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Jason Pierre-Paul's interception huge for Giants

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul raises his arms

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul raises his arms to the crowd during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers. (Nov. 17, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Jason Pierre-Paul walked into the huddle, turned to his teammates and called out his prediction for all to hear.

The Packers had just closed to within 20-13, Eli Manning's offense went backward on the next possession, and the Giants needed a big play to make certain their winning streak would extend to four.

Pierre-Paul said the big play was going to happen right there. "I said I'm going to pick this [pass] off and run to the house,'' he said.

Minutes earlier, quarterback Scott Tolzien, who only two weeks ago was on the practice squad but had to play because of injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace, drove the Packers 83 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Giants wound up losing 4 yards on their next possession, forcing Steve Weatherford to punt.

Pierre-Paul thought he knew which play was coming next, and said as much in the huddle. He had noticed on video that the Packers would get into a certain formation that indicated a short pass to Tolzien's left was coming next. And Pierre-Paul figured that would be the play on first down from the Packers' 30.

He was right.

Tolzien faded back to pass, and rather than continue his rush, Pierre-Paul stopped a few strides up the field and looked for the pass. Tolzien intended to hit Andrew Quarless, but Pierre-Paul -- who played with a harness on his right shoulder to protect an injury that limited him to one day of practice during the week -- leaped and made the interception. Within seconds, he was in the end zone, celebrating the 24-yard TD that gave the Giants a 27-13 lead and essentially put the game out of reach.

The electrifying play brought the sellout crowd at MetLife Stadium to its feet and ensured that the Giants would win their fourth straight game after an 0-6 start, setting up Sunday's home rematch against the Cowboys. Hope remains for a team that once looked finished.

"I saw how the tight end was set, and I caught the ball,'' Pierre-Paul said. "I knew it was a touchdown as soon as I caught it. We needed a play to change the game, and I knew I could deliver that play and I did.''

It was reminiscent of Pierre-Paul's 28-yard interception return for a touchdown against Dallas in 2012 off a similar play. "They got to stop throwing screens on my side, man,'' Pierre-Paul said. "I'm too tall for it.''

The defensive magic was just the kind of game-changing play the Giants came to expect from Pierre-Paul during their 2011 Super Bowl season. But it's the kind of play that often has been missing from the former first-round pick, who struggled most of last season to recapture his form. Offseason back surgery didn't help this year, and he still is not back to being a consistently dominant player. But for those few seconds against the Packers, it was as good as it gets for JPP.

"That's the JPP we've known and come to love and expect around here,'' Mathias Kiwanuka said. "He's definitely capable of doing it. When he's 100 percent, he's one of the best players in the league. He has an understanding of the game now that adds to his special ability. That [interception] is one of the biggest plays you can make as a defensive end. If a team has a guy that can make that play, if you have just one, you're lucky. We're going to need that.''

Safety Antrel Rolle was mesmerized by the play. "I was in shock, to be honest with you,'' he said. "When you make a play like that, it drives the entire team; not just the defense, but the entire team, coaching staff as well."

The Giants will need more of that if they are to transform their four-game winning streak into a miracle run to the playoffs. And if Pierre-Paul wants to throw in a few more predictions, that's fine with them.

"We call him 'JPP Cleo,' '' Terrell Thomas cracked, referencing the once-popular television psychic Miss Cleo. "It was a great play, a big play, momentum-changer. Took the life out of them and gave us all the momentum and we went out and shut them down after that. This is exactly what we need going into the Cowboys game.''

Cowboys Week means something, thanks in large part to Pierre-Paul's spot-on prediction. The Giants hope there's more where that came from.

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