ELI MANNING AND the New York Giants finally have something to show for all their hard work - first place in the NFC East.
On the verge of being knocked to the edge of the playoff chase, Manning led the Giants to two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 14 seconds and Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a field goal as time expired, giving New York a 37-34 victory over the Dallas Cowboys last night in Cowboys Stadium.
"Good to get that winning feeling again," said Manning, whose Giants lost in the waning seconds last week to Green Bay.
New York ended a frustrating four-game losing streak filled mostly with narrow losses to division leaders. The Giants (7-6) appeared headed to another setback when they were trailing by 34-22 with 5:41 left, but a series of clutch plays on their part and meltdowns by Dallas reshaped the division race.
With 3 weeks left, these clubs are tied atop the NFC East. New York has the inside track and will host Dallas in a season-ending rematch on New Year's Day. The Eagles are two games behind them, with three games left.
The Cowboys lost their second straight, both in dramatic, frustrating fashion that involved missed kicks by rookie Dan Bailey, who had been so good for so long this season. The really bad news for Dallas was running back DeMarco Murray suffereing a broken right ankle and high ankle sprain, ending his record-setting rookie season.
Manning was 27-for-47 for 400 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once, on a tipped pass late in the fourth quarter, and it led to a touchdown that appeared to put the game away for Dallas.
But Manning came back with a pair of touchdown drives. The first went 80 yards in eight plays, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard.
The New York defense had allowed Tony Romo to throw touchdown passes on the two previous possessions, but it forced a punt, and it was a short one. Then the Dallas defense had two penalties that helped scoot along a drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs, with D.J. Ware adding a two-point conversion.
Romo hit Miles Austin for a pair of long gains that gave Bailey a chance to force overtime. He made a 47-yarder that ended up not counting because New York coach Tom Coughlin had called a timeout. His second try was denied by Pierre-Paul, who already had contributed an early sack for a safety.
"Guys stepped up and made some big plays," Manning said. "I knew we had time to try to get the big play. If it was there, we'd take it."
One of those guys was Pierre-Paul. "He's a playmaker," Manning said. "When he gets on the field, he makes things happen."
In another NFC East game:
* At Landover, Md., Tom Brady threw for 357 yards and three TDs, and Rob Gronkowski set an NFL single-season record for most touchdown catches by a tight end as New England won its fifth straight, 34-27 over the Washington Redskins (4-9).
Gronkowski snagged his 14th and 15th scoring receptions, moving him past Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis. Gates had 13 in 2004, and Davis matched that total in 2009.
The Patriots (10-3) again overcame their bend-but-don't-break defense. The Redskins drove to the New England 5-yard line late before Rex Grossman's pass went off Santana Moss' hands and was intercepted by Jerod Mayo with 22 seconds to play.
With the Patriots leading by seven, Brady tried to find Tiquan Underwood at the back of the end zone and was instead picked off by Josh Wilson with 6:30 left. The Redskins then began their doomed march that could have sent the game to overtime - even as Brady exchanged words with offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.