EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — While Robert Griffin III is quickly becoming the NFL’s most exciting quarterback, there’s none better than Eli Manning with the game on the line.
Manning one-upped the Washington Redskins’ rookie sensation with a pinpoint 77-yard scoring pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 to play and the New York Giants overcame a late touchdown toss by Griffin to defeat the Washington Redskins 27-23 on Sunday.
“With our offense and Eli at the helm, we’re never too worried,” Cruz said. “No matter what situation we’re in, no matter how many points we need or a field goal we need, we have the confidence we can do it. We have a lot of confidence in each other, and in Eli.”
The winning drive was the 22nd of Manning’s career in either the fourth quarter or overtime, his second this season and eighth over the past two seasons. This pass might have been one of the most improbable.
It came two plays and 19 seconds after Griffin capped what was a potential winning, 77-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown toss to Santana Moss. The rookie had kept the drive alive with a 19-yard pass off a desperate scramble on a fourth-and-10 play deep in his own territory, and a 24-yard run on the next play.
“He has done it so many times,” veteran Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty said of the two-time Super Bowl MVP. “He has really bridged his performance in the 2011 season to the 2012 season. It’s just more of the same. He continues to get better. He is probably the most deadly quarterback in the fourth quarter.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan agreed even though he was miffed that defensive backs Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams allowed Cruz to blow by them on the seam pattern.
“He sure proved it today,” Shanahan said after his team (3-4) blew a chance to move into a tie for first place in the NFC East. “It was a great throw. He was double- covered but (Manning) put it right on the money.”
Manning, who finished 26 of 40 for 337 yards, had to make the throw a little sooner than he wanted.
“I kind of threw it high and deep and saw the coverage and was hoping Victor saw it the same way I did,” he said. “I didn’t see the ball get caught. I heard the cheer and that was a good sign. I got up in time to see him run into the end zone.”
Manning triumphantly pumped his fist once after the play as the more than 80,000 fans at MetLife Stadium erupted with cheers.
“He did a good job leading his team to victory today,” said Griffin, who ran for 89 yards and passed for 258 and two touchdowns. “When the game is on the line, you want the ball in your hand, no doubt about it. He made the play to win it.”
Griffin had Washington moving when Moss was tackled by Chase Blackburn after an 11-yard reception and rookie Jayron Hosley recovered at the Washington 43.
“There’s no excuse for them, but with all that stuff, we had a chance to win at the end,” Griffin said.
The wild finish capped a game in which both quarterbacks also made major mistakes.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown scored on 1-yard runs and Lawrence Tynes kicked a pair of field goals for the Giants, who won despite giving up 480 yards in total offense.
Griffin was 20 of 28 with Moss catching both his TD passes. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris gained 120 yards rushing.
The Giants had 396 yards in total offense, with the biggest chunk coming on Manning’s pass to Mr. Salsa.
Before the wild finish, the second half was dominated by turnovers.
Griffin was picked off by safety Stevie Brown and his 41-yard return late in the third quarter set up Bradshaw’s 1-yard plow-job into the end zone, a play which was reviewed.
Griffin moved Washington into position to tie the game on the next possession, but he fumbled after being sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph recovered the ensuring fumble at the Giants 29.
On the next play from scrimmage, linebacker Rob Jackson intercepted a quick out by Manning and Forbath kicked a 45-yard field goal to narrow the lead to 20-16 with 5:21 to go.
The Giants were forced to punt on their next series and Washington got the ball back at its 23. After gaining nothing in three plays, Griffin went back to pass on fourth down, eluded Pierre-Paul and then danced around long enough to find tight end Logan Paulsen for a 19-yard gain and a first down at the 42. The 24-yard scamper got the ball to the New York 34 and two plays later Moss beat Hosley and hauled in Griffin’s perfect pass as Griffin lay on his back and celebrated like a snow angel.
“He’s tough,” Blackburn said of Griffin. We played well for three downs got them into a fourth and 10, and had him. JPP had him dead to rights. Any other quarterback and he makes that sack.”
Manning and Cruz spoiled the afternoon seconds later.
There were seven offensive possessions in the first half that resulted in 439 total yards, six scores and a 13-13 tie.
NOTES: Washington TE Fred Davis suffered an Achilles tendon injury and will miss the rest of the season. …Redskins LB London Fletcher, who has played in 231 straight games, suffered a leg-hamstring injury in the second half. …The Redskins gained a season-high 248 yards rushing. … Bradshaw gained 43 yards rushing after collecting 316 in the past two games. …Cruz led the Giants with seven catches for 131 yards. …New York had three sacks, and allowed its first in four games.