EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Victor Cruz and Eli Manning have the New York Giants dancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Manning threw three touchdown passes, including a 74-yarder to Cruz early, and the Giants (9-7) won an all-or-nothing game to claim the final spot in the NFL playoffs, beating the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 on Sunday night.
The loss left Jerry Jones’ Cowboys (8-8) out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
New York won three of its final four games for 65-year-old coach Tom Coughlin and earned a wild-card home game next Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (10-6).
The Cowboys lost four of their final five games in their first full season under coach Jason Garrett.
Dallas (8-8) was its own worst enemy in a game with the season on the line. They missed tackles on all three of the Giants’ first-half touchdowns, failed to recover two fumbles within their grasp in the half and failed to convert on a Tony Romo sneak on fourth-and-1 at the Giants’ 10 while trailing 21-7.
Romo, who played with a bruised right hand, moved the Cowboys in the second half but all he could generate were touchdown passes of 34 and 6 yards to Laurent Robinson, the last one getting Dallas within a 21-14 with 10:15 to play.
Cruz, however, had a 44-yard third-down catch and another for 20 yards to set up a 28-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal and Manning iced the game with a 4-yard TD pass to Hakeem Nicks with 3:41 to play.
Manning finished 24 of 33 for 346 yards and no interceptions as the Giants beat the Cowboys for the second time in four games and ended a regular season marked by inconsistency on a high note. Cruz, who set a single-season record for yards receiving, finished with six catches for 178 yards, a 29.7 yard average, and of course, he did his touchdown salsa after the first score.
Romo was 29 of 37 for 289 yards but he was sacked six times. Dallas’ final possession ended with Romo being sacked by Justin Tuck and losing a fumble.
Giants 31, Cowboys 14
NYG—Cruz 74 pass from Manning (Tynes kick)
NYG—Bradshaw 5 run (Tynes kick)
NYG—Bradshaw 10 pass from Manning (Tynes kick)
Dal—Robinson 34 pass from Romo (Bailey kick)
Dal—Robinson 6 pass from Romo (Bailey kick)
NYG—FG Tynes 28
NYG—Nicks 4 pass from Manning (Tynes kick)
|Total Net Yards||300||437|
|Time of Poss.||25:27||34:33|
RUSHING—Dallas, F.Jones 11-30, Morris 3-16, Romo 2-3. N.Y. Giants, Bradshaw 16-57, Ware 2-19, Jacobs 7-16, Manning 6-14.
PASSING—Dallas, Romo 29-37-1-289. N.Y. Giants, Manning 24-33-0-346.
RECEIVING—Dallas, Witten 7-69, F.Jones 7-47, Bryant 6-70, Robinson 4-61, Austin 2-20, Fiammetta 1-14, Bennett 1-5, Morris 1-3. N.Y. Giants, Cruz 6-178, Nicks 5-76, Hynoski 4-31, Bradshaw 3-12, Pascoe 2-14, Beckum 2-13, D.Thomas 1-14, Ware 1-8.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Dallas, Bailey 52 (WL). N.Y. Giants, Tynes 40 (WR).