Eli Manning's late touchdown pass leads Giants past Robert Griffin III and Redskins
The Giants faced the flashiest, most dynamic, most impressive quarterback in the league Sunday and nearly wilted under his ability to run and throw with veteran savvy and never-before-seen skills.
And then Eli Manning showed the kid how it's done.
The Robert Griffin III Show was everything it was advertised to be. Exciting. Breathtaking. From the point of view of a team that must face him twice a year for the next decade, sobering and scary.
But it was the Giants' quarterback who wound up with the star performance just before the curtain fell.
Manning, engineer of 21 previous regular-season comebacks in the fourth quarter, added a 22nd to his ever-growing list when he hit Victor Cruz for a 77-yard bomb with 1:13 left that gave the Giants a 27-23 win in one of the most electric games in MetLife Stadium history.
Griffin likely will own plenty of remarkable days and tremendous wins against the Giants in his career. But Sunday belonged to Manning.
"Eli never wavers," said Cruz, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the middle of the field, beating the coverage of Josh Wilson. "He's never distraught out there. He's never panicky. He's always calm. He understands what he has in front of him, and he goes out there and makes the right reads and the right throws."
It was Griffin's stunning play that set the stage for Manning's comeback. He converted a fourth-and-10 from the Redskins' 23 with just over two minutes left, scrambling to his left, eluding the rushes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, and stepping up to deliver a pass to Logan Paulsen for 19 yards and a first down. Justin Tuck said it was the kind of play that "takes away from your enthusiasm for the game a little bit."
Three plays later, Griffin lofted a 30-yard pass over the head of cornerback Jayron Hosley to Santana Moss to give the Redskins a 23-20 lead with 1:32 left.
Two plays later, Manning was standing in the face of Stephen Bowen's pass rush to deliver the pass to Cruz. "Looking at the back of 80's heels there at the end," Tom Coughlin said of watching his receiver sprint down the field. "Holy cow!"
"Our offense came out there and they did what they do best," safety Antrel Rolle said. "Eli went to work, Cruz [had] another salsa dance and here we are."
"Here" is first place in the NFC East with a 5-2 record, having won three straight and broken the ice with the first division victory in three tries. They also have one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the league, one who may not be able to compare with Griffin's athleticism but is drawing comparisons to some immortals in the sport.
"He's like Joe Montana now," Redskins defensive tackle Barry Cofield said of his former teammate. "He's just unbelievable. He was good when I was here; now he's unbelievable. There's no quit in him, no quit in his offense . . . Unless you're not up two scores with a minute left, you can't rest. He did it again.''
The Giants would just as soon he not have to. Umenyiora said the defense felt it had let the team down and that they were in danger of falling to 0-III in the division. "It's getting old," Tuck said of relying on comebacks from their quarterback. "But that is the excitement that is New York Giants football."
Manning's quick strike meant the Giants had to face Griffin one more time to prevent a comeback by the prodigy. Trailing by four, the Redskins had the ball with 1:13 remaining, but after a pass to Moss -- who had caught two earlier touchdown passes -- Chase Blackburn stripped the ball and it was recovered by Hosley to seal the win with 39 seconds to play.
The teams were tied at 13 at halftime and then traded turnovers before Stevie Brown's interception and 41-yard return led to a 35-yard Giants drive capped by a 1-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw for a 20-13 lead with 12:55 left in the game.
Pierre-Paul's sack and forced fumble on Griffin immediately was followed by Manning's second interception, this one to Rob Jackson, who dropped into the passing lane on a slant to Hakeem Nicks. That led to a field goal that made it 20-16, where it stood until Griffin's drive gave the Redskins the lead.
That lead lasted 19 seconds, thanks to Manning and Cruz.
"There's no doubt that whenever you have '10' at quarterback that things can happen," Blackburn said.
Both quarterbacks wore 10 Sunday. But there was no disputing which one Blackburn was talking about.