Bill Parcells has never been crazy about kickers.
Martin Gramatica may have changed the Dallas coach’s opinion.
Gramatica, signed last Monday after Parcells cut enigmatic Mike Vanderjagt, kicked a 46-yard field goal with a second left Sunday to give the Dallas Cowboys a 23-20 win over the New York Giants and a two-game lead in the NFC East.
“I’ve got to thank the Cowboys for giving me a second chance,” said Gramatica, once a top kicker who had just one field goal in three games since 2004.
“It’s been a rough couple of years for me, being out all last year and then not making any teams this year.”
The winning score was set up by a 42-yard pass by Tony Romo to Jason Witten and came just over a minute after the Giants, wearing their red jerseys for the first and only time this season, had tied the game at 20-20 on a five-yard scoring pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress.
Gramatica, who also kicked field goals of 41 and 35 yards, was signed last week after the Cowboys cut Vanderjagt, who had received a three-year, $5.3-million contract in the off-season.
But being the new guy didn’t keep Gramatica from bursting into one of his over-the-top celebrations: The diminutive kicker leaped into the arms of his teammates, while Parcells, the Cowboys’ coach, broke into a wide smile on the sideline as the ball sailed through.
“Gramatica made me look good,” Parcells said. “For a first game back in the league, you can’t get more pressure than that for the division lead.”
It didn’t look so good for Parcells on Gramatica’s first kick, a 44-yard attempt on the Cowboys’ opening drive. But the last kick, which went right down the middle with power to spare, more than made up for it.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Giants (6-6) and the fourth win in five games for Dallas (8-4) since Romo replaced Drew Bledsoe at quarterback at halftime of a 36-22 loss to New York on Oct. 23. He finished 20 for 34 for 257 yards with two interceptions.