The line between being the hero or the goat is thin for an NFL cornerback, and the Giants' Corey Webster spent Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium teetering precariously on that line while battling Buffalo wide receiver Stevie Johnson.
Come to think of it, he had company on a Giants defense that yielded an 80-yard touchdown run by running back Fred Jackson and a 60-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Naaman Roosevelt in the first quarter.
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But when the Giants pulled out a 27-24 victory, thanks in large part to Webster's two second-half interceptions, he and his defensive teammates could celebrate heading to their bye week, knowing they made enough big plays to fall on the positive side of the goat-hero boundary.
"After giving up those two big plays, we needed to make a couple stops to make up for it,'' Webster said. "You hate to start off behind the eight-ball like we did, but we persevered and kept fighting and scrapping to get the 'W' at the end of the day.''
Webster was in no position to do anything about Jackson's run, but he had a shot to tackle Roosevelt and ran into teammate Justin Tryon and took them both out of that play.
"We didn't take the proper angles to make the tackle,'' Webster said. "If we eliminate some of those big plays, we'll make it a better defense.''
It seems the Giants' defense routinely has been gashed for big plays. But after the Giants took a 24-17 lead in the third quarter, Webster showed his toughness while shadowing Johnson.
Toward the end of the quarter, Webster was stride for stride with Johnson down the left sideline on a go route. He turned around just in time to pull in his first interception, and he returned it 25 yards to the Bills' 48.
The Giants squandered that scoring opportunity, and the Bills drove for a tying touchdown with 8:57 left on a 9-yard fade to Johnson just over Webster at the left pylon.
After a Giants punt, the Bills drove to the Giants' 27-yard line and tried the same play. This time Webster had perfect inside position and came down with the interception at the 4 with 4:02 left. That set up a 76-yard drive capped by Lawrence Tynes' 23-yard field goal.
"You want an opportunity to even the score,'' Webster said. "You want to have a chance to play that exact same route again. I just wanted to be in good position to make a play on the ball.''
Webster said it helped that the play started from farther out than Johnson's TD, forcing Fitzpatrick to make a longer throw. "We had time enough to get it,'' Webster said. "They're not the fastest receivers, so we had time to get position downfield and get our hands on the ball.''
Safety Antrel Rolle was proud of the way Webster shook off Johnson's touchdown and came back strong with the game balanced on that thin line.
"You're not going to be perfect on every play, but you have to shake it off,'' Rolle said. "It was a great play and it won the game for us.''