Throwback Thursday: Choice’s First Career Touchdown Vaults Cowboys Past Giants 20-8
With only three games remaining in the 2008 regular season, the 8-5 Dallas Cowboys were trying to keep pace in a jumbled race for the NFC’s two wild-card spots. And a week after collapsing against the AFC’s top team at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, the Cowboys came back home to square off against the top team from the NFC. It was the Cowboys and the New York Giants under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football.
But instead of a quarterback duel developing between Tony Romo and Eli Manning that America had accustomed itself to between these two franchises, an unlikely figure emerged as the star in what turned out to be Dallas’ final victory at Texas Stadium. A week removed from his 88-yard rushing debut in his first career start against the Steelers, rookie tailback Tashard Choice scored the game-clinching touchdown with 2:16 remaining on a 38-yard burst up the middle. It was Choice’s first career touchdown and served as the exclamation point in Dallas’ 20-8 triumph.
A swarming Cowboy defense, led by All-Pro outside linebacker Demarcus Ware, kept the wraps on Manning and Giants offense from the very outset. New York’s fourth-year quarterback was taken down in the backfield by Ware on the game’s first play, one of eight sacks of Manning on the evening. The constant pass-rush also forced Manning into throwing two second-half interceptions.
After a scoreless opening frame, Choice provided the Dallas offense with a much-needed spark, taking a screen pass from Romo and rumbling 22 yards to the New York 40-yard line. Two plays later, Romo found Patrick Crayton running free down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
The Cowboys offensive unit stalled out for the next two quarter, thanks to a rash of self-inflicted wounds (Dallas finished the game with 11 penalties for 108 yards) and a back injury to their quarterback. Romo suffered the injury early in the game on a hit by Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Though he remained in the game, Romo was in obvious discomfort while moving around in the pocket.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, it was Choice taking a delayed handoff from Romo and running around left end for 23 yards. A 13-yard hookup from Romo to tight end Jason Witten set up Dallas’ second score of the night, a 1-yard plunge by fullback Deion Anderson that stretched the lead to 14-3.
But just when the Cowboys were getting set to coast to victory, Romo was taken down in the end zone for a safety. A 47-yard John Carney field goal with 5:48 remaining made the score 14-8 and put the onus on the Dallas offense to put the game away.
Desperate for yardage, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett went back to his most reliable running back, and was greatly rewarded. On 2nd-and-20, Choice went off right tackle for 17 yards to the Dallas 41. Later in the drive, it was Choice once again giving his team a favorable third-down circumstance, turning a 2nd-and-23 into a 3rd-and-9 with a 14-yard catch and run.
And after Romo found Witten for 11 yards and a first down, Choice drove a stake through the remaining hopes of the Giants, going untouched 38 yards for the score.