Tony Romo had the first 500-yard passing game in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, and threw five touchdowns in what owner Jerry Jones called the best he's ever seen his quarterback play.
And the standout performance came with Peyton Manning on the other side in an offensive shootout.
Except Romo's last pass was costly, an interception with 1:57 left that set up Manning and the Denver Broncos for a game-ending field goal and a 51-48 victory Sunday.
"They have a great quarterback across the way, maybe the best ever. But No. 9 played pretty well today," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "He created a lot of plays, made a lot of throws. Probably the best game I have seen him play in a long time, if not the best.
"You want to make plays at the end of the game to win the game," Witten said. "That's the disappointing part because we left it all out there."
The Cowboys (2-3) had the ball and a chance to go ahead after Knowshown Moreno's tying 1-yard TD run with 2:39 left, starting their final drive at their 24.
After Romo was sacked for a 13-yard loss on the first play, he was picked off when linebacker Danny Trevathan made a diving catch. Dallas never got another shot.
"Leave everything on the field and just try to win these football games," Romo said. "It's disappointing when you don't. We had a chance today against as good a football there is."
When four-time MVP Manning and the Broncos (5-0) got back on the field, they suddenly didn't want to score a touchdown in what ended as the fourth-highest highest scoring game in NFL history and tied for the second-highest in regulation since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, according to STATS. .
After the Broncos got to the 2 facing a third-and-1, Manning handed off to Moreno, who got enough for the first down without going into the end zone.
"He basically was asking me, 'How am I supposed to do that? How can I get a half a yard but not get a yard and a half?'" said Manning, who threw for 414 yards and four touchdowns to give him a record-setting 20 in the first five games. "I just said, 'You can't! You can't score! You can't do it!'"
Dallas then used its last timeout, and Manning took three more snaps before calling time with 2 seconds left and bringing out Matt Prather for a 28-yard field goal.
The Cowboys, who blew a 14-0 lead they built after their first two drives, were on the verge of getting blown out early in the second half when they finally stopped Manning and forced a field goal. They later ended his streak of 227 passes without an interception when Morris Claiborne picked him off.
Dallas, which scored its most points ever in a loss, converted the turnover into a 41-38 lead on Romo's 10-yard pass to Witten with 13½ minutes left, but the Broncos pulled even with a drive to Prater's 50-yarder.
"Romo basically substantiated anything and everything on my personal chart. I told him it was his greatest game for us," Jones said. "It was a big stage and unfortunately he didn't win it. He played well enough to win it."
Romo was 25 of 36 for 506 yards and five touchdowns, breaking Don Meredith's franchise record of 460 yards. He is the fifth quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 500 yards and five touchdowns in a game.
Romo's 79-yard pass to Dez Bryant set up a 4-yard scoring toss to Cole Beasley for a 48-41 lead.
"It was just one of those games where every series was so critical," coach Jason Garrett said. "In a game like that, you've got to keep the pace. I thought Tony was brilliant today. I thought he played as good of a football game as I've ever seen him play. Unfortunately, it didn't end the right way."
After the early lead, the Dallas defenders just couldn't stay with Denver's receivers. Then Manning fooled them with a bootleg for an easy 1-yard score, his first rushing TD in five years, and a 28-17 lead late in the first half.
Romo got Dallas in position for a 48-yard field goal by Dan Bailey just before halftime with a 38-yard completion to rookie Terrance Williams, who added an 82-yard TD in the third quarter to cut Denver's lead to 35-27.
The Cowboys scored their most points since 2000 and had three 100-yard receivers with Williams (four catches, 151 yards), Dez Bryant (six catches, 141 yards and two touchdowns) and Jason Witten (seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown). And they still couldn't beat Manning and the Broncos.
"You leave this game, obviously you are crushed," Witten said. "Offensively, this needs to be the standard by which we play."