EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- With less than a full season as a
starter under his belt, Eli Manning is already developing a flair
for the dramatic finish.
For the second week in a row -- and the third time in 13 starts
dating to the middle of last season -- the second-year quarterback
brought the New York Giants back from a fourth-quarter deficit on
their final drive.
On Sunday, he threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer with
5 seconds remaining to defeat the Denver Broncos 24-23. The win
snapped Denver's five-game winning streak, the Broncos' longest
since the 2000 season.
A week earlier, Manning threw a touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey
with 19 seconds left in regulation against Dallas in a game the
Giants lost 16-13 in overtime. In the final game last season, he
drove the Giants 66 yards in the final 1:49 to defeat Dallas 28-24.
For Manning, Sunday's game topped the list.
"A two-minute drive against a good team that's playing well,
and to score a game-winning touchdown -- that's definitely the
biggest play of my career," he said.
The Giants (4-2) trailed 23-10 with 13:18 left in the game after
Jason Elam's third field goal for Denver (5-2). But after Tiki Barber scored on a 4-yard run to cut the lead to 23-17 with 9:07
remaining, Elam missed a 49-yard attempt with 5:18 left that would
have pushed the deficit to 9.
Manning was intercepted by Champ Bailey on the next possession,
but the Giants held Denver and got the ball back on their own 17
with 3:29 left. On third-and-4 from the 23, Manning rolled right,
reversed field and scrambled to his left and found Plaxico Burress
for a 6-yard gain and a first down.
Later in the drive, he found Jeremy Shockey for 24 yards on
third down to the Denver 8, and on third-and-goal at the 2 found
Toomer cutting across the front of the end zone as he backpedaled
away from pressure.
"They blitzed from the weak side and Tiki [Barber] did a great
job of picking up that block," Manning said. "Amani tried to find
a lane and I tried to buy some time and find someone open. I saw
him flashing across the end zone and just tried to throw it where
he could get it."
The Broncos (5-2) had controlled most of the game until the
final minutes with a punishing running game that ground out 191
yards and a defense that kept Manning off-balance with a mix of
coverages and blitzing. Denver entered the game averaging 153 yards
on the ground, the third-best rushing attack in the NFL.
Mike Anderson ran for 120 yards on 24 carries and scored on a
2-yard run in the second quarter, and backfield mate Tatum Bell had
60 yards on 8 carries. Quarterback Jake Plummer was 18-for-29 for
194 yards and threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Johnson to open the third quarter and give Denver a 20-10 lead.
For all the Broncos' domination of the line of scrimmage -- they
outrushed the Giants 191-97 -- they were unable to gain a first down
when they needed it most, after Bailey's interception gave them the
ball on their 42 with 4:46 left in the game. Two runs by Anderson
netted 5 yards, and Plummer threw incomplete to Bell on third down.
"We haven't taken advantage of drives in the third and fourth
quarter that could really put games away," said Plummer. "We've
got to figure it out because we keep pinning it on our defense in
the last minutes. They've come through for us a couple of times. To
do it again to them was unfair by us offensively."
Manning finished 23-of-42 for 214 yards and two touchdowns for
the Giants, who trailed from midway through the second quarter
until the final drive. His other touchdown pass came to Burress in the first quarter.
"I wouldn't say he was confused, but they got pressure in his
face," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "On the last couple
of drives we were able to keep that away from him."
Toomer's catch capped his best game of the season, with 8
catches for 62 yards. The veteran wide receiver has had a reduced
role this season with the emergence of Burress, a free agent
acquisition from Pittsburgh. He entered the game with 11
receptions, 19 behind Burress.
"The waiting was hard, but it's hard to be upset when you're
winning," Toomer said. "Plax has been having great success and
you can't really be upset about somebody else doing well. You just
wait for the flow of the offense to come to you."
Toomer also caught the winning touchdown pass against the
Broncos seven years ago, a 37-yarder from Kent Graham in the final
minute that gave New York a 20-16 win and ended Denver's unbeaten
run at 13-0 ... Denver RB Ron Dayne, the Giants' top draft pick in
2000, was inactive ... The Giants, who entered the game with 18
forced turnovers in 5 games, got their only turnover on the final
play of the game when Denver fumbled on the kickoff ... Several of
the Giants dedicated the win to 89-year-old team owner Wellington
Mara, who is battling cancer.
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