ATLANTA -- Terrell Owens was spitting mad, and he made the Atlanta Falcons pay in a big way.
Owens hauled in a couple of touchdown passes, leading the Dallas Cowboys to a playoff-bolstering 38-28 victory over Atlanta and getting back at Falcons nemesis DeAngelo Hall last night.
Hall said Owens spit in his face when the Falcons' cornerback came out jawing on the first play.
"I lost all respect for the guy," Hall said. "We were kind of walking face to face, walking back to the huddle, and he just hauled off and spit in my face."
While Michael Vick and Morten Andersen set NFL records, the wild-card hopes of the Falcons (7-7) took a hit after two straight wins and overcoming a 14-0 deficit to the Cowboys (9-5), who protected their NFC East lead.
"It was as big a game as we've had this year," quarterback Tony Romo said. "I think we are trailing everybody when it comes to tiebreakers. We knew the importance of this one coming in."
Marion Barber clinched it for Dallas, scoring on two punishing runs after the Falcons went ahead.
Owens, who was kept out of the end zone by Hall when they faced off in Week 1 of the 2005 season, took care of that blemish. Owens made a 7-yard TD reception with a brilliant one-handed catch, then blew past Hall to haul in a 51-yarder. Afterward he apologized for the spitting incident.
"I got frustrated and I apologize for that," Owens said. "It was a situation where he kept bugging me and getting in my face."
Vick, who hurt his groin in the second half and finished the game on the bench, tied a career high with four TD passes and eclipsed Bobby Douglass's 34-year-old record (968 with the 1972 Chicago Bears) for most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 990.
Andersen became the leading scorer in NFL history. The 46-year-old kicker booted four extra points, giving him 2,437 points for his career and breaking Gary Anderson's mark of 2,434.