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Some late fourth quarter heroics from Eli Manning – as well as a bit of good fortune – turned out to be the difference between a sweet victory and a sour defeat for the New York Giants Sunday.
Manning’s touchdown passes to Jake Ballard (for 2 yards, with 3:37 to go) and Hakeem Nicks (for 29 yards, with 2:39 left) were enough to put the Giants (3-1) ahead for good to solidify a second straight quality road victory. The Cardinals (1-3) seemed to have a win secured following Beanie Wells’ third rushing touchdown of the game that put his team ahead 27-17 with 5:16 to go.
However, the focal point of the Giants comeback was what happened on the play directly prior to Nicks’s go-ahead touchdown. Manning completed a pass for 19 yards to Victor Cruz, who then stumbled to the ground attempting to elude a defender. Cruz put the ball on the ground after he had fallen, despite having not been tackled or touched by a Cardinal player. Although the Cardinals insisted it was a fumble, the ball was ruled to be dead where Cruz had landed. Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to challenge the ruling, but was not allowed to because the referee declared Cruz had given himself up on the play and therefore was down. The rule book says a play is over when a runner “declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance.”
Amidst the controversy, Manning and the Giants’ offense were able to get into a rhythm and move the ball down the field with relative ease. Running a no-huddle offense, Manning completed 7 of 8 passes for 126 yards on the decisive drives and finished 27 of 40 pass attempts, totaling 321 yards. Nicks was his main contributor, as he caught 10 of Manning’s passes for 162 yards.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants’ defense stepped up in a timely manner after inadequately performing most of the game to help put the final touches on preserving an impressive third consecutive win.
Manning obviously gets first accolades for his heroics in leading the comeback. He also didn’t commit an interception, although he have one costly fumble. Nicks had his best game of the season with a Pro-Bowl worthy performance. Ballard made some big catches, including a spectacular reception on his touchdown. Cruz picked up where he left off last week and was a big factor, working effectively out of the slot late in the game.
Special Teams performed admirably, particularly punter Steve Weatherford.
Corners Aaron Ross and Corey Webster did a considerable job matching up against star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Safeties Antrel Rolle, Deon Grant, Jacquian Williams, Michael Boley and Dave Tollefson were among the other most noteworthy contributors on defense.
Justin Tuck was certainly missed (sat out the game due to a neck stinger), especially in the running defense. Jason Pierre-Paul had his least productive game of the young season, playing in Tuck’s left end spot. Umenyiora was back in his usual spot on the right end, where Pierre-Paul had been playing. Although Umenyiora contributed with two big sacks (one of which was a forced fumble on Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb that the Giants recovered), he was bullied by the left side of the Cardinals offensive line en route to Beanie Wells’s career high rushing totals (3 touchdowns and 138 rushing yards). Blame for Wells looking like Emmitt Smith can also go to the linebacking crew, as well as some of the interior defensive linemen (Mathias Kiwanuka, Chris Canty and Greg Jones to name a few).
The offensive line and the running game tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs was unimpressive. There were a few early penalties by the O-line and fullback Henry Hynoski.
Tight ends Jake Ballard, Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe did a decent job aiding the O-line in run blocking and pass protection.
Tom Coughlin’s Big Blue bunch heads home for three consecutive home games, working around their Week 7 bye.
Center David Baas and defensive lineman Rocky Bernard were dinged up during the game. Their statuses for next week are uncertain.
Tags: Aaron Ross, Ahmad Bradshaw, Antrel Rolle, Arizona Cardinals, Beanie Wells, Bear Pascoe, Brandon Jacobs, Corey Webster, Dave Tollefson, David Baas, Eli Manning, Greg Jones, Hakeem Nicks, Henry Hynoski, Jake Ballard, Justin Tuck, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald, Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants, Osi Umenyiora, Rocky Bernard, Tom Coughlin, Travis Beckum, Victor Cruz