In what was routine for Eli Manning last season, the Giants (5-2) signal-caller rallied his team for yet another late, game-winning touchdown drive Sunday—this time capping a wild final few minutes—for a 27–23 win over Washington (3-4) at MetLife Stadium.
“Something we’ve been really good at over the years is the two-minute drive when the game’s on the line and making plays when we need to make plays,” said Manning, according to the Giants’ website. “That was a huge play.”
Manning finished 26/40 passing for 337 yards—including 77 on the final drive.
Eli who was credited with a league-high eight game-winning drives last season did this one in near-record time finding Victor Cruz over the middle for a 77-yard touchdown on the second play of the series. Cruz, who simply outran the defense on the play, scored a touchdown for the fourth straight game and finished with 137 yards receiving on seven catches.
“As I was going vertical, I just saw that the safeties were wide and they were outside of the numbers, and I saw the middle of the field wide open, so I just took it,” said Cruz. “I just kept going vertical and Eli saw it the same way.”
The play happened just 19 game-seconds after rookie sensation Robert Griffin rallied the Redskins for a shocking seven-play 77-yard touchdown drive to give Washington their first lead (23–20) since the first half while silencing the once-raucous stadium. The drive included a fourth-and-ten conversion—their third fourth-down convert of the quarter—deep in their own territory on a play where Griffin scrambled from the pocket and sidestepped several lineman before finding tight end Logan Paulsen for a 19-yard pickup.
“I had no reads and I took off to the sideline just trying to give guys a chance to get open,” said Griffin. “I made (Jason) Pierre-Paul miss there and got it to Logan (Paulsen). It was a good job of everyone staying alive on the play and never giving up.”
On the very next play the dual-threat Griffin ran 24 yards down the sideline for another first down. Then two plays later he hit receiver Santana Moss on a well-placed, teardrop pass in the end zone to give Washington the momentary 23–20 lead with just 1:32 left in the game.
The second overall pick of last April’s draft, Griffin finished with 89 rushing yards on 9 carries, was 20/28 passing for 258 yards, with a pair of touchdowns, an interception, and a lost fumble. The latter turnovers were especially critical though.
After the teams went into halftime deadlocked at 13, the teams traded punts and then turnovers to start the second half. The Giants finally capitalized on Griffin’s lone pick with a seven-play 35-yard drive that ended in the end zone to put them up 20–13 early in the fourth.
On the Redskins’ ensuing possession, sensing they needed to score or go home, Mike Shanahan’s team rolled the dice twice on fourth-down—converting both times—to set up a first down at the Giants’ 27. But the rookie Griffin promptly fumbled the ball away.With time and the lead on their side (7:10 remaining in the game) the Giants decided to pass, instead of run, on their ensuing first down and it cost them. Manning threw the ball seemingly right at linebacker Rob Jackson for the interception at the Giants’ 32-yard line. Four plays later a Kai Forbath field goal pulled Washington within 20–16.
Possibly a lack of ground game led to the pass-first decision as Ahamd Bradshaw (12 carries, 43 yards) and Andre Brown (5 carries, 17 yards) had found little room to run. Their counterpart though, Washington rookie running back Alfred Morris racked up 120 yards on 22 carries.
After using a pair of timeouts the Redskins forced the Giants into punting to set up Griffin’s go-ahead touchdown only to be one-upped by Manning just seconds later. On Washington’s final possession Santana Moss fumbled the ball away at the team’s 32 yard-line, ending the game.
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