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Tuna Still the Big Kahuna in Jersey

Parcells, at the scene of some of his greatest wins, coaches Cowboys past Giants, 35-32, in overtime.

September 16, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The legacy of Bill Parcells got a big boost Monday from the leg of Dallas Cowboy kicker Billy Cundiff.

Cundiff, who forced overtime with a 52-yard field goal at the end of regulation, lifted the Cowboys to a 35-32 victory over the New York Giants by kicking a 25-yarder with 5 minutes 56 seconds remaining in overtime.

The Giants, facing the coach who led their franchise to two Super Bowl victories more than a decade ago, overcame a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and nearly pulled off a breathtaking come-from-behind victory when Matt Bryant made a 30-yard field goal with 11 seconds to play for a 32-29 lead.

But Bryant dribbled the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Cowboys the ball at the 40 and a flicker of hope. Quarterback Quincy Carter threw a 26-yard completion to Antonio Bryant, who got out of bounds with four seconds remaining. That set up Cundiff's tying kick, the longest of his career.

"Like I told my guys at training camp, we are going to play hard sometimes and it's not going to work out," said Giant Coach Jim Fassel, whose team had a chance to keep pace with Washington (2-0) in the NFC East. "It's going to be a bitter pill to swallow."

Making things more bitter, the loss came to Parcells, the Big Tuna whose legacy has hovered over Fassel's shoulder even though Parcells, 62, left the Giants 12 years ago after winning the 1991 Super Bowl. He then coached New England and the New York Jets, turning around both organizations, before taking the Cowboy job in January.

Dallas, which is coming off three consecutive 5-11 seasons and is loaded with young players, was not expected to give the Giants this much trouble. Parcells seemed both relieved and delighted in the wake of the stunning victory.

"I think that was one of the great games I've ever been involved in," he said.

The hero of the night was Cundiff, who was in danger of being cut after a terrible performance in an opening-week loss to Atlanta. His seven field goals tied a league record shared by three others. He kicked two field goals in the first half, four in the second and one in overtime.

Most of the pregame hype surrounded a war of words between Parcells and Giant tight end Jeremy Shockey that began before last season. Parcells, an ESPN studio host at the time, made a sarcastic remark about people believing Shockey should be in the Hall of Fame even before he had played an NFL game. Shockey waited until the spring to respond, using a slur to describe Parcells in an interview with New York magazine.

Shockey also made a vow in that interview: "I'll make him pay when we play them."

But that threat sounded awfully hollow through three quarters when Shockey was without a catch. Of the five passes that came his way over that span, two were dropped and one was intercepted. One of those drops was a sure touchdown that slipped right through his hands.

Shockey atoned four his lousy three quarters with a strong fourth. He caught a one-yard touchdown pass with 9:54 remaining -- his first reception of the game -- and drew a pass-interference flag on Dallas on a later two-point conversion.

His touchdown triggered an 18-0 scoring flurry in the fourth quarter that ended with Bryant's kick, the one that came with 11 seconds to play and had Giant fans gleefully celebrating.

"It was almost a great comeback," Giant safety Shaun Williams said. "But it was almost, and that's all that matters. We have to be a more consistent team if we want to be successful in this league."

The Cowboys -- a team that lost seven games last season when tied or leading in the fourth quarter -- got some clutch play down the stretch from Cundiff and quarterback Quincy Carter, who completed 25 of 40 passes for 321 yards. His lone interception was returned 29 yards for a touchdown by Ralph Brown.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Kicking Record

The Cowboys' Billy Cundiff tied an NFL record with seven field goals against the Giants Monday night.

* 7 BILLY CUNDIFF, Dallas

vs. N.Y. Giants (OT), Sept. 15, 2003

* 7 CHRIS BONIOL, Dallas

vs. Green Bay, Nov. 18, 1996

* 7 RICH KARLIS, Minnesota

vs. L.A. Rams (OT), Nov. 5, 1989

* 7 JIM BAKKEN, St. Louis

vs. Pittsburgh, Sept. 24, 1967

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