"We've had a lot of ups and down, but when our team needed it most we responded," said Cruz, who capped his team-record setting season with six catches for 178 yards. "We were able to keep level-headed when we were on the four-game skid."
New York (9-7) won three of its final four games for their 65-year-old coach and earned a wild-card game at home next Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons (10-6).
"There is no doubt," Kiwanuka said. "That's what we are setting ourselves up for. We went a roundabout way of doing it, but once you're in, you're in."
"It's extremely painful and it's a damn shame," Jones said. "We have a good team and I thought we would be going to the playoffs, but that didn't happen. We have to be able to take some of the good with the bad and move on. We did a lot of good things this year, but to point to one thing why this happened would be subjective. We're 8-8 and we have to be better than that."
Romo, who played with a bruised right hand, moved the Cowboys in the second half, but touchdown passes of 34 yards and 6 yards to Laurent Robinson weren't enough to rally Dallas.
"You can't make excuses,' said Romo, who finished 29 of 37 for 289 yards and one interception. "Either you win or you go home. Give them credit for coming in here and being ready. This is not going to sit well with me or anyone else on this team. It should fuel the fire to come back, but right now, it hurts."
The shorter touchdown pass to Robinson got Dallas within a 21-14 with 10:15 to play, but Cruz, the second-year pro from nearby Paterson who has become a fan favorite with a big plays and salsa celebrations, came through again.
"I knew we were going to fight and keep playing until the end, I feel good about the way we're handling the ups and downs, and it comes down to finishing," Manning said after throwing for 346 yards and no interceptions.
"We needed this win," Umenyiora said. "This is the biggest win we've been a part of for a while."
Bradshaw stretched the lead to 14-0 with a 5-yard run in the second quarter on a play in which safety Abram Elam missed a tackle in the backfield. Bradshaw also scored on a 10-yard pass just before halftime when linebacker Bradie James also missed a tackle.
NOTES: Cruz finished the regular season with five touchdowns of 68 yards or longer and 25 catches of at least 20 yards. ... Cowboys G Kyle Kosier left the game with a knee injury and was replaced by Kevin Kowalski replaced him. ... Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware had 1 1/2 sacks and finished the season with 19 1/2. ... Lee led the Cowboys with 11 tackles. ... LB Mike Boley had nine for the Giants. ... New York's other sacks were registered by Jason Pierre-Paul (16 1/2), LB Jacquian Williams, Tuck and Chris Canty. ... Dallas was limited to 49 yards rushing on 16 carries.