EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants used a bunch of big plays to scramble the NFC East standings Sunday.
Brandon Jacobs had the Giants' longest play of the season for just a few minutes, then Domenik Hixon topped it, lifting New York past Dallas 31-24.
The Giants (7-5) tightened the NFC East with their win, dropping Dallas (8-4) into a tie with Philadelphia for the lead. New York has swept Dallas this season and plays Philadelphia here next Sunday night. The Eagles have a victory over the Giants and a loss to Dallas already.
The bruising Jacobs showed his versatility when he covered 74 yards after taking a short pass from Eli Manning, his touchdown putting the Giants ahead 21-17 in the third quarter. Not to be outdone, Hixon went 79 yards with a punt return for a 31-17 lead in the final period.
New York won despite huge stats for Dallas tight end Jason Witten, wide receivers Roy Williams and Miles Austin, and quarterback Tony Romo, who is 5-9 in December games. Witten included his 500th career catch among a career-best 14 receptions for 156 yards. Romo went 41 of 55 for 392 yards, a career high, and three TDs, two to Roy Williams. Austin had 10 catches for 104 yards and one touchdown.
After Williams' second TD reception, a 5-yarder off superb play-action by Romo, gave Dallas a 17-14 edge, New York answered immediately. Jacobs galloped down the left sideline, barely avoiding going out of bounds on his 74-yard romp.
After Nick Folk missed a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, Steve Smith's 25-yard reception and Ahmad Bradshaw's 29-yard run set up Lawrence Tynes' 23-yard kick for a 24-17 lead.
Then Hixon clinched it by surpassing Jacobs' effort with a scintillating 79-yard punt runback in which he ran into a pile, got free, cut right and down the sideline behind a stream of solid blocks.
Even though Dallas had the ball for nearly 39 minutes, the Giants' ability to grab big chunks of yards and quick points was decisive.
The Cowboys dominated possession in the first half, if not the scoreboard. They grabbed a 10-0 lead on Folk's 34-yard field goal and Williams' 4-yard TD reception that was set up by two fumbles.
Ahmad Bradshaw lost the ball at New York's 26, with Jay Ratliff forcing the fumble and recovering it. Then Dallas was helped immensely by a replay reversal one play before Williams beat Corey Webster in the corner of the end zone.
Tashard Choice lost the ball on a third-down run from the 7 and Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas recovered. But the Cowboys challenged and were rewarded when Choice was ruled down by referee Bill Leavy.
New York responded by covering 74 yards in four plays, with top draft pick Hakeem Nicks scoring on a 21-yard pass from Manning. Terrence Newman gambled for an interception, but missed, and Nicks sprinted down the right sideline for the score.
Three plays later, the Giants were threatening again. Mathias Kiwanuka forced Marion Barber's fumble that defensive end Osi Umenyiora — who lost his starting job this week — returned 24 yards, palming the ball in his right hand as he scooted down the left sideline.
Two passes to Steve Smith netted 27 yards, and Jacobs surged in from the 1 with 19 seconds left. Even though the Cowboys had possession for 21 minutes of the half, they trailed by four points at the break.
It didn't get any better for Dallas.