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New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning replicated his Super Bowl XLII success on Sunday, rallying the New York Giants (6-2) to a last-minute 24-20 come-from-behind victory against the New England Patriots (5-3) at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Down 20-17 with 1:36 remaining, Manning orchestrated an 8-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard, third and goal strike to Jake Ballard to give the Giants the win. Manning converted a pair of third downs on the winning drive. Prior to the final drive, New York was just 2-12 on third-down.
This game was a tale of two halves, with defense dominating the first 30-minutes and a second-half offensive explosion. The Patriots allowed just 117 yard first-half yards en route to a 0-0 halftime tie, but surrendered 24 points in the second-half to doom the squad.
The two teams swapped the lead four times in the final frame. After Aaron Hernandez tied the game on a 5-yard strike from Tom Brady to open the fourth, the defense forced a three-and-out. The subsequent New England drive culminated with a 45-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, but Manning would strike right back with a touchdown drive of his own.
The Giants went 85 yards in eight plays, chewing up 4:07 on the clock to give them a 17-13 lead. Manning’s third-down throw was corralled by Mario Manningham on third and five from the New England 10.
In typical Brady fashion, the Michigan alum directed a go-ahead touchdown drive to give the Patriots a 20-17 edge with 1:35 remaining. New England faced a fourth-and-eight from the New York 14, but Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for touchdown to cap the 64-yard drive.
The Patriots continued to shoot themselves in the foot at critical times. New England drove the ball inside the Giants’ 30 twice in the first half, but a Brady interception halted the first opportunity while Stephen Gostkowski botched a 27-yard attempt to end the first-half. Brady was also intercepted early in the third-quarter when the Patriots were near midfield.
Rob Gronkowski – New York’s linebackers were no match for the 6-foot-6 Arizona-alum. Gronkowski finished the game with eight catches and 101 yards, including the go-ahead score, and continuously dragged Giants’ defenders for extra yards.
Wes Welker – Welker emerged as a go-to target in the second-half, sparking the New England offense out of their first-half funk. Welker bounced back from an early stinger to finish with 136 yards on nine receptions.
Matt Slater – On a day with not many positives, Slater’s special teams play stood out among the rest of the team. Slater was essential in limiting New York’s field possession and Zoltan Mesko’s net average. Slater was near the Giants’ punt returner on several punts, forcing five fair catches on all five Mesko punts.
Tom Brady – Despite the two fourth-quarter TD drives, Brady’s poor play for three-quarters put the Patriots in a 10-0 hole that ultimate doomed New England. Brady finished the game 29-49 with 342 yards and two TDs, but his interceptions were pivotal in the final margin. Brady’s third-quarter fumble also set up a Brandon Jacobs touchdown.
Fourth-Quarter Defense – A familiar theme all year, the Patriots’ defense was unable to produce a winning play when it truly mattered. The defense allowed drives of 85 and 80 on New York’s final to possessions to give the Giants the victory.
Chad Ochocinco – Ochocinco’s playing time increased significantly over previous weeks, but the offseason acquisition was unable to produce at all, finishing the game with zero catches on five targets. Brady and Ochocinco were noticeable out of sync all afternoon.
The Patriots continue the brutal part of their schedule next week, traveling to East Rutherford, N.J. to take on the New York Jets (5-3) for the AFC East lead on Sunday Night Football. Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth will be on the call at 8:20 for NBC. The Buffalo Bills (5-3) will travel to Arlington, Texas, to take on the Dallas Cowboys at 1:00 on CBS.