 46 seconds as he would connect once again with Toomer. The Giants would re-take the lead in the 4th quarter on a Brandon Jacobs one-yard touchdown, and New York's feared pass rush led by future Hall of Famer Michael Strahan would pressure Romo in the second half. The game came down to a 4th and 11 play in which Romo was picked off by R.W. McQuarters in the endzone to seal the game 21-17. This marked the first, and to this day, the only playoff matchup between the Giants and Cowboys. In the end, Manning and the Giants would stun Romo and the Cowboys en route to winning Super Bowl 42.
Number 2 Week 14 2011 Giants win 37-34 Manning Magic.
The Giants would travel to Arlington, Texas, in a matchup that was for first place in the muddled up NFC East. The Giants had lost their last four after a promising 6-2 start, and the Cowboys entered this game with a mark of 7-5 leading the NFC East. Both teams went all out in this matchup and went back and forth in scoring. In a must-win game against the Cowboys, the Giants fell behind by 12 points with less than six minutes remaining. Similar to the 2010 season, New York's latest second half-season collapse was nearly complete. Down 34-22, after Romo hit Dez Bryant on a 50-yard touchdown, the Giants turned once again to Manning in hopes he could deliver more of his Manning magic more than ever. The Giants were able to respond as Manning would lead an eight-play 80-yard scoring drive ending with a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Ballard. Ensuing Cowboys position Romo on 3rd, and five saw that the Giants were coming with a blitz and gave a signal to WR Miles Austin. As the play went on, Austin was five yards behind coverage, and the ball was overthrown. On a side note, Austin could have dove for the ball. Giants would get the football back, and once again, Manning would work his magic and led the Giants on a six-play 53-yard drive resulting in a Brandon Jacobs touchdown. The Giants would convert on a 2-point conversion to take a 37-34 lead. Romo led the Cowboys into field goal range to set up Dan Bailey for a game-tying 47-yard field goal. The Cowboys were in a familiar position as then-head coach Jason Garrett the week prior had iced his Bailey against the Cardinals in which the ending result was a loss. This time it was then Giants head coach Tom Coughlin who would ice Bailey after making it the first try. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul would block the game-tying field goal and ended the game in a 37-34 Giants win. If there was a game that season where Manning could do no wrong, this would be the winner.
Number 1 Week 2 2009 Giants win 33-31 Back and Forth They Go.
Any time I think of matchups that went back and forth, this is one that jumps to my mind. The first-ever game at what was known as at the time Cowboy Stadium. This featured a Sunday night prime time matchup between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams were coming off week one victories and looked to continue their strong starts to a young NFL season. This was a matchup that featured plenty of offense and defense. Both quarterbacks led multiple scoring drives, and both teams fought to the end. Eli Manning got the better side of the performance going 25/38 for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Overall this game saw ten lead changes, 805 yards of total offense, 42 combined 1st downs, seven touchdowns, four field goals, and even a football going off the cleat of Jason Witten, which resulted in a Kenny Phillips interception. The Cowboys, however, committed four turnovers, including three Tony Romo interceptions and one that was a pick-six by Bruce Johnson. Yet only in a Giants-Cowboys game can you commit four turnovers and still have a chance at winning the game. Despite the interceptions, Romo still found the endzone twice in the game. A one-yard score to his BFF Jason Witten and a three-yard rushing touchdown by Romo as both counts gave Dallas the lead at one point. Again, however, it was Manning to the rescue. With 3:40 left to go and Dallas up 31-30, Manning marched the Giants downfield on an 11 play 57-yard drive which ended in a Lawrence Tynes 37-yard field goal 33-31 Giants win. As usual, another game decided in the fourth quarter, and it seems like any Romo vs. Manning matchup the QB who possessed the ball last wins the game, which is the recurring theme of this list.