All the turnover talk this past week centered around the Bills and their ability to take the ball away. But in the biggest spot of the game, it wound up being the Giants who were grabby.
Corey Webster intercepted a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick at the Giants' 4-yard line to set up a drive for the winning field goal in a 27-24 victory over Buffalo at MetLife Stadium Sunday. About five minutes earlier, Webster was beaten for a touchdown by Stevie Johnson to allow the Bills (4-2) to tie the score.
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Webster's second pick of the game, with 4:02 remaining, was one of the most significant of his seven-season career. It not only helped send the Giants (4-2) into first place in the NFC East but allowed them to go into their bye week basking in a win. Lawrence Tynes' 23-yard kick with 1:32 left decided it.
"This is a big-play league," linebacker Michael Boley said of Webster's timely interception. "One play can make or break a game at any moment."
They very nearly broke the game for the Giants in the first quarter. On the first snap after the Giants went ahead 7-0 on the first of Ahmad Bradshaw's three 1-yard touchdown runs, Fred Jackson went up the middle for 80 yards and a touchdown. The breakdowns on the Giants' defense were numerous, and they included Rocky Bernard being blown out of the play, Deon Grant taking a poor angle from his single-high position, and Aaron Ross nearly catching up to Jackson at the 15 but missing as the running back cut to his left.
The Bills' next possession was not a one-play drive, but it was electrifying and again took advantage of some defensive confusion. Antrel Rolle and Justin Tryon both covered outside receiver Brad Smith, allowing Fitzpatrick to hit slot receiver Naaman Roosevelt for a quick 10-yard pass. But with no one covering Roosevelt, he was able to split the secondary for a 60-yard touchdown. The closest the Giants came to tackling him was when Tryon and Webster closed in near midfield but bumped into each other.
"Just keep fighting and scrapping," Webster said of the defensive mentality after the big- play touchdowns. "We tell ourselves every day that they are going to make some plays -- they get paid as well, too -- so just keep fighting and keep scrapping and ultimately win the fourth quarter. We got to pull a 'W' out this week, so it worked for us."
For all those issues -- which allowed 14 points and 140 yards on two snaps -- the Giants' defense wound up coming up big the rest of the game.
The Bills, leading 14-10 after a Giants field goal, had first-and-10 at the Giants' 22, but sacks by Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul pushed them out of field-goal range and forced the Bills to punt.
The Giants then engineered their longest scoring drive of the season, going 89 yards on five plays. Sixty yards came on a deep pass down the left sideline to Hakeem Nicks after Eli Manning pumped right and found his star target on the other side of the field. That set up another 1-yard touchdown run by Bradshaw in which he stretched the ball over the goal line while being pulled back onto the field. That gave the Giants a 17-14 lead with 2:58 left in the first half.
The Bills drove to the Giants' 31, and Jackson appeared to have a first down with a 5-yard run on second-and-5, but he came up inches short when the chains came on the field. On third-and-inches, the Bills handed off to Jackson, but the Giants stuffed the play, with Chris Canty and Boley clogging holes and Jacquian Williams making the hit and tackle on Jackson to drive him backward. The Bills had to settle for Rian Lindell's 49-yard field goal with 39 seconds remaining to tie the score at 17.
"It was huge," Boley said of those stops. "At that point we had already said that we need to step up and get things corrected from what happened early in the first quarter, and we did that."
The defense wasn't the only unit that found some redemption. Bradshaw ran for 104 yards, with the most important three coming on his trio of 1-yard touchdowns. His third, a leaping dive over the goal line, gave the Giants a 24-17 lead with 6:53 left in the third quarter.
"It's a determination," guard David Diehl said of the 1-yard scoring plays. "We knew in order to win this football game, you can't settle for field goals. We had that determination: 'Hey, we get it down there, we're putting touchdowns up.' That was the case today. It was an awesome win."