Eli Manning of the New York Giants passes against the...

Eli Manning of the New York Giants passes against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. (Oct. 30, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Boo!

That word had three uses Sunday as the Giants faced the winless Dolphins. It was the sound the crowd made for most of the game, voicing displeasure at a generally sloppy, ineffective performance. It was a reference to the Halloween scariness of nearly allowing a home game against Miami to slip away in a more frightful way than Wes Craven could concoct. And it was (almost) the ringing refrain at MetLife Stadium as the Giants' newest receiving star caught the winning touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. At that point, of course, they were yelling "Cruuuz!" and not "boooo!"

Eli Manning completed 31 of 45 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Giants to a 20-17 win over what appears to be the last pushover on their schedule. It was the fifth straight Giants game decided in the fourth quarter -- the Giants have won four of them -- and was seized when Manning completed a 25-yard pass to Victor Cruz for the go-ahead score with 5:58 remaining.

"When there are opportunities to win games, you have to take them," Manning said. "I think we're doing a good job of finding ways to win."

Which is why, although the game was like a bobbing apple that neither team could sink its teeth into for most of the afternoon, at least one Giant was confident the entire day.

"I never honestly had any doubt that we were going to win," Osi Umenyiora said. "We were just sluggish at first and we had to find a way to rectify that. But I knew we'd come alive at some point. I didn't feel like we didn't have control of the game even though we were down. We just had to make some minor adjustments. They were hitting us with some plays that I knew for a fact that we could correct. And as soon as we did that, it was over for them."

The Giants (5-2) did buckle down on defense. They let the Dolphins (0-7) drive for a field goal on the opening possession of the third quarter and take a 17-10 lead but did not allow any points after that.

It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the offense caught up and posted points. Lawrence Tynes kicked a 29-yard field goal with 10:37 left. Then, after a three-and-out that included a questionable offensive pass-interference call against Brandon Marshall on a play in which he otherwise beat Corey Webster, the Giants drove 53 yards in six plays to take the lead on Cruz's fourth touchdown reception.

Cruz caught the ball at the 10 and was spun around by former Giants cornerback Will Allen, who did not tackle Cruz but instead threw him into the end zone.

"He is a big-play guy," Tom Coughlin said of Cruz. "He is learning while he plays, but he demonstrated once again the unique ability to get himself open and make a play for our team when we needed one."

Although the offense was not able to run out the final 4:09, the defense did not allow Miami to threaten, sacking Matt Moore three times in the final six snaps and sealing the win with Webster's interception with 1:44 left.

The Giants trumpeted the Dolphins all week, making sure they did not overlook them with a difficult schedule ahead. Marshall made sure that wouldn't happen when he tweeted comments Friday that seemed to guarantee a victory and take away any excuses. The Giants knew the Dolphins were dangerous.

"They haven't won a game, so they really have nothing to lose," Linval Joseph said. "Their object this year is to win a game and knock any team that has success down. Every game is a hard game, but I'm glad we won that game."

"They have their backs against the wall," Brandon Jacobs said. "Like [offensive coordinator Kevin] Gilbride said, you have to come in and make them believe they are what they are. They're winless for a reason, so you have to come in and hit them in the mouth and put them out early."

The Giants didn't do that, and even Jacobs admitted there was a point in the third quarter when he started to get concerned about the outcome. Eventually, that fear turned into relief.

A game that was defined by "boo!" ended with a "whew!"

"That's the way it is," Umenyiora said. "As long as we keep winning, we could have 30 straight games going down to the fourth quarter. We rarely just blow teams out. We fight, fight, fight and we win, and that's what happened today."

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