- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | Halfway through the season, it’s safe to say the Super Bowl champion New York Giants are the team to beat in the NFC. The injury-ravaged Dallas Cowboys - the preseason favorite - will need to make a run after their bye just to make the postseason.

Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes, Brandon Jacobs rushed for 117 yards and a score and the Giants’ defense took advantage of the continued absence of the injured Tony Romo to intercept three passes in a 35-14 victory Sunday.

“When a football team comes in here and it is kind of depleted as far as injuries go, you don’t want to give them any sunlight,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. “You don’t want to give them any light whatsoever.”

In winning their fifth straight at home, the Giants (7-1) were in control from the start, opening a three-game lead on the defending NFC East champion Cowboys (5-4) in the division.

“It was important for us to win the game and be 2-0 in our division,” Pierce said. “When we were 4-0, somebody asked me about an undefeated season. I just think about being undefeated in our division. That’s 6-0. That’s the most important record to us. This is another step toward that.”

The loss was the third in four games for Dallas, which fell into last place in the division behind Washington (6-2) and Philadelphia (5-3) - which nobody expected from the team many considered the favorite to win the NFC.

However, nobody expected the Cowboys to lose Romo for three games with a broken pinkie or to have safety Roy Williams and punter Mat McBriar lost to season-ending injuries - or to have cornerback Pacman Jones suspended again.

“We still have seven games left, and we need to go on a run,” Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones smiled when asked whether the goal was simply to make the playoffs.

“If you give me the playoffs and not worry about the division, I’ll take it,” Jones said after the game, adding that the return of Romo after the bye will fix only one of the many things wrong with his team.

There was plenty wrong Sunday. Despite getting three turnovers and a score from his defense, the Cowboys still were blown out.

Manning threw touchdown passes of 13 yards to Kevin Boss, 5 to Steve Smith and 11 to Amani Toomer. The scores by Smith and Toomer were set up by Corey Webster’s interceptions of Brad Johnson, Romo’s replacement.

“The coaches preach turnovers,” Webster said. “We pin our ears back and let ourselves go once we start getting turnovers.”

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