for this game

Giants KO top-seeded Cowboys

Jan 14, 2008 - 4:04 AM
By John Tranchina PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

IRVING, Texas (Ticker) -- The third time was the charm for the New York Giants.

Eli Manning threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Giants avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Dallas Cowboys by rallying for a 21-17 victory Sunday in an NFC divisional playoff game.

In beating the Cowboys for the first time in three attempts this season, the Giants advanced to the NFC Championship at Green Bay's Lambeau Field next Sunday.

"Obviously a great win for the New York Giants and I am so proud of our players, they really rose up," New York coach Tom Coughlin said. "Our defensive guys were on the field a majority of the time, had to make two big-time stops there on our side of the 50-yard-line at the end of the game. So many guys contributed, so many guys played."

Amani Toomer had a pair of touchdown receptions and Brandon Jacobs gained 54 yards on 14 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave the Giants a 21-17 lead.

New York's defense did the rest, holding Dallas to just a field goal in the second half in extending its franchise-record road winning streak to nine games.

The Giants are 9-1 on the road this season, with the lone loss coming here in Week One, and will get another chance for revenge in next week's rematch with the second-seeded Packers, which beat New York, 35-13, in Week Two.

"It's just a great feeling, it was a great game and a team win," Manning said. "We have been doing it all season. We didn't make any mistakes on offense, not many, if any, penalties and their defense did a great job at the end. So did ours, holding their offense to 17 points hasn't been done many times this season.

"We just had a bunch of big plays throughout the game, it wasn't fancy."

In the 92nd all-time meeting between the longtime NFC East rivals - but the first in the postseason - the Giants managed to slow the Cowboys' once-potent offense and amass just enough points of their own to scrape out the win.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, in his second career playoff game and first since he bobbled the snap on the potential game-winning field goal in last season's wild card loss to Seattle, completed 18-of-36 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and an interception with nine seconds to play.

"Very disappointing, I wanted our team to play," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "I thought they played hard, but I wanted to play better than they did and we didn't."

With a chance to complete the first three-game sweep in franchise history, NFC East champion Dallas instead extended its postseason playoff losing streak to six games and 12 years. The Cowboys are the first No. 1 seed in the NFC to lose since the league went to its current playoff format in 1990.

Dallas moved to the Giants 22-yard line with 31 seconds to play, but could get no closer. Facing a 4th-and-11, Romo's pass to Terry Glenn was intercepted in the end zone by R.W McQuarters to seal the victory.

"It felt great, I knew we were going on to the next round," McQuarters said. "I just wanted to get the ball, cuddle it, make sure that the referee and everybody else saw that it was a pick, no ifs, ands or buts about it, and I was just ready to get to the sideline to celebrate."

Romo admitted that the final throw into traffic was more out of desperation.

"They kind of doubled T.O. (Terrell Owens) and Terry had a guy running with him up the middle and I think he was the only guy with single coverage on the play," Romo said. "It's fourth down - theoretically in another time in the game, you check it down, but you really can't there. I had to throw it."

McQuarters, who got more playing time in the secondary after rookie cornerback Aaron Ross left the game with an injury late in the second quarter, also had a key 25-yard punt return late in the third quarter to set up the go-ahead score for the Giants - the only touchdown of the second half.

"Two weeks in a row, he has played super in the secondary and another big play tonight with the ball in the air and making a play on that ball," said Coughlin of McQuarters. "The kickoff return was huge, putting the ball at midfield, giving us great field position, so we had a punt return again into their territory ... that was the deciding drive right there."

Manning completed three passes for 38 yards to set up Jacobs' short run with 13:29 to play in the contest. In his last three games, Manning has eight touchdown passes vs. just one interception.

"I think he's just coming into his own," Toomer said of Manning. "Everybody goes through their ups and downs and he's on the upswing right now. I'm real happy, we're going to ride him as far as we can go."

Receiver Terrell Owens, who suffered a high ankle sprain just three weeks ago and was listed as questionable, returned to the Cowboys lineup and showed no ill effects of the injury with four catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. But he wasn't the game-breaking threat that he was in the Cowboys' first two victories over New York, during which he piled up over 200 yards and four touchdowns.

"There were opportunities throughout the whole game," Owens said. "I ran my routes according to what was called and just came up short. This loss hurts because I know this team is dedicated and put in a lot of hard work to get where we are. We didn't execute. We knew in order to win this game, we had to put some points on the board and we didn't do that."

"We did a great job on him," Giants safety Gibril Wilson said of Owens. "We knew that we had to be physical on him, get him on the line and we did that."

The Cowboys, who had not won a playoff game since 1996, were led by running back Marion Barber, who rushed for 129 yards and a TD on 27 carries. Even though Barber is heading to the Pro Bowl in February, it was his first start of the season and he did not disappoint, piling up 101 yards on 16 carries before halftime.

"I wanted to start Marion because I thought he would give us a spark, plus I wanted to reward him on his season," Phillips said. "I think he did , he helped us score the first couple of touchdowns."

Phillips, who is just the sixth coach in NFL history to lead three different teams to the post-season, remained winless in the playoffs with an 0-4 mark.

Nick Folk's 34-yard field goal gave the Cowboys a 17-14 lead with 6:53 left in the third quarter - the third successive drive on which Dallas had scored.

The Giants jumped out to the early lead as Manning connected with Toomer for a 52-yard TD reception on their first drive of the game.

Toomer caught the ball about 15 yards downfield, then evaded tackles by Ken Hamlin and Anthony Henry to break free and run it into the end zone.

"I caught the ball, you turn around, I had my balance, I saw a 90-number come at me, I gave him a move and I just ran," Toomer said. "That was big, we needed to get our momentum going early and I think that was a big play to do that."

The Cowboys' offense started to awaken as the first quarter wound down, marching 96 yards downfield before Romo found Owens for a 5-yard TD pass on the first play of the second.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin challenged the ruling, claiming that Owens didn't get both feet down before going out of bounds, but replays upheld the decision on the field. It was Owens' fifth career postseason score.

On their next possession, Dallas methodically drove 90 yards, chewing up over 10 minutes off the clock before Barber scored on a 1-yard plunge just 53 seconds before the half.

But the Giants struck right back, as Manning hit Toomer for a 4-yard touchdown with just seven seconds remaining to tie it at 14-14 and grab the momentum going into halftime.

"It was big, they had all the momentum with that long drive," Manning said. "We needed to get that and tie it up at halftime. Our defense was gassed, they were just out on the field for so long. We were on the sideline for 10 minutes of game time, we didn't have a whole lot going our way and to get a touchdown on that drive was a big momentum builder for our team."