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Giants exhibit toughness while dispatching Cowboys

IRVING, Texas -- All week long, a sign hung in the players' meeting room at the New York Giants' headquarters in East Rutherford, N.J.

It said: "Warriors 9-1."

Giants' Toomer on a roll


!**With Plaxico Burress hobbled by a sprained ankle, Giants veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer has picked up the slack with a strong playoff showing so far:

That's "Warriors" as in "Road Warriors," as in a team that has won every road game since the first it played -- and lost -- this season right here.

Road victory No. 9, 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys, was the biggest of them all because it came in Sunday's divisional-round playoff game. And it came in a game that few pundits believed the Giants could win.

"They said it couldn't be done!" Michael Strahan yelled while running up the visitor's tunnel at Texas Stadium. "They said it couldn't be done!"

But it was done. It was done when R.W. McQuarters intercepted a Tony Romo pass, on fourth-and-11 from the Giants 23, in the end zone with nine seconds left.

Now the Giants have another week to prepare for another road game, this one for the NFC championship, against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

"Warriors 10-1?"

That could be a stretch, given how impressive the Packers looked in their 42-20 divisional-round triumph over Seattle. Still, stranger things have happened.

Take the Giants' win over the Cowboys for instance. Dallas was a team that swept New York during the regular season, a team that was supposed to have too much offense for the Giants' defense and too much of a pass rush to allow Eli Manning to throw as comfortably as he did in last week's wild-card win at Tampa.

None of that panned out because the Cowboys ran into a Giants team that showed incredible heart and determination, especially on defense.

The Giants sent a clear message on an opening drive that ended with Manning hitting Amani Toomer for a 52-yard touchdown. Toomer caught a curl route at the Dallas 39, spun away from two defenders and ran down the sideline untouched.

"When we got off to that good start, it kind of let everybody know that we came to play," Toomer said. "We were not here to lay down and roll over for anybody. That's kind of the M.O. of our team."

The Cowboys did their best to wear the Giants down, pounding powerful Marion Barber to the tune of 129 yards on 27 carries. They finished a 20-play, 90-yard drive that took 10:28 off the clock with a 1-yard Barber touchdown plunge that gave them a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter. But the Giants came right back with a 71-yard scoring drive of their own, capped by Manning's 4-yard touchdown throw to Toomer, to make it 14-14 at halftime.

That was the turning point. That was the moment when the Giants realized they could take the Cowboys' best punch and stay on their cleats.

"We were tired as hell," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "That was rough. The scores that they had took a lot of plays and lot of minutes off the clock. But I think you see the conditioning of this team, you see the mentality of this team, something that we've been talking about the last couple of weeks and throughout the season.

"It's a bunch of guys who wanted it and who weren't going to take no for an answer today."

As the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, the Cowboys figured to have the inside track on reaching Super Bowl XLII. And they had ample opportunities to be the team hosting the conference title game.

However, they continually hurt themselves with mistakes. They were penalized 11 times for 84 yards, eight more times than the Giants. They dropped passes. They blew assignments. In short, they looked like the same team that played some of its worst football through the final three games of the season.

On the other hand, the Packers are at the very top of their game, just as they were when they beat the Giants 35-13 in the second week of the season at Giants Stadium.

"They're not going to face the same team they faced in Week 2," Toomer promised. "We've got a lot of momentum. And let's take it all the way to Green Bay."

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