Cowboys 20, Giants 13

This time, the Dallas Cowboys staged a comeback against the New York Giants to beat their NFC East rivals.

Rookie Quincy Carter had season-highs with 194 yards on 17-of-26 passing, and found tight end Jackie Harris for the go-ahead touchdown with 12:50 left as the Cowboys scored 17 unanswered points to overcome the Giants, 20-13.

Last month, the Cowboys (4-8) watched the Giants engineer their biggest comeback in nearly 15 years to edge them in overtime at Giants Stadium. But Dallas returned the favor and won its second straight game against a division rival after beating Washington last Sunday.

"I think that the key to the game was our adjustment on defense," Cowboys coach Dave Campo said. "The Giants changed some of their personnel alignments and we were caught a little off guard. Once we settled down, we were able to do what we wanted to do."

Rocket Ismail registered season highs with 10 catches for 118 yards for the Cowboys. In addition to its aerial attack, Dallas also torched New York on special teams, picking up 187 return yards and taking advantage of a pair of turnovers to enjoy excellent field position throughout the game.

The Giants (5-7) clinched the NFC East title with a victory here last December before marching to the Super Bowl. But New York lost its third straight contest and likely the chance for a return visit to the playoffs.

"We can't score points. I don't know what we are doing wrong," Giants coach Jim Fassel said. "I'm going to stop focusing on what we need to do because, when I do, we don't do it. I can't tell you what's wrong."

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan sacked Carter at the Dallas 47 with just over nine minutes remaining in the first half, increasing his season total to 16 1/2.

Strahan needs six sacks in the final four games to break the NFL record of 22 set by Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets in 1984.

The Cowboys converted two mistakes by the Giants on special teams into 10 points. The usually sure-handed Tiki Barber misplayed a Dallas punt and Troy Hambrick recovered it at the New York 19.

Four plays later, Jon Hilbert kicked a 38-yard field goal to knot the contest, 3-3, 7:15 into the game.

"Last year, it seemed all the luck went our way," Barber said. "This year, it's different. Mistakes are costing us games. It's not big mistakes, it's the little ones that are beating us."

The teams were tied at 13-13 late in third quarter when Giants punter Rodney Williams prepared to receive the snap. He has struggled catching the ball since fracturing his wrist against the Cowboys on November 4 and fumbled the snap deep in Giants territory.

Williams failed to pick up a first down on his five-yard scramble, was shaken up on the play after being hit on the injured hand and gave Dallas the ball at the New York 26.

Carter, who returned last week after missing six games with a torn hamstring, faked a pitch to the right side on 3rd-and-11. The Georgia product then scrambled around left tackle to get the first down at the Giants 3.

"Quincy has started something that is very positive," veteran running back Emmitt Smith said. "He's always had the right attitude, been humble and worked hard to prove he is worthy. That's enough to gain the respect of his teammates."

On the seventh play of the drive, Carter used play action to draw the safety and leave Harris all alone in the end zone to gather the touchdown lob and give the Cowboys their first lead of the game.

The second leading rusher in NFL history, Smith was stymied for most of the game, gaining a mere eight yards on his first 15 carries. But on the future Hall-of-Famer's 16th carry, he reeled off his longest run of the season, going 44 yards to the New York 38.

"I've got a lot of respect for their defense. It was a tough day," said Smith, who entered Sunday having registered 1,796 rushing yards in 21 games against the Giants. "I needed that long run. I'm happy we could make something happen at the right time."

The Giants still had an opportunity to save the game after Hilbert's 48-yard field-goal attempt bounced off the crossbar with 7:45 on the clock.

But less than a minute later, Kerry Collins threw into double coverage down the right sideline and his 14th interception of the season was picked off by safety Darren Woodson.

By contrast, the Giants allowed a 100-yard receiving performance for the third straight game. Ismail was the latest to join the ranks after Minnesota's Randy Moss had 10 catches for 171 yards on November 19, and Oakland's Tim Brown tallied 117 receiving yards on six receptions last week against the Giants on November 25.

But Campo credited his young quarterback.

"Quincy is showing now what we saw when we scouted him," Campo said. "He threw the ball well today and he didn't make any mistakes. He is a playmaker."

New York failed to take advantage of its early opportunities. Barber, the Giants' offensive MVP a year ago, gained 93 yards on his first eight carries.

"In the first half, we had a lot of running room. The second half, they tightened up on the run and the lanes were not there," Barber said. "They forced us into a lot of 2nd-and-long situations. It's hard having to rely on the pass. We haven't found our stride yet."

The Giants recorded a first down on each of their first three offensive plays, advancing to the Cowboys 20. But their offense stalled in the red zone and veteran Morten Andersen was brought on to kick a 35-yard field goal, giving the Giants a 3-0 lead 3:41 into the game.