IRVING, Texas — Wade Phillips threw a soft uppercut and smiled widely. He did it early, when his first gamble as coach of the Dallas Cowboys worked out — then again in the closing minutes, following a touchdown that also made him let out a big sigh of relief.
Marion Barber got things rolling with an 18-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1, Terrell Owens added two highlight-reel touchdown catches and Tony Romo made up for an interception with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Sam Hurd for a 45-35 victory over the injury-depleted New York Giants on Sunday night.
Romo threw for a career-high 345 yards and four touchdowns, plus ran for another, helping the Cowboys match the most points they ever scored in four years under Bill Parcells.
"It was good to see we were able to put up so many points and keep attacking," Romo said.
However, Phillips' supposedly improved defense gave up 438 yards and lots of big plays, turning a potential blowout into a nail-biter.
"How about my offense, huh?" Phillips said with a laugh at the start of his postgame news conference.
Eli Manning showed Tiki Barber and all his critics that he can be a leader, overcoming knee injuries that knocked out sacks leader Osi Umenyiora and new starting running back Brandon Jacobs, plus a late 16-point deficit to make things interesting in the final minutes.
Manning threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Ward with 7:20 left that got New York within 38-28. After botching a 2-point try, the Giants got the ball back on Romo's only interception. Manning followed with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, their third connection of the night, to make it 38-35.
Hurd, getting key playing time because of Terry Glenn's injury absence, put Dallas comfortably back ahead by turning a slant into a long touchdown with 3:03 to go.
But Manning didn't return, sidelined by a bruised throwing shoulder, and the Giants were out of rallies.
Manning was 28-of-41 for 312 yards and four touchdowns with an interception. Burress caught eight passes for 144 yards.
Romo was 15-of-24 and produced touchdowns on five of six drives, starting from Marion Barber's dazzling score in the second quarter to a 47-yarder to Owens early in the fourth quarter.
Tight end Jason Witten had six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. Owens caught only three passes, but scored on two of them. He had 81 yards, all in the second half.
"He really picked it up in the second half, didn't he?" Romo said.
New York started strong, silencing a sellout crowd swishing "Wade's Warriors" towels when Manning threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Burress on the game's third snap. But the Giants botched the extra point and were in trouble pretty much the rest of the game.
Dallas trailing 6-3 and facing fourth-and-1 from the New York 18, Phillips opted to go for a first down. The ball went to Barber, who led the NFC in touchdowns rushing last year, and his run was dazzling — shaking a defender at the line, bouncing out to the right, shoving away a second defender, then diving headfirst toward the end zone from around the 5. A third defender hit Barber, flipping him over the goal line for the go-ahead score.
Cameras caught Phillips' reaction, one that would appear several more times.
There was the touchdown pass to Witten on the next drive, stretching the lead to 17-6, then Owens' first touchdown — a diving one-hander — to open the second half. Romo also danced in from 9 yards for the first TD rushing of his career.
Through it all, Manning kept New York fighting.
New York scored 10 points in the final 21 seconds of the first half, making it 17-16 at the break, thanks in part to a fumbled kickoff return by Dallas' Tyson Thompson. The Giants also were within 24-19 in the third quarter and kept clawing after getting down 38-22.
Michael Strahan did not start, but played plenty for the Giants only a few days after ending his long preseason holdout. He had five tackles and no sacks.
This game produced the most points in the long history of this series. Dallas also scored its most points in an opener since putting up 49 in 1971 — the year the Cowboys won their first Super Bowl.