EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are right back in the wildcard playoff race.
|Tiki Barber gets congratulations from larger teammates after a TD. (Getty Images)|
"This game was huge," Barber said. "Our playoff hopes are still alive. We have to win out, otherwise all the talk about sneaking into the playoffs is null and void. Our focus is to win the next one. We are going to watch everyone else because we need some help, but we have to focus on what goes on in this locker room."
The Giants got plenty of help Sunday just minutes before the opening kickoff against Dallas (5-9).
Minnesota defeated New Orleans 32-31 on a 2-point conversion in the closing seconds of regulation. Seattle then beat Atlanta 30-27 in overtime after the Falcons missed a potential game-winning field goal.
Giants coach Jim Fassel followed both games, and he didn't hesitate to tell his team as soon as they was over. The offense found out first and the defense got the news after they came off the field.
"At some point in time when you set your goals, you better be able to grab the carrot when it's sitting right there," Fassel said.
New York has the toughest schedule remaining with games at Indianapolis (9-5) and here against Philadelphia (11-3), which won the NFC East with a victory over Washington on Sunday.
Atlanta will play Detroit (3-11) at home and at Cleveland (7-7). New Orleans will play at Cincinnati (1-13) and then at home against Carolina (5-9).
"We're going to become good Cleveland and Cincinnati fans, whoever these guys are playing," said Barber, who finished with 81 yards on 11 carries and three catches for 51 more.
The scenario is better than a week ago, when it seemed the Giants needed a miracle. They still need to win, but they finally started looking like a playoff team in dominating the Cowboys for their second straight win.
"This has been a crazy season," said Giants middle linebacker Mike Barrow, who helped break the game open with a sack and forced fumble that defensive end Kenny Holmes returned 50 yards for an early 14-0 lead.
"Right when you think you're out and everybody is saying you're out, you keep believing and things work out."
Barrow led a Giants defense that limited Dallas to 241 total yards, forced three turnovers and held Chad Hutchinson to 16-for-40 for 161 yards.
"There's no excuses," Dallas coach Dave Campo said. "I think they whupped us on both sides of the ball. They were ready to play and got after us."
Ron Dayne scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 4-yard run and Matt Bryant kicked the first of three field goals as the Giants opened a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Dayne also scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
A 9-yard touchdown pass from Hutchinson to Antonio Bryant with 1:56 to play denied the Giants their first shutout since their 41-0 win over the Vikings in the 2000 NFC title game.
New York's 21 first-quarter points were the most it has tallied in a quarter since the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against Jacksonville in 2000, the same year the Giants went to the Super Bowl.
It was their biggest first quarter since a 55-24 win over Green Bay in the regular-season finale of 1986, another year the Giants went to the Super Bowl.
The game got so out of hand that the Giants lifted quarterback Kerry Collins in the fourth quarter and put in Jesse Palmer. It marked the first time in two years that a backup has taken a snap for the Giants. When Palmer threw a pass, it ended Collins' streak of 1,852 consecutive pass attempts for the Giants, which dated to Nov. 21, 1999, when Collins replaced an injured Kent Graham.
- The Giants have eight takeaways in the last two games after collecting 14 in the first 12.
- Holmes' touchdown was his first in six NFL seasons.
- Toomer now has gained at least 1,000 yards receiving in four straight seasons.
- Giants CB Will Peterson, who missed the last two games with a concussion, got a stinger in first quarter and did not return.
- Barber's nine rushing TDs are the most by a Giant since Rodney Hampton had 10 in 1995.
The Associated Press News Service
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