The Giants beat the Jets 29-14 in a pivotal New York showdown on Saturday that gave the winners a direct path to the playoffs and imperiled the losers’ chances of advancing.
“We won the game and it keeps us in the playoffs, it keeps us in the hunt with destiny in our hands,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
The victory improved the Giants to 8-7 and made Sunday’s regular season finale against the visiting Dallas Cowboys a clash for the NFC East title. A loss would have all but eliminated them.
The defeat dropped the Jets to 8-7, derailing their clear run for an AFC wild-card berth. The Jets remained mathematically alive, but need a win in next week’s game in Miami against the Dolphins and help from other teams to qualify for the post-season.
A safety registered by defensive tackle Chris Canty on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez effectively ended the game by giving the Giants two points for a 22-14 lead, with the Jets punting from their own 20 with just over two minutes left.
After a failed on-side punt by the Jets, Ahmad Bradshaw barged into the end zone from 19 yards out to complete the scoring and turn what had been a tension-packed game into a rout.
In the run-up to the game, outspoken Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team was better and vowed to claim Big Apple supremacy and bragging rights in the stadium they share with the Giants.
After the game, Ryan tipped his cap to the Giants.
“We have to give Giants all the credit. They played a great game,” Ryan said. “They were definitely the better team this year.”
Giants running back Brandon Jacobs shot back at Ryan for his trash talking before the game.
Asked if he had a message for Ryan, the big running back said: “I think you need to shut up. He’s a great coach, comes from a great coaching family, but he needs to shut up.”
Coughlin credited the Giants’ defense for saving the day.
“They kept turning the Jets offense back. That was the determining factor in the game,” said Coughlin after limping into his post-game interview after absorbing a late-game collision with his running back D.J. Ware along the sideline. “We weren’t having a very good night offensively.”
The Giants registered only 11 first downs in the hard-fought contest, while the Jets doubled that figure, but the Giants made some big plays to compensate.
A huge touchdown connection late in the first half from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Victor Cruz turned the tide for the Giants.
Outplayed to that point and trailing 7-3, Manning hit Cruz on a third-and-10 from his own one-yard line and the elusive receiver escaped from three tacklers on his way to a 99-yard touchdown romp that put the Giants ahead 10-7.
“We all got a tremendous lift when he went coast to coast,” Coughlin said.
The Giants extended their lead to 17-7 on a 14-yard touchdown burst late in the third quarter by Bradshaw, who ran over safety Brodney Poole on his way into the end zone.
The Jets whittled down the deficit from 20-7 with a one-yard run by Sanchez halfway through the fourth quarter that made it 20-14, but the Giants’ defense rose up to make that cushion stand.
“This was a big win because everything was on the line,” said Manning, who completed only nine of 27 passes, but totaled 225 yards.
The Jets had some early success running the ball, but stuck with a game plan relying on the pass to try and take advantage of a weak Giants secondary.
As the game wore on, the pass rush increasingly pressured Sanchez, who was sacked five times and completed 30 of 59 passes for 258 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Now the Giants will settle the NFC East face to face against the Cowboys.
“It’s going to be another knock-down, drag-out fight with Dallas next week,” Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. “I look forward to it.”
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