"First of all, we were in field goal range," New York coach Dan Reeves said, defending a strategy that was endorsed by his quarterback. Phil Simms. "Second of all, we were having trouble protecting our quarterback. He'd been sacked four times. And third, the way we were going in the second half, we felt we could win it in overtime."
The major flaw in the pass protection was left tackle Jumbo Elliott, who gave up two sacks to Jim Jeffcoat—he always seems to save his biggest games for the Giants—plus a Jeffcoat force that set up another sack. Elliott has a bad back, and all week he was iffy for this game. His backup, Eric Moore, had a bad ankle. The third man, Clarence Jones, had been deactivated for the game. But another period did seem to favor New York, because the Dallas defense was starting to sag.
The Giants got the ball first in overtime, and one penalty, a chop block called against reserve center Brian Williams, destroyed their drive. It's a particularly nasty play: One guy sets up a defensive lineman, another one cracks down on his lower leg. An earlier, uncalled chop block had already cost the Cowboys Pro Bowl defensive tackle Russell Maryland—Elliott had come from the blind side and taken him out at the ankle in the second quarter. "One hell of an ugly play," Jeffcoat said after the game. "That's not the way the game's supposed to be played."
"They were doing a lot of cheap-shotting, hitting after the play and that kind of stuff," Dallas middle linebacker Ken Norton said. "They aren't usually like that. I guess they felt they needed it today. The one on Russell was real bad."
So the Giants punted to the Cowboys, who started from their own 25. What was it going to be? The wideouts, Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper, had been all but taken out of the game (three catches for 50 yards, all by Irvin) by the jamming tactics of the New York cornerbacks. Troy Aikman had had an effective day (24 of 30 for 180 yards) in the controlled passing mode, but his most serious weapon, Smith, was hurting. "Everything that's gone on up to that point goes out the window," Johnston said. "It's a different game. It's who can make the tough plays."
Time for number 22. Three passes to Smith for 24 yards, another 17 on six carries, including a 10-yard dart off left guard that brought the ball to the Giants' 24. On third down the Cowboys called on 37-year-old Murray, who was cut by three NFL teams before being picked up by the Cowboys in September after Lin Elliott blew two field goals against the Buffalo Bills. "My kicking coach, Steve Hoffman, was nervous when the Giants called timeout to ice me," Murray said. "I had to calm him down. I tried to hit it a little harder to keep myself from guiding the ball. It still got a little closer to the right goalpost than I'd have liked."
Afterward, there was Emmitt again. He made a very late appearance in the post-game press conference, his right shoulder wrapped and taped so heavily that he had a Quasimodo look. "When I first hurt the shoulder, they told me it was a sprain," he said. "It felt a whole lot worse than a sprain. I thought I'd dislocated it or something. I really didn't know what I could or couldn't do. I knew I'd lost some range of motion. But I knew I wasn't coming out.
"They put a harness under my pads and taped a knee pad to the shoulder and wrapped an Ace bandage around that, trying to keep the pad on. It didn't really help much. I had to make a decision, get down or play. So I played. It was the Lord's will. He watched over me."
"How about the stiff-arm you threw with your right arm on that last drive?" someone asked him.
"I wasn't thinking," he said. "It was just a reaction."