Cowboys 20, Giants 13

Monday, December 10th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Everything that went right for the New York Giants last season is going all wrong this year.

The Giants lost their third straight game Sunday, blowing a 10-point lead in a 20-13 loss at Dallas. It was only their third loss in a December game in coach Jim Fassel's five seasons.

``All of the things we've been good at for years have left us ... winning in the fourth quarter and winning in December,'' Fassel said. ``This is a different team.''

When the Giants beat the Cowboys in December last year, they were in the middle of a seven-game winning streak that ended in the Super Bowl. That streak followed Fassel's ``guarantee'' of a playoff berth when New York was 7-4 after two straight losses.

This year, the Giants (5-7) are just a game ahead of last-place Dallas (4-8) in the NFC East. And there have been no guarantees from Fassel.

``Last year, it seemed like all the luck went our way. This year, it's different,'' running back Tiki Barber said.

Barber rushed for 110 yards, but his fumbled punt late in the first half led to a Dallas field goal.

``If we're thinking playoffs right now, we're kidding ourselves,'' said Kerry Collins, who was 13-of-26 for 122 yards with an interception. ``We're all searching for answers, and I don't think we have a whole lot right now.''

The Cowboys, meanwhile, won their second straight since the return of rookie quarterback Quincy Carter from thumb and hamstring injuries that limited him to just five quarters the first 10 games.

Carter threw for a career-best 194 yards and ran for a crucial first down during the Dallas comeback.

New York scored on three of its first four possessions to lead 13-3. At the time, Carter had minus-2 yards passing and the Cowboys didn't have a first down.

Carter wound up 17-of-26, including a 41-yard completion to Raghib Ismail that set up a 1-yard, game-tying touchdown run by Emmitt Smith midway through the third quarter.

Dallas went ahead early in the fourth quarter on Carter's soft-toss 3-yard touchdown pass to Jackie Harris. Carter set it up by running for 11 yards on third-and-11 from the New York 14.

``It's a different feeling now,'' said Carter, who played at home for the first time since struggling in the opener. ``I know a lot more than I did the previous game I played here. I'm making quick decisions and knowing where everybody is.''

Ismail had a career-best 10 catches for 118 yards. Smith, who had only 8 yards after 15 carries, finished with 62 yards on 22 attempts, including a season-best run of 44 yards.

The Giants went 48 yards on their first three plays and put together a three-play, 68-yard drive that ended in their only touchdown, a 2-yard catch by Marcellus Rivers with 10:31 left in the first half.

New York had 172 of its 245 yards and nine of its 12 first downs by then.

``They started off mixing up their personnel and threw us off,'' Cowboys cornerback Mario Edwards said. ``We were able to make adjustments, and that gave us a lot of chances to make plays.''

Notes: Ismail's 10 catches were the most by a Dallas receiver since Michael Irvin had 12 against Miami on Oct. 27, 1996. ... Giants K Morten Andersen played in his 304th game, one behind Minnesota's Gary Anderson and 36 behind George Blanda on the NFL career list. ... New York LB Michael Strahan increased his league-leading sack total to 16 1/2 with one in the second quarter. ... Rivers, an undrafted rookie, has two catches for the Giants. Both of them are for TDs. He had a 1-yard TD against Denver in the season opener Sept. 10. ... Smith now has TDs in two straight games after a career-long nine straight games without a score. His 147 rushing TDs are the most in NFL history.

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