Commentary

Eli, JPP keep Giants' playoff hopes alive

QB, DE huge in clutch as Big Blue rallies to win key NFC East showdown in Big D

Updated: December 12, 2011, 9:22 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As Dez Bryant strolled into the end zone with Corey Webster and Antrel Rolle staring at each other helplessly, the New York Giants' season was on life support.

The Giants' defense was in full fourth-quarter meltdown mode and its coach, Tom Coughlin, was five minutes away from a five-game losing streak.

But Eli Manning engineered another furious comeback by leading the Giants to two touchdowns in less than three minutes and he finally got a huge helping hand -- literally. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul capped off the signature game of his blossoming career by blocking Dan Bailey's 47-yard field goal attempt with one second remaining to stun the Dallas Cowboys, 37-34, and keep the Giants' season alive.

Dan Bailey
Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireJason Pierre-Paul and the Giants iced Dan Bailey and Dallas on Sunday night.

"The best thing is we got our season back tonight," team CEO John Mara said. "It would be nice to have an easy win for a change, but I don't know if that is in our DNA."

The Giants (7-6) proved that there is still life and plenty of fight left in them. Big Blue not only halted a four-game losing streak in dramatic fashion, the Giants now have a firmer grasp on their playoff fate while at the same time delivering what could potentially be a fatal blow to Dallas' postseason hopes.

Beat the Washington Redskins or the New York Jets and then win against Dallas in the season finale at home and the Giants will snap a two-year playoff drought and win the NFC East. Dallas (7-6) is tied with the Giants but they not only have to overcome a devastating loss and a deficit in the head-to-head tiebreaker but they have to move on without their talented rookie running back DeMarco Murray, who suffered a broken ankle in the first half.

Leave it to the Giants to find a way to ruin Dallas' season. In their previous trip here last year, the Giants ended Tony Romo's season by breaking his clavicle.

The Giants will soon find out if Dallas' spirit has been broken as well.

"It will be tough for the next few hours. This was a tough loss," Romo said. "It was an important game and guys laid it on the line. We have to regroup."

The Giants were supposed to be the ones delivering this kind of quote after the game. Despite Coughlin benching Ahmad Bradshaw for the first half for violating team rules, the Giants still went back and forth, jab for jab with the Cowboys like a heavyweight belt was on the line.

They were clinging to a 22-20 lead at the start of the fourth quarter but rookie Prince Amukamara lost Laurent Robinson for a 74-yard reception that set up a Romo-to-Miles Austin six-yard touchdown with 12:49 remaining.

The Giants marched down to the Dallas 21 only to see Manning have a screen pass tipped and intercepted by Sean Lee. Two plays later, Romo hit a wide open Bryant after Webster and Rolle let him go on a defensive lapse. Bryant was so wide open, he had to slow down for the catch before turning and waltzing in on a 50-yard score that pushed the Cowboys up 34-22 with 5:41 remaining.

But Manning wasn't done with the Cowboys.

"We've been in these situations before," said Manning, who threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns. "It is nothing new. I don't like being in the situations. It is becoming a bad habit but we find ways to overcome it and it is a fun way to win."

The Giants quarterback also has fun playing in Dallas perhaps more than anywhere else and he had his team in the end zone in eight plays that went 80 yards in 2:27. He hit Jake Ballard for an eight-yard touchdown and suddenly Dallas got tight as its lead was down to 34-29 with 3:14 left.

"He was really upset over the interception but he comes right back," Coughlin said. "He comes right back. Sometimes I wish I was in that huddle to hear what was being said."

The Giants' reeling defense finally got its act together and gave Manning a much-needed stop as it forced Dallas into a three-and-out but only after Romo narrowly missed an open Austin on what would have been the game-sealing touchdown pass.

Manning had 2:12 left on the clock and 58 yards to go after the Cowboys' punt. Less than a minute later, he had the Giants at the Cowboys' 1-yard-line after an 18-yard pass to Ballard. Brandon Jacobs, who delivered his best game of the season with 101 yards, scored his second touchdown of the night with 46 seconds remaining. D.J. Ware then converted a crucial two-point conversion for the second week in a row.

But the Giants were experiencing some déjà vu from last week. They left 58 seconds for Aaron Rodgers after tying the game and the Packers went on to win on a last-second field goal.

This time, the Giants gave up three big gains and the Cowboys were lining up for a field goal with six seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

Having seen what happened to Dallas last week when Jason Garrett iced his own kicker with a timeout to lose in Arizona, Coughlin used his timeout just before Bailey sent a kick right through the uprights. The timeout nullified the potential overtime-forcing kick.

On the second try, Pierre-Paul, who said he couldn't budge the Dallas guard in front of him, opted to go over the long snapper. He caught a piece of the ball with the heel of his left hand, sticking a dagger deep into Dallas' season.

It was an incredible night for Pierre-Paul, who might be the defense's version of Manning after having a safety, a forced fumble, two sacks, eight tackles and one season-saving blocked field goal.

"We needed it a lot," Pierre-Paul said. "Four-game losing streak, we told ourselves we were coming to win a game."

"It feels good," the second-year stud said. "I did my job. You lead by your actions, that is what Coach always says."

Standing right next to Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck started a new campaign after the win.

"JPP for president. JPP for president," Tuck bellowed.

With a tandem like Manning and Pierre-Paul, the Giants might just win the NFC East now -- and who knows how far they can go after that.

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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