EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants are not only back in the playoff hunt with a four-game winning streak, they’re calling the plays that get them those wins.
That’s exactly what Jason Pierre-Paul did against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
With the Giants clinging to a 20-13 lead early in the fourth quarter and the Packers about to start a series at their 30, Pierre-Paul said in the huddle he was going to pick a pass and score. Pierre-Paul hadn’t seen the Packers’ formation and he hadn’t been listening to coach Mike McCarthy talk to Scott Tolzien on the sideline. He just knew, and he was right.
Pierre-Paul scored on a spectacular, leaping 24-yard fourth-quarter interception return and the resurgent Giants won 27-13 over the slumping and injured-riddled Packers (5-5).
“I have never seen anything like it before in my life,” fellow defensive end Justin Tuck said. “We were literally in a TV timeout and he said, ‘I’m going to pick this.’”
Tuck said Pierre-Paul made the call before the Giants had even called a defense.
“If you look at my reaction to him picking it, I was in awe because he had just called it before it happened,” Tuck said. “He called it before seeing the formation, so I don’t know if it was Voodoo. I don’t know.”
Pierre-Paul, questionable because of a shoulder injury against Oakland that limited him to one day of practice, said he had a feeling.
“I knew I could deliver that play, that significant play, and I did,” Pierre-Paul said. “It changed the game.”
Tolzien, starting his first NFL game, took the blame.
“That’s on me giving their team a freebie,” said Tolzien, who finished 24 of 34 for 339 yards and three interceptions. “We had a chance at that point. That kills ya. It was a game-changer. You see the arms up in the air and you can’t throw it.”
Eli Manning threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Rueben Randle, and Brandon Jacobs added a 1-yard run as the Giants handed the Packers their third straight loss, their longest skid since a five-game losing streak near the end of 2008.
“It’s not good,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. ” It’s definitely new territory. It’s tough, because you go 10-5, 10-6, 15-1. You lose three, it doesn’t feel good. But right now we’re just not playing very good ball. We’re 5-5 right now, so we’ve just got to move forward with the guys we have and play better.”
Two of the three losses have come with 2011 NFL MVP Rodgers sidelined with a broken left collarbone.
The Giants are heading the other way. Their winning streak follows a 0-6 start and it improbably has moved them within 1½ games of first-place Philadelphia (6-5) in the weak NFC East. They are a game behind second-place and idle Dallas (5-5), which will play here next Sunday.
“We’ve kept the dream alive and got to the game next week,” center Jim Cordle said. “But there is still a long way to go.”
The Packers, who got a 1-yard TD run by Eddie Lacy and two field goals by Mason Crosby, including a 57-yarder, fell a game behind Chicago and Detroit in the NFC North.
The Giants never trailed, but they never put the Packers away until the interception by Pierre-Paul.
New York had the better of the play in the first half, holding the ball for almost 20 minutes. The Giants jumped to a 10-0 lead on Manning’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Randle and Josh Brown’s 40-yard field goal.
The touchdown reception was Randle’s sixth in the last six games, and he set it up with a 32-yard punt return. Manning finished 25 of 35 for 279 yards and an interception.
A 30-yard pass to Victor Cruz, who had eight catches for 110 yards, and a 5-yard run by Jacobs on a fourth-and-1 at the Packers 36 set up the field goal.
Tolzien threw passes of 25 yards to Jordy Nelson and 45 to James Jones on consecutive plays to set up a 24-yard field goal by Crosby on the next series.
Taking over at the Green Bay 37 with no timeouts, Tolzien hit on two passes, setting up Crosby for a 57-yard field goal on the final play. It was a yard shy of his Packers record and it was the longest against the Giants.
NOTES: Brett Conway of Washington kicked a 55-yard against New York in 2001. … Nelson finished with eight catches for 117 yards. … Packers DT Johnny Jolly (groin) and CB James Nixon (knee) left the game with injuries. … LB Jon Beason and S Antrel Rolle had the Giants’ other interceptions. …Linebacker Brad Jones led the Packers with 13 tackles and a sack. … CB Terrell Thomas, Beason and LB Jacquian Williams all had eight tackles for the Giants. … Green Bay outgained New York 394-334, but the Giants had the ball 35:14.