So the Giants got away with one, 34-31 in overtime, to go 6-4 and perhaps save their season.
Along the way, Eli Manning threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns, his first 300-yard passing game at Giants Stadium. He hit eight receivers, including Kevin Boss for two of the three touchdowns. So the offense did just fine.
The same can't be said of the defense, which squandered a two-touchdown lead in the final six minutes of regulation to force an heroic finish on Lawrence Tynes, who had his own problems with a field goal miss and some horrible kickoffs. But Tynes wound up hitting a 36-yarder for the victory to break that nasty four-game losing streak.
"It's been 42 days since we last won," Manning said. "And it felt like it, too. It was a much-needed win, and we worked hard for it the last two weeks."
Now they head into Denver for a Thanksgiving night matchup in a short, short work week. In fact, they'll only practice heavily on Tuesday before leaving Wednesday morning for Mile High City. But at least they'll go into it with a good feeling and a 6-4 record, good to remain in second in the NFC East race, with a conference tiebreaker secured over wildcard hopeful Atlanta.
THE BIG PLAYS:
Lawrence Tynes' 36-yard field goal with 11:06 left in OT was the game-winner, of course. But it wouldn't have happened if Mario Manningham hadn't caught a 29-yard sideline throw from Manning on first down from the Giants' 48 to get it within field goal range. Manningham caught it off his back shoulder and kept his bearings in-bounds before safety Erik Coleman pushed him out.
Tight end Kevin Boss' leaping 18-yard catch down the middle seam to the 3 set up seldom-thrown-to fullback Madison Hedgecock's three-yard touchdown catch that gave the Giants a 31-17 lead with 12:08 left in regulation.
That 14-point lead should have allowed the Giants to salt away the game. But the defense was unable to stop the fast-tempo of the Falcons, and the lead finally vanished as Tony Gonzalez, who finished with eight catches for 82 yards, grabbed his only touchdown catch of the game between linebacker Michael Boley and safety Michael Johnson in the back of the end zone with 28 seconds left on the clock.
Steve Smith's diving 51-yard catch in the third quarter got the ball to the Atlanta 23, and set up Brandon Jacobs' 2-yard run for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead. Smith also drew a pass interference call in the end zone on the same drive.
Tynes may have been the hero, but he also missed a 31-yarder wide left in the second quarter that ultimately might have lost them the game. "I knew that was going to haunt us, even though we went up by 14," Tynes said. "I knew I had to make amends."
Kevin Boss: They're finally using him as a legitimate Red Zone target. His two scores, the first from 28 yards out and the second from four yards, marked his first career multiple-touchdown game. But just as important was that Eli Manning targeted him eight times, and he caught five of those for 76 yards, including four that either went into the end zone or deep inside the 20. Boss made an outstanding play on his 28-yard touchdown catch, getting the ball a step outside the sideline, keeping his balance, and pivoting left into an open field for the final 10 yards. "I ran a deep flag out there and when I caught the ball I saw I was pretty close," he said. "I knew that I was going to do everything I could to get into that end zone."
Eli Manning: He was accurate again in going 25-of-39, and deserved to win in regulation. He did throw an interception early, but it did no harm. Have to question a few of his late passes, though, as a couple came close to being intercepted.
Mario Manningham: He had several great catches to go with a six-catch, 126-yard day. His 27-yard catch on a third-and-1 shot in the fourth quarter was the primary positioning play for the Hedgecock touchdown in the fourth quarter.
JUSTIN TUCK: The defensive end continues to play like a Pro Bowler, making four tackles and getting one of the Giants' two sacks on Matt Ryan, causing a fumble that Osi Umenyiora recovered.
Michael Boley: He finished with a team-high 13 tackles, but should have been able to break up Tony Gonzalez' game-tying touchdown with 28 seconds to go.
Chase Blackburn: The linebacker was thrown into the middle at the last minute when Antonio Pierce was lost, possibly for the rest of the season, with a bulging neck disk. He had a couple of good blitzes, and he finished with seven tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage. "It was tough to throw a guy in there like that, but Chase did a good job," Tuck said.
Aaron Ross: He took his first action of the season, playing safety in the passing down defense and finished with four tackles. "It felt great to be back," Ross said. "I felt really comfortable back there. I still have to learn a lot of techniques at the safety position, but I'll play wherever they want me to play, wherever they need me."
Hakeem Nicks: He continues to make big catches, though his highlight was actually a seven-yarder on third-and-2 that kept the Giants' winning overtime drive going. That came just before Manningham's 29-yard catch to the 23. He added a 30-yarder to go with a five-catch, 65-yard day.
THE UGLY STUFF:
We know all about Tynes' "Now you see it, now you don't" field goal consistency. But he had some horrendous kickoffs, too. The Falcons got field position at the 40, 37, and 35 almost solely because of his blown kickoffs.
The defense continues to struggle inside and out of the Red Zone. They went in as the worst Red Zone defense in the league, and they didn't disappoint, as they allowed four touchdowns and a field goal from inside the 20. The performance overall degenerated as the game went on. They were unable to handle the uptempo offense of Matt Ryan, and the final three drives that produced a field goal and two touchdowns lasted 18, 12, and 12 plays. Exhausting.
RB Brandon Jacobs had a thigh bruise in the third quarter and did not return.
LT David Diehl had a left ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return.
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