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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Injured Smith Leads Dallas to Division Title

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- When the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys played eight weeks ago, the talent level between the two division rivals seemed as wide as the hole in the Texas Stadium roof.


But the only difference Sunday was running back Emmitt Smith, whose courageous performance in Dallas' 16-13 overtime victory is why the Cowboys (12-4) are the National Football Conference's Eastern division champions again and the Giants (11-5) must settle for being the top-seeded wild card for the NFC playoffs.


History will record that a 41-yard field goal by Eddie Murray 10:44 into overtime gave the defending Super Bowl champions the win before a Giants Stadium record crowd of 77,356. But it was Smith who deserved all the credit. Despite playing most of the second half with a separated right shoulder, he finished with 168 yards rushing and touched the ball on nine of the 11 plays during the game-winning 52-yard drive.


Smith ended the season with 1,486 yards to win his third straight league rushing crown.


"You're looking at a world champion team," Giants coach Dan Reeves said after the Cowboys clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. "And No. 22 is a hell of a part of it."


The Giants, who were trying for their first division title since 1990, must regroup for a wild-card game next Sunday at Giants Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings (9-7), who beat the Washington Redskins 14-9 Saturday to claim their wild-card spot.


The Giants, down 13-0 at halftime, rallied to tie the score at 13 at the end of regulation and even had the ball first in overtime. But after a controversial chop-block penalty on center Brian Williams killed that drive, the Cowboys took the ensuing punt and followed Smith to their fifth consecutive victory. Smith caught three passes for 24 yards and rushed six times for 17 yards to help position Murray for the winning field goal.


"We just couldn't stop him," Miller said. "We missed a few tackles and he kept coming."


Murray's winning kick, the last of his three field goals, was never in doubt. It earned the Cowboys a week off while the Giants try to set up a rematch in two weeks. If the Giants can beat the Vikings, and the Detroit Lions defeat the Green Bay Packers in the other NFC first-round game, the Giants will play at Dallas Jan. 15 or Jan. 16. The Giants would play the 49ers in San Francisco in the second round if they beat the Vikings and the Packers defeat the Lions.


In the AFC, the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Oilers earned first-round byes with wins Sunday and will have two weeks off. The Los Angeles Raiders snatched a playoff spot with a 33-30 overtime victory over the visiting Denver Broncos, whom they will host in another rematch next Sunday.


On Saturday, the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs will entertain the Pittsburgh Steelers, who beat Cleveland 16-9 and stayed alive when the New England Patriots knocked the Miami Dolphins out of the playoffs with a wild 33-27 overtime win and the New York Jets were eliminated by Houston 24-0.


In Sunday's other key games, Kansas City knocked off the Seattle Seahawks 34-24 to finish 11-5, while Buffalo crushed Indianapolis 30-10. Detroit won the NFC Central division title when they beat Green Bay 30-20, setting up a rematch next week in Detroit.


In games between teams out of the playoff hunt, Phoenix beat Atlanta 27-10, Tampa Bay fell to San Diego 32-17, the Los Angeles Rams overcame Chicago 20-6, and New Orleans were victorious over Cincinnati 20-13.


(Newsday, Reuters)