The Arizona Cardinals probably wish they were as successful and exciting in University of Phoenix Stadium as the Giants are.
The Giants certainly feel at home here. They used an exhilarating fourth-quarter to erase a late 10-point deficit and defeat the Cardinals, 31-27, their third victory in as many visits here – including the thriller in Super Bowl XLII. This time, Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes in 58 seconds, including the game-winning 29-yarder to Hakeem Nicks with 2:39 left, to give the Giants their third consecutive victory this season.
said of the victory. "We just kept grinding. It shows you the perseverance this team has. We never stopped, we never gave up, we never thought we were out of the game. We were able to keep scrapping until we got the W."
"We've done this time after time after time," running back Brandon Jacobs said. "We've been coming back in the fourth quarter since I've been here. We kept fighting and everyone believed we would win."
Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacobs each rushed for a touchdown, Manning threw scoring passes to Jake Ballard and Nicks, and Lawrence Tynes kicked a field goal for the 3-1 Giants. Manning completed 27 of 40 passes for 321 yards and the two scores. On the two late touchdown drives, he was seven-for-eight for 126 yards.
"It all started with 10 (Manning)," Nicks said. "He got hot. We fed off his adrenaline, and we kept it going and made plays."
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora returned to the starting lineup after missing the first three games while rehabilitating his knee, which underwent arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 19. Umenyiora sacked Kolb and forced a fumble in the first quarter and brought him down again for a 10-yard loss on the Cardinals' last desperate drive.
Beanie Wells scored three touchdowns on runs that totaled four yards and Jay Feely kicked two field goals for the Cardinals, who lost their third game in a row and fell to 1-3.
The Giants' situation looked bleak when Wells' third touchdown left them in a 27-17 hole with only 5:16 remaining. But the Giants, running their no-huddle offense with great efficiency, drove 80 yards in only seven plays, including Manning's two-yard touchdown pass to Ballard with 3:37 remaining. On the preceding play, Nicks made a terrific catch by snatching the ball from cornerback A.J. Jefferson and bringing the ball to the two.
"It was a back shoulder fade route, something we always practice," Nicks said. "It was a matter of one on one and going up to get it. When I see the ball I have to go get it. It was crunch time, I knew I wanted to come down with it and I'm sure he did as well. But I had to get it."
Ballard had to wait through referee Jerome Boger's review to see if his feet were inbounds before his first career touchdown officially counted.
"I knew my feet were down," Ballard said. "Eli put it in a great spot. I went up for the ball – it was like getting a rebound in basketball. As soon as I caught it I got my feet down as best as I could."
Arizona went three-and-out as former Cardinal Antrel Rolle knocked down Kolb's third-down pass for Early Doucet. Aaron Ross' 18-yard punt return gave the Giants possession at the Arizona 48.
On first down, Manning threw to Victor Cruz, who appeared to get hit, continue running, then go down on his own. When he hit the ground he released the ball, which the Cardinals grabbed and claimed was theirs. The officials ruled otherwise and Whisenhunt tried to challenge the call. The Giants held their collective breath until Boger announced that Cruz was down because he gave himself up and Whisenhunt could not challenge the ruling.
"I caught the ball and made one move and was going up the field," Cruz said. "I went down because I saw two guys coming at me. I just went down – I thought I was tagged down, so I got up and let the ball go and was ready to go to the next play. I was a little worried. You're looking on in disbelief, like, 'What's going on?' I was definitely a little nervous."
"We got a break on that one, I think," Manning said. "I thought it was going to be ruled a fumble. I saw it pretty clear, but I don't know what the call was or why. They couldn't review it. I tried to get to the ball and snap it really quick. Everything was good about it for him. I was scrambling around and he came back to the football. He just has to learn. I've made that same mistake one or two times before myself. Everything else was good about the play, but a good lesson learned."
Cruz's reception advanced the ball to the 29-yard line. On the next play, Manning lofted a ball down the left sideline that Nicks caught for the game-winning touchdown with 2:29 remaining.
"They came after us with the blitz," Manning said. "We had it protected up and they played man-to-man. We had thrown a couple back-shoulder balls and finally we threw one over the top. I think the corner kind of stopped and was expecting a back shoulder. It was a good job by Hakeem making the catch and a big win."
The Cardinals had a last chance to win, taking possession at their own 24 with 2:35 remaining and two timeouts. They got as far as the Giants' 30, where Kolb's fourth-down pass for Larry Fitzgerald was knocked away by Webster with 51 seconds left.
"I thought Corey's play on fourth down was a very good veteran play," Coughlin said, "because I think he had been beaten on that route a couple of times during the game and he came up on fourth and two."
"He's a big body receiver, so they like to get him inside and let him box you out," Webster said. "They did that a couple of times. It was fourth down and I owed the team one, so I thought that was a good time to come through and I made a play on the ball."
The Giants, trailing 20-17, had a chance to take the lead or tie the game early in the fourth quarter when Rolle intercepted Kolb's long pass up the left side for Fitzgerald. Rolle's first pick of the season gave the Giants the ball at their own 42-yard line with 10:48 left. But the offense couldn't take advantage of the takeaway and was forced to punt.
Kolb and Co. responded by driving 77 yards in six plays, including Wells' 39-yard run up the middle and his two-yard touchdown off left tackle.
Jacobs' one-yard touchdown run with 12:07 remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the Giants to within three points. On third-and-goal, Jacobs bulled his way up the middle and across the goal line.
The Giants appeared to score one play earlier, when Manning threw across the field to Ballard. But Ballard was caught by Calais Campbell and after review, Boger ruled that the second-year tight end was down at the one. Jacobs scored on the next play.
The touchdown concluded a 13-play, 75-yard drive that followed an Arizona score. The series included consecutive passes to Cruz that covered 20 yards and a 20-yard pass interference penalty on safety Kerry Rhodes.
The Cardinals needed to travel only five yards to increase their lead to 20-10 on Wells' second touchdown with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter. They gained possession when rookie nose tackle David Carter slipped past Kevin Boothe and knocked the ball out of Manning's hands. Darnell Dockett recovered at the five.
Wells gained all the yards with runs of four yards and one yard, the latter on a play to the left side that looked very much like his initial touchdown.
Well's one-yard touchdown run with 10:24 remaining in the third quarter regained the lead for the Cardinals at 13-10. On second-and-goal, Wells ran left and powered his way across the goal line.
Arizona took the second-half kickoff and moved 78 yards in eight plays, the biggest a 47-yard pass from Kolb to Fitzgerald, who outfought safety Deon Grant for the ball at the Giants' 11-yard line. Two plays later, Fitzgerald's seven-yard catch gave the Cardinals a first down at the one. After Kolb failed to connect with Todd Heap, Wells scored his first touchdown.
Tynes' 30-yard field goal with one second remaining completed a 10-point surge in the final 2:54 of the second quarter that gave the Giants a 10-6 halftime lead.
Bradshaw scored the first points on a 13-yard run around the right side. On second-and-five, Bradshaw slipped between blocks by Stacy Andrews and Henry Hynoski, turned the corner and scored his third touchdown of the season, and second on the ground.
The Giants drove 69 yards in 10 plays following a Cardinals field goal. Manning completed passes of 14 and 12 yards to Nicks and 13 yards to Cruz to move the Giants into position to score.
The Cardinals took possession and in a span of 1:17, they punted twice and the Giants once. All that kicking left the Giants with a first down at their own 27-yard line with 29 seconds remaining. Manning quickly threw down the middle to Nicks for a 22-yard gain. On the next play, he found Cruz up the left sideline for 26 yards – plus a facemask penalty on Joey Porter that moved the ball to the Arizona 12.
A pair of incomplete passes left just five seconds on the clock, so Tynes was summoned to kick his first field goal of the season. Tynes was hit on his follow-thru by rookie Patrick Peterson, who was penalized for roughing the kicker. The 15 yards were assessed on the kickoff.
Arizona had taken a 6-0 lead on Feely's second field goal, with 7:57 remaining in the quarter. The Cardinals put together a 16-play, 79-yard drive that kept the Giants defense on the field for 9:20. The longest play in the series was a 16-yard Kolb pass to rookie tight end Ron Housler.
The only score in the first quarter was Feely's initial 27-yard field goal just 1:58 into the game.
Arizona gained possession at the Giants' 16-yard line after linebacker Clark Haggans recovered Bradshaw's fumble, the first lost fumble by the Giants this season. Bradshaw took a handoff on third-and-15 and gained two yards before he was hit by Campbell and lost the ball.
The Cardinals gained seven yards before Whisenhunt sent Feely out to kick the three-pointer.