So when the New York Giants running back sparked a 31-24 victory over Dallas on Sunday that scrambled the NFC East standings, he couldn’t have been more thrilled.
“It’s the biggest play of my career,” Jacobs said of taking a short pass from Eli Manning(notes) and going 74 yards for a touchdown that put the Giants in front to stay. “It’s extra special against Dallas. That’s absolutely a team I can’t stand. I’ve been hating Dallas ever since I knew anything about football.”
Jacobs’ touchdown was the Giants’ longest play of the season—for about 14 minutes. Then Domenik Hixon(notes) broke a 79-yard punt return, and suddenly the division is totally up for grabs. Dallas (8-4) and Philadelphia are tied for the lead, with New York (7-5) one game back. The Giants host the Eagles next week and have swept the Cowboys for the first time in five years.
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.
“It’s a credit to the 10 guys up front,” Hixon said. “They knew we were close, and today we finally broke it.
“Every time I get on the field, I have the mindset of taking it all the way.”
Jacobs doesn’t. He’s a bruising, power runner. But he showed his versatility when he broke down the sideline and outran the pursuit.
“I was looking to get 15 to 20 yards,” he admitted. “I had no idea I would go the distance.”
Was he winded by the end?
“I was good,” he joked, “able to celebrate and talk trash.”
New York won despite huge stats for Dallas tight end Jason Witten(notes), wide receivers Roy Williams and Miles Austin(notes), and quarterback Tony Romo(notes), who’s 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.
But the Cowboys had yet another December defeat.
“We’ve got to challenge ourselves and find a way to play,” Witten said. “We have to get back to it and forget all this December stuff. I’m not trying to avoid it or say it’s not true. We’ve got to put it away. You let another one slip and you’re really in trouble.”
Which is where Dallas was almost immediately after Williams’ second TD reception, a 5-yarder off superb play-action by Romo, gave the Cowboys a 17-14 edge. New York answered with Jacobs and, following Nick Folk’s(notes) miss of a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, Lawrence Tynes’(notes) 23-yard kick for a 24-17 lead.
And then Hixon finished off the Cowboys—even though Dallas had the ball for nearly 39 minutes. The Giants’ ability to grab big chunks of yards and quick points was decisive.
“We gave up big plays we don’t normally give up,” coach Wade Phillips said. “They didn’t complete that many passes, but the ones they did were big plays for them.”
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(notes) lost the ball at New York’s 26, with Jay Ratliff(notes) forcing the fumble and recovering it. Then Dallas was helped immensely by a replay reversal one play before Williams beat Corey Webster(notes) in the corner of the end zone.
Tashard Choice(notes) lost the ball on a third-down run from the 7 and Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas(notes) recovered. But the Cowboys challenged and were rewarded when Choice was ruled down by referee Bill Leavy.
Three plays later, the Giants were threatening again. Mathias Kiwanuka(notes) forced Marion Barber’s(notes) fumble that defensive end Osi Umenyiora(notes)—who lost his starting job—returned 24 yards, palming the ball in his right hand as he scooted down the left sideline.
Jacobs surged in from the 1 with 19 seconds left in the half. Even though the Cowboys had possession for 21 minutes, they trailed by four points at the break.
It didn’t get any better for Dallas.
NOTES: Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams(notes), who injured Giants DE Justin Tuck(notes) in Week 2 and has a history of run-ins with New York, drew a personal foul penalty at the end of the half for a late hit out of bounds. … Giants guard Chris Snee(notes) injured his knee and coach Tom Coughlin had no updates after the game, nor would the team say which knee. … Witten now is second in Dallas receiving to Michael Irvin and has 502 receptions.