By Barry Wilner, The Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants stood one quarter away from the playoffs, leading the Dallas Cowboys 21-7 Sunday night in their showdown for the NFC East title.
New York rallied from a late 12-point deficit to beat the Cowboys three weeks ago and take over first place in the division. Each team went 1-1 since to set up one of the biggest matchups in the history of this 50-year rivalry. The winner will host the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday.
Dallas woke up on its first drive of the second half, an impressive 94-yard march featuring five completions by Tony Romo for 48 yards before he hit Laurent Robinson behind cornerback Corey Webster for a 34-yard touchdown. But Romo threw into double coverage on the next possession and Antrel Rolle picked off the pass.
D.J. Ware fumbled a reception three plays later, but Cowboys star linebacker DeMarcus Ware was offside. That didn't help the Giants much and Brandon Jacobs was stopped on a fourth-and-1 run.
The big defensive play did help the Cowboys, who reached New York's 19 as the period ended.
The Giants dominated the first half, taking a 21-0 lead Sunday night as Ahmad Bradshaw scored twice.
Eli Manning hooked up with rising star receiver Victor Cruz for a 76-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Bradshaw scored on a 5-yard run in the second period to cap a 10-play drive aided by a 14-yard pass interference call on cornerback Alan Ball.
It could have been bigger, but Lawrence Tynes missed a 40-yard field goal wide right.
Bradshaw eluded Abram Elam in the backfield to scoot to his right and into the end zone at the end of a 10-play drive that made it 14-0. The Cowboys then got moving for the first time, only to bog down when Romo, playing with an injured right hand, moved past the line of scrimmage to make a third-down completion. Dallas had to punt and New York took advantage.
Bradshaw's 29-yard run sparked an 80-yard drive late in the second quarter. Bradshaw eluded Bradie James over the middle for his second TD, a 10-yarder.
Dallas missed about a dozen tackles in the first 30 minutes and Dan Bailey missed a 52-yard field goal as the half ended.
Neither team did much offensively early on a wet but relatively balmy winter's night – the rain stopped midway through the first quarter, then started up again in the second period but was gone by the third quarter. The Giants got pressure on Romo, and he was trapped for a 12-yard loss by Jason Pierre-Paul on Dallas' second series. That gave the second-year end 16 1/2 sacks.
Chris Jones' punt went out of bounds on the Giants 4, and then New York victimized cornerback Terence Newman twice.
Tight end Bear Pascoe jumped over Newman's attempted tackle to convert a third-and-9 for 12 yards. Three plays later, Cruz, who had a 99-yard catch-and-run TD against the Jets last weekend, ran a quick out pattern, then sped past Newman and, aided by fellow wideout Hakeem Nicks' block, ran untouched to the end zone. It was his ninth touchdown of the season and 22nd catch of more than 20 yards. Five of his TD catches have gone for 68 yards or more.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, back from missing a month with a high ankle sprain, got the Giants' second sack on the next Dallas possession. A third sack, by Jacquian Williams, came in the second period, and Umenyiora got another one in the third quarter.