The Cowboys opened its 2012 campaign at MetLife Stadium in the Annual Kickoff Game against their NFC East foe, the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. After a scoreless first quarter, the Giants picked up the season's first points as kicker Lawrence Tynes kicked a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter. Dallas would close out the half with quarterback Tony Romo finding wide receiver Kevin Ogletree on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
In the third quarter, the Cowboys added onto its lead Romo hooked up with Ogletree again with a 40-yard touchdown pass. New York answered with a 10-yard run from running back Ahmad Bradshaw, yet Dallas responded in kind with a 33-yard field goal from kicker Dan Bailey. The Cowboys pulled away for good in the fourth quarter with Romo connecting with wide receiver Miles Austin on a 34-yard touchdown pass. The Giants closed out the game with quarterback Eli Manning completing a 9-yard touchdown pass to former Dallas tight end Martellus Bennett.
With the win, the Cowboys began the season at 1-0.
Hoping to rebound from their tough road loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys returned to Arlington to host their home opener against the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, a team that they had blown out a year before. This game, however, was a close one throughout. In the first quarter, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo tossed an interception to Aqib Talib, which set up for a 1-yard touchdown pass from Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to tight end Luke Stocker for Tampa Bay to take the first lead. Dallas would immediately respond after a Sean Lee interception set up Cowboys running back Demarco Murray for an 11-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Shortly before the half, kicker Dan Bailey booted a 32-yard field goal for Dallas to take the lead, 10-7. After a scoreless third quarter, Dallas pulled away with Dan Bailey knocking in a pair of field goals, one from 26 yards and another from 22 yards to make the game 16-7. Tampa Bay attempted a furious rally to take the game back after a 28-yard field goal by Connor Barth, but Dallas would recover the following onside kick and effectively took a knee to end the game.
With the victory, Dallas improved their season to 2-1.
After being down 13-0 against the Browns in the first half, the Cowboys outscored the Browns 20-7 to send the game into overtime. The Cowboys kicked the game-winning field goal and improved to 5-5 on the season and 2nd place in the NFC East.
TV announcers (Fox): Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews
With the loss to their long-time rival the Washington Redskins during a Thanksgiving Classic showdown, the Cowboys dropped to 5-6 on the season and 6-1 against the Redskins on Thanksgiving. Along with the loss, the Cowboys also lost 2 key defensive players for an extended period of time. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick broke his left hand, but the team was still hopeful that he would be able to return before the end of the season. But of the three injuries suffered during the game, Bruce Carter's was probably the most devastating. Carter dislocated his left elbow during the game and was out for the rest of the season after having surgery. At that point, the Cowboys had lost 4 starters on defense due to injuries, and were on their 3rd and 4th string middle linebackers after losing both Carter and Sean Lee for the season. Also the Cowboys lost starting receiver Miles Austin to a hip strain caused by linebacker London Fletcher in the back of the end zone. Although he did not return to the game, he was cleared to play for the Cowboys' week 13 game.
With the loss, Dallas ended the season with an 8-8 record, and missed the playoffs for the third straight season. The Cowboys loss marks their third season finale loss in the last five seasons where they faced a win-or-go-home situation for the playoffs. All those season finale games came against NFC East opponents. In 2008, they lost 44-6 to the Philadelphia Eagles failing to clinch a wild card spot. In 2011, they lost 31-14 to the New York Giants failing to win the NFC East title. The loss also brought their record in Week 17 games to 2-11 since 2000.