Victor Cruz, Ahmad Bradshaw have big days as Giants capitalize on Browns mistakes
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No one seems able to explain these lackluster starts against seemingly overmatched opponents. The Giants have a history of such stuttering in the last few years, and Sunday they fell behind the winless Browns by 14 points in the first 4:57.
"It's almost like we like the fans to boo first before we get going," linebacker Chase Blackburn said.
But while there seems to be little answer to the root of the problem, the Giants again showed they can overcome it. Easily. They turned the restlessness of the crowd into cheers, at one point scoring 27 straight points to take a lead they would not relinquish in a much-needed 41-27 win at MetLife Stadium.
There was no screaming on the sideline when they fell behind early. No panic. Tom Coughlin admitted to "concern," but that was about as intense as it got. Instead, the Giants recognized that the game was not close to being over.
"We've been down 14-0 with five or six minutes left to go in a game and we've been able to rally back, so we knew that with 55 minutes left we had plenty of time," Eli Manning said. "It's obviously not the way you want to start, but we never get down or frustrated or start to panic."
Brilliant days by two key playmakers -- Victor Cruz caught a career-high three touchdowns and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for a career-high 200 yards -- coupled with a big performance by replacement safety Stevie Brown helped the Giants dig out of their early hole. They improved to 3-2 while the Redskins (2-3) and Eagles (3-2) lost and the Cowboys (2-2) were idle.
The 0-5 Browns showed their true colors (blah orange and brown) and lost their 11th game in a row thanks to a series of turnovers, errors and missteps.
The Giants never have had three losses before November under Coughlin. With a stretch against the 49ers, Redskins and Cowboys looming this month, they hope that streak continues.
That the Giants kept their cool in the face of adversity was a reflection, players said, of their self-confidence.
"I think we're really close to kind of reaching our potential," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Everybody knows that, everybody feels that, and there are a lot of guys who were here last year who have been through a lot of ups and downs. It's a veteran group who understands that yeah, we were down a little bit, but if we stick to the game plan, we'll come back."
They also knew they had one of the best come-from-behind quarterbacks in the game, and having Manning certainly steadies a lot of nerves. "Knowing he is standing behind them, yeah, that'll do that," Coughlin said.
The game started about as badly as the Giants could have imagined. Bradshaw fumbled on the first snap, and two plays later Trent Richardson ran 15 yards up the middle for a 7-0 lead. Then the Browns scored on a 62-yard pass from Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon to make it 14-0 just 4:57 into the game.
The Giants responded with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Cruz, then traded field goals to stay within 17-10 midway through the second quarter.
The Browns seemed ready to extend that lead after a 38-yard screen pass to Chris Ogbonnaya on third-and-7. But on third-and-1 at the 25 they tried to throw for a first down and it backfired. Brown, starting for Kenny Phillips, intercepted Weeden after Blackburn pressured him. Brown ran 46 yards to the Browns' 40, and the game seemed to hinge on that play.
The Giants followed the pick with a 37-yard pass to Rueben Randle and a 4-yard TD by Bradshaw to tie it at 17. On the ensuing kickoff, Will Hill forced Joshua Cribbs to fumble and Brown scooped it up to set up Cruz's second TD for a 24-17 lead. The Browns were flagged for pass interference in the final 10 seconds of the half, and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 40-yarder for a 27-17 lead. Seventeen points in a span of 2:52.
Midway through the third, the Giants drove 95 yards on nine plays capped by Cruz's third score, a 28-yarder, for a 34-17 lead. That was the last of the 27 straight points, and by then the game was over.
The Browns were not coming back from that kind of deficit. Who do they think they are, the Giants?