After beating up the Dallas Cowboys and getting some unexpected help, the New York Giants are right back in the wildcard playoff race.
Tiki Barber scored on a 1-yard run and set up another touchdown with a 60-yard run in a 21-point first quarter to lead the Giants to a 37-7 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.
Coupled with Seattle's 30-27 win over Atlanta and Minnesota's 32-31 upset of New Orleans, the Giants (8-6) are within a game of the Saints (9-5) and Falcons (8-5-1) in the wildcard race with two games left in the regular season.
New York has the toughest schedule with games at Indianapolis (9-5) and here against Philadelphia (11-3), which won the NFC East with a win over Washington on Sunday.
Atlanta will play Detroit (3-11) at home and at Cleveland (7-7). New Orleans will play at Cincinnati (1-13) and then at home against Carolina (5-9).
The scenario is better than a week ago, when it seemed the Giants needed a miracle. They still need to win, but they finally started looking like a playoff team in dominating the Cowboys (5-9) for their second straight win.
Defensive end Kenny Holmes scored on a 50-yard fumble return, Ron Dayne ran for a 4-yard TD and Matt Bryant kicked the first of three field goals as the Giants opened a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Dayne also scored on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter.
A 9-yard touchdown pass from Chad Hutchinson to Antonio Bryant with 1:56 to play denied the Giants their first shutout since their 41-0 win over the Vikings in the 2000 NFC title game.
New York's 21 first-quarter points were the most it has tallied in a quarter since the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale against Jacksonville in 2000, the same year the Giants went to the Super Bowl.
It was their biggest first quarter since a 55-24 win over Green Bay in the regular-season finale of 1986, another year the Giants went to the Super Bowl.
The game got so out of hand that the Giants lifted quarterback Kerry Collins in the fourth quarter and put in Jesse Palmer. It marked the first time in two years that a backup has taken a snap for the Giants. When Palmer threw a pass, it ended Collins' streak of 1,852 consecutive pass attempts for the Giants, which dated to Nov. 21, 1999, when Collins replaced an injured Kent Graham.
Collins set the tone for the game on the Giants' opening drive, hitting four passes for 46 yards. An 8-yard run by Barber gave New York a first-and-goal at the Dallas 6. Barber scored on third down from the 1.
Giants middle linebacker Mike Barrow, who missed last week's game against Washington with a concussion, broke the game open on the next series. On a fourth-and-3 from the Giants 36, Barrow came free on a blitz up the middle and forced a fumble by Hutchinson. Holmes picked up the loose ball at midfield and scored without being touched.
It was the first of three takeaways by the Giants, who now have eight in the last two games after collecting 14 in the first 12.
Barber set up Dayne's 4-yard TD run with a 60-yard run off left tackle on the Giants' next series.
Bryant, who also kicked field goals of 35 and 31 yards, stretched the lead to 24-0 with a 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter.