American Football: Manning inspires Giants to play-offs
Published 03/01/2012 | 05:00
The New York Giants stormed to an early lead, then held on to beat the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 in the NFL's regular-season finale on Sunday to claim the NFC East crown and a place in the play-offs.
With the victory, the Giants (9-7) return to the post-season for the first time in three years, earning the number four seed and a home game against Atlanta Falcons (10-6) this Sunday.
"NFL East champions, I won't get tired of hearing that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters.
"To be in a position where you are playing for this opportunity in the last three weeks of the season and able to determine your own destiny... to be NFC East champions is a very rewarding thing.
"But as we stated from day one, we wanted to win the division so we could have the direct route into the play-offs and that's what happened."
After a wild final day, the Giants and Cowboys had the spotlight to themselves for a primetime, winner-take-all showdown that generated Super Bowl-like hype.
The division rivals provided a nail-biting finish to the regular season as the Giants, powered by two of Eli Manning's three touchdown passes, jumped out to 21-0 half-time lead then fought off a second-half fightback.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo fired a pair of touchdown strikes to Laurent Robinson to cut the deficit to seven points early in the fourth quarter, but could not complete the comeback and missed the play-offs for the third time in four seasons.
Elsewhere, the Denver Broncos won the AFC West, even without any Tim Tebow heroics. They did it despite falling 7-3 to the Kansas City Chiefs because San Diego beat Oakland 38-26.
The Broncos and Raiders shared the division lead at 8-8, but Denver won on the tiebreaker, better results in common games.
Baltimore (12-4) took the AFC North as they saw off Cincinnati, 24-16. Even though the Bengals lost, their 9-7 record earned them a wild card in a head-to-head tiebreaker over Tennessee. Pittsburgh (12-4) are the other wild card, but lost both games to the Ravens this year to finish second in the division. The Steelers, who beat Cleveland 13-9, will be at Denver next Sunday.
Wild Card Weekend
Saturday: (AFC) -- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
(NFC) -- Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Sunday: (NFC) -- Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
(AFC) -- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos