NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The Giants just barely escaped with a win over the hapless Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Good thing too. Big Blue’s schedule is about to get scary.
The Giants (5-2) will face New England, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Green Bay over the next five weeks in a stretch that may well determine if they make the playoffs for the first time in three years.
“We haven’t even thought about our schedule, honestly,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “We just knew this team was going to come in hungry and we had to find a way to win this game.”
Yeah, thanks to Eli Manning. The Giants’ running game was limited to 58 yards and the defense failed to show up for the first half.
Manning capped his second straight near-flawless performance with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 5:58 to play to lead the Giants to a 20-17 victory, further frustrating the Dolphins and embattled coach Tony Sparano.
All the while, the Dolphins (0-7) could sense victory. They built a 14-3 lead after their first two possessions and were up seven heading into the fourth quarter before Manning rallied New York once again. Four of the Giants’ five wins have come in the final quarter.
“I’m starting to see gray hair,” said Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck, who returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with neck and groin injuries. “That’s a true thing. But we have the utmost confidence in Eli. They find a way to put us in a situation to win the ballgame.
“We put ourselves in a position to have even more points, but I thought we controlled the game all day. I thought the offense was in control, even though the stats may say something different. He played awesome. He’s one of the best passers in the league, and he proved it.”
Despite some pressure, Manning hit 31 of 45 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. He would have had a lot more yards if tight end Jake Ballard and receiver Hakeem Nicks held on to a couple of perfect long tosses.
Mario Manningham caught the other touchdown, a 7-yard play that got New York back into the game late in the first half.
“He lit it up,” said Cruz, who had seven catches for 99 yards. “He was accurate and in the zone and we were getting open for him.”
Manning said the Giants had chances to put up a lot more points, but they hurt themselves with the drops, penalties and negative plays down close.
“We knew coming in it would be a tough battle,” Manning said. “A lot of games have come to the fourth quarter, and we knew it would be a tough road. They did a lot of good things defensively, ran a lot of different blitzes. We didn’t run the ball real well today, and we had to throw the ball more than we wanted to. But we’re capable of doing that.”
The loss was another frustration for the Sparano, who endured a week of rumors that the Dolphins were interested in hiring former Steelers coach Bill Cowher next season. It followed a brutal loss to Tim Tebow and Denver, a game in which Miami blew a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to play.
“We went toe to toe with them, swung hard. We didn’t win. It’s not acceptable,” Sparano said.
Cowher issued a statement Sunday, saying no one has approached him about a job and he intends to work for CBS TV again next season.
Lawrence Tynes kicked two short field goals, and New York’s defense got four sacks on the Dolphins’ final two drives. Corey Webster iced it with his third interception in the last two games.
Steve Slaton and Matt Moore (13 of 22 for 138) capped the Dolphins’ first two drives with 1-yard runs. But Miami could only muster a 40-yard third-quarter field goal by Dan Carpenter the rest of the way.
The Giants’ winning drive covered 53 yards in six plays.
Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed much of the second half getting his right foot X-rayed, had runs of 2 and 11 yards to get the drive started and Manning hit Nicks for 17 yards to the Miami 23.
The quarterback found Cruz wide open over the middle and the New Jersey native spun out of Will Allen’s attempted tackle at the 5-yard line.
A kickoff return by Slaton to the Dolphins 45 resulted in nothing when New York got two sacks, the last by a combination of Mathias Kiwanuka and Tuck.
Miami, which wasted two timeouts early, got the ball back at its 16 with 3:35 to play and quickly got a 24-yard completion to Davone Bess.
However, Umenyiora and Kiwanuka got sacks for 10-yard losses on consecutive plays to set up Webster’s fourth-down pick.
Notes: The game was the Giants’ 1,200th regular-season game. They join the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Chicago-St. Louis-Phoenix-Arizona Cardinals at that plateau. … Moore rushed for a career-best 31 yards. … Reggie Bush rushed for a season-high 103-yards. … Dolphins C Mike Pouncey missed much of the second half after taking a shot to the head that left his body numb. … Nicks pulled a hamstring on the Giants next to last series.
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