They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results. If that's the case, the Giants scored one of the craziest wins ever Sunday.
They continued to bungle with the ball just as they did in the first half of the season, turning it over three times in the first half to essentially hand the Raiders 17 points. Their special teams remained atrocious, Eli Manning threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and the offense amassed only 251 yards, failing to produce a play that covered more than 25 yards.
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For the first time this season, though, the Giants were able to overcome all of that. Andre Brown ran for 115 yards and followed Terrell Thomas' 65-yard interception return late in the third quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run for a 21-20 lead in the Giants' 24-20 victory.
It was the third straight win for the Giants (3-6), who are tied with Washington for third place in the NFC East. The Giants moved within 11/2 games of the first-place Cowboys, who were crushed, 49-17, by the Saints on Sunday night.
"Earlier in the year, regardless of how close the games were or how similar it was to this, they became total failures because we lost and we didn't come up with the plays when needed," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "We were always upbeat and had a fire about it, we just weren't making it happen. Now we're making it happen. It's just those few plays in the game that can swing it."
Brown, who missed the first eight games with a fractured leg, started at running back and carried the ball 30 times for the 115 yards, the most by a Giants running back this season. He also caught a key third-down conversion on the drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal for a 24-20 lead.
"We're finding ways to win, and that's nice," Manning said. "Obviously, we've won three in a row, but we still have to figure out some things."
The Giants' regular season began with a turnover on the first offensive play in Dallas, and the second half of the season was spoiled even faster than that. Jerrel Jernigan returned the opening kickoff and coughed up the ball right into the hands of Andre Holmes, who returned it 22 yards to the 5. Two plays later, Terrelle Pryor ran a quarterback sneak for a quick 7-0 lead.
"Who even fathoms starting a game like we did?" Tom Coughlin asked.
The Giants tied the score when Damontre Moore blocked a punt and Cooper Taylor scooped it up for a 21-yard touchdown return. It was the first blocked punt returned for a Giants touchdown since Sept. 5, 1988, against Washington.
But the Giants weren't done giving away points.
Later in the first quarter, Peyton Hillis caught a screen pass and fumbled, giving the Raiders the ball at the Giants' 21. The defense held and forced a field goal as the Raiders took a 10-7 lead.
The Giants scored their first offensive touchdown since Week 7 when they drove 90 yards in 11 plays and Manning hit Rueben Randle in the back of the end zone for 5 yards and a 14-10 lead. They looked to be poised to build on that with a drive from their own 3 late in the second quarter, but Manning tried to throw a pass to Victor Cruz that Tracy Porter picked off and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders led 17-14 at halftime and the fans at MetLife Stadium booed the Giants as they left the field.
The players still were upbeat, though.
"We knew we could win this game," Randle said. "Despite the three turnovers, we were still only down three. We knew if we could control the ball, go out there and make some plays, we could come out of here with the victory."
The Raiders (3-6) could have put the game away early in the third quarter when they drove from the 20 to the Giants' 1, where they had first-and-goal. But after what turned out to be a game-saving tackle by an out-of-position Antrel Rolle at the goal line, the Giants held the Raiders to a field goal and the lead went to only 20-14 instead of 24-14.
On the next Raiders possession, Thomas picked off Pryor's pass on third-and-9 from the Giants' 33 and returned it 65 yards to the 5. Two plays later, Brown was in the end zone, on his knees in jubilation, and the Giants were up 21-20 with 2:15 left in the third.
Even when the Raiders got a hand on a fourth-quarter punt that wound up traveling only 7 yards, the Giants were able to weather it. Mathias Kiwanuka sacked Pryor from behind, forcing a fumble on third-and-10 that was recovered by Jenkins with 3:21 left in the game. Brown churned out more yardage as the Giants rode the clock down to zero.
"We certainly don't make it easy on ourselves," Coughlin said. "There were a lot of outstanding plays and a lot of bad plays, to be honest with you."
But the Giants remain in play in the division. As insane as that seems, it's all that matters.