Manning puts Giants back in playoff race

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Eli Manning was steaming. A simple screen pass was tipped, bounced off the shoulder of a linebacker and was intercepted, setting up a touchdown that could have buried the New York Giants in this game, and this season.

Only, he didn’t allow it.

Manning channeled his anger into energy, leading the Giants to two touchdowns in the final 3:14, and Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a field goal attempt in the closing seconds, giving New York a 37-34 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

“He was really upset over the interception, but he comes right back and takes the field and away we go,” New York coach Tom Coughlin said. “Sometimes I wish I was in that huddle so I could hear what’s being said. He obviously made some great plays down the stretch.”

Just like that, the Giants‘ four-game losing streak was done. And the NFC East race is cracked open, with New York reclaiming the inside track.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve had that winning feeling,” said Manning, who pulled off his sixth fourth-quarter win this season. “It’s good to have excited guys with a lot of smiles in the locker room.”

New York’s recent skid was filled mostly with narrow losses to division leaders. The Giants (7-6) appeared headed to another setback trailing 34-22 with 5:41 left, but a series of clutch plays on their part and meltdowns by Dallas changed everything. The teams are tied, with the Cowboys headed to the Meadowlands for a season-ending rematch on New Year’s Day.

In addition to losing two straight games, the Cowboys also lost running back DeMarco Murray to a broken right ankle, ending his record-setting rookie season.

Neither team led by more than five points for most of this back-and-forth game until Tony Romo threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide-open Dez Bryant. He strutted into the end zone, putting Dallas up 34-22.

Yet instead of that ending the excitement, the fun was just beginning.

Manning mounted an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard. The play had to withstand a video review to make sure he really got the ball past the front of the goal line before his knee landed inches shy of the stripe.

New York’s defense followed with a three-and-out, and the Giants got another break when Dallas’ usually reliable punter, Mat McBriar, had a 33-yarder, letting Manning take over at his 42 with 2:12 left.

Two penalties on the Cowboys‘ defense helped, as did completions of 21 and 18 yards to Ballard. Brandon Jacobs scored on a 1-yard run with 51 seconds left and D.J. Ware followed with the 2-point conversion.

Romo still had 46 seconds left. He hit Miles Austin for gains of 22 and 23 yards to set up Bailey for a 47-yard field goal that would force overtime. The rookie split the uprights — only it didn’t count because Coughlin had called a timeout.

On the do-over, Bailey’s kick was clipped by the outstretched arms of Pierre-Paul. He’d been a disruption all night, sacking Romo for a safety early in the game and forcing a fumble in the second quarter.

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