Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/2/12
With the NFC East crown on the line, the New York Giants took control early and put a lethargic Cowboys team in a 21-0 halftime hole.  The Dallas Cowboys made it interesting in the 3rd quarter when Laurent Robinson caught his second touchdown pass to bring the score to 21-14, but Eli Manning and Victor Cruz were too much for a weak Dallas secondary.  The Giants took advantage of the Cowboys' mistakes and late touchdown passes to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks sealed the game for New York.  The Giants clinch the NFC East title and will host the Atlanta Falcons next Sunday in the first round of the playoffs.

Turning Point:
With 9:12 left in the game, the Cowboys had the momentum.  They had just scored to bring the game within a touchdown, 21-14.  The Giants had only been able to manage 21 yards in the second half against a Cowboy defense that was trying to get the ball back to the offense.   On 3rd and 7, Manning escaped a Cowboys blitz and hit Victor Cruz for a 43 yard reception.  The Giants only scored a field goal on the drive, but the air had been taken out of the Cowboys comeback wagon.  On the following drive, the Giants sealed the game with Eli Manning hitting Hakeem Nicks for a touchdown pass to put the score out of reach.  

Key Players:
Victor Cruz, New York Giants -  Victor Cruz had a season-high 178 yards against the Dallas Cowboys.  His biggest play came in the first quarter with a 74-yard touchdown when he turned what should have been a five yard first down catch into a 74 yard touchdown by beating Cowboys cornerback, Terrence Newman.  Once Cruz rounded the corner, it was evident that neither Newman nor anyone else was going to catch Cruz, and for the second week in a row, he would be doing the salsa in the end zone after scoring a big play against one of the Ryan brothers.  Last week, Cruz had a 99-yarder against the Jets and is quickly becoming one of the top wide receivers in the game.

Terrence Newman, Dallas Cowboys -  This off-season, one of the Cowboys priorities will need to be upgrading at cornerback.  Terrence Newman used to be a shutdown corner in this league.  On the touchdown pass by Cruz, it was evident those days are over.  The Giants took advantage of Newman by throwing to the fullback in the flat and forcing him to make tackles, which inevitably leads to Newman getting injured.  The former pro-bowler has lost a step, and his durability is so questionable - so much so that he may have played his last down in a Dallas uniform. 

Most Telling Stat/Fact:
Eli Manning is an elite quarterback.  He said so at the beginning of the season and many people laughed.  The numbers back it up.  He completed 21 of 33 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.  He led the G-Men back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.  Manning finishes the regular-season with 4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.  His leadership was evident as he gave the Dallas defense fits in the pocket.  The Giants are the last team to make the playoffs -- the last time that happened, they ended up winning  the Super Bowl against an undefeated New England team.

What it Means for the Winner:
Playoff Life.  Tonight was a great win for the Giants.  They dominated their division rival and remain alive with the Atlanta Falcons coming to New York next week for a playoff game.  The Giants won on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and were able to capitalize on the Cowboys mistakes.  Tom Coughlin gets a week off from hearing rumors about his job, and a new star is being born in Victor Cruz.

What it Means for the Loser:
A season of missed opportunities is over.  If the Cowboys had not blown a league leading five games in the fourth quarter after leading, they would have won the NFC East a couple of weeks ago and would be more worried about resting starters instead of squeaking into the playoffs.  Head Coach Jason Garrett will be back next season, hopefully with an improved secondary, or the Cowboys will be looking at a lot of close games again.  Expect Jerry Jones to be aggressive this off-season in the free agent market.     
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