NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — It was Victor Cruz’s day.
He had the sellout crowd calling his name and dancing in the aisles. The wide receiver had the Giants on the verge of another fourth-quarter comeback win.
Then it slipped off his fingertips.
Cornerback Brandon Browner gathered in a pass that bounced off Cruz’s hands and sped down the right sideline on a 94-yard interception with 1:08 to play as the Seattle Seahawks thwarted yet another late Giants rally and won 36-25 Sunday.
“We were driving, we were in there,” a disappointed Cruz said after seeing career highs of eight catches for 161 yards, including a spectacular 68-yard TD catch and run that ended in an end zone salsa, go for naught. “We sensed we could win the game on that very play. You always want to win the game. When you do something to negate that, it wipes out the good and you see the bad.”
After the Giants (3-2) fell behind 29-25 on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Whitehurst to Doug Baldwin with 2:37 to play, Eli Manning drove the Giants from their 20 to the Seattle 5 on consecutive passes of 41 and 19 yards to Cruz.
After a false start against tackle Will Beatty on first down, the Giants bunched three receivers on the left side and Manning (24 of 39 for 420 yards) tried to hit Cruz on a look-in. The pass was a little low and Cruz reached to pull it in.
“I thought I gripped it, but as soon as I went to grip it in, I got hit and it bobbled up in the air,” said Cruz, who also lost a fourth-quarter fumble deep in New York territory that allowed Seattle to tie it at 22.
“I knew it was all downhill from there because there were two guys there and one of them was going to pick it off.”
The ball deflected off Seattle safety Kam Chancellor, popped in the air and went to Browner. Cruz grabbed at Browner’s foot as he headed downfield, but he could not hold on, and the Giants’ three-game winning streak was over.
“It was almost like slow motion, the tipped ball and it landed in my hands and it was a footrace from there,” Browner said.
Whitehurst, who replaced the injured Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter, led the Seahawks (2-3) on an 80-yard touchdown drive, which he capped with his pass to a wide-open Baldwin with 2:37 left. The Giants seemed to stop on the play after defensive end Osi Umenyiora jumped offside.
“I don’t think there was confusion. You’ve got to keep playing,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “You’re a defensive team making a penalty.”
The Giants staged fourth-quarter rallies to win their last two games against Philadelphia and Arizona, but they made too many mistakes to get a third straight.
“This week, the sloppiness of the game, you’re not going to win football games when you’re handing people the ball at point-blank range,” the coach said.
On Cruz’s TD, Chancellor misplayed what should have been an interception and tipped the ball into the air. Cruz stuck out his right arm for a one-handed catch and sped the final 25 yards to score, making it 22-19 for New York.
But Cruz couldn’t hold on to the biggest throw.
Whitehurst finished 11 of 19 for 149 yards in relief of Jackson, who was 15 of 22 for 166 yards and a touchdown before going out with a chest injury after being tackled on a third-quarter run.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown, and Steven Hauschka had field goals of 51 and 43 yards.
Manning’s touchdown passes covered 13 yards to tight end Jake Ballard, 19 to Hakeem Nicks just before halftime and the long one to Cruz, which seemingly had the Giants on the road to their fourth straight win.
Seattle dominated the third quarter with defense. It took a 16-14 lead on a safety by Anthony Hargrove on a tackle on a play that started at the Giants 5.
“I came inside and beat the guard and all I saw was a guy in blue in the end zone,” Hargrove said.
The lead grew to 19-14 on the long field goal by Hauschka, and then the fun started in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks should have gone to the locker room at halftime with at least a seven-point lead, but instead found themselves tied at 14 after Giants cornerback Aaron Ross picked off Jackson’s throw at the New York 41. Manning then completed four straight passes, the final one covering 19 yards to a diving Nicks in the right corner of the end zone.
Seattle also lost two fumbles deep in Giants territory. Lynch lost one at the 11 in the first quarter and Michael Robinson lost the other on a first-and-goal from the 2 in the second quarter.
Still, Seattle scored more points in the first 12 minutes of this game than it did in the last two games against New York, when the Seahawks were outscored 85-13.
The game opened with the teams exchanging lightning-fast 80-yard touchdown drives.
Ben Obomanu scored on an 11-yard pass in the flat that caught the Giants in a blitz, while Ballard carried linebacker David Hawthorne the final 2 yards on a 13-yard TD pass up the middle.
Notes: Two Giants, guard Chris Snee and long snapper Zak DeOssie, sustained concussions. … Baldwin had 12 receptions coming into the game for 194 yards. … The game was a relative sackfest: New York had six, led by Jason Pierre-Paul with 2½, and Seattle had three, two by Chris Clemons.
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