Rapid Reaction: Giants 20, Dolphins 17

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Trick or treat? The Giants got a scare from winless Miami but woke up just in time to put away the Dolphins.

What it means: Simply put, the Giants won a game they absolutely needed as they now brace for a six-game stretch that includes New England, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Green Bay and Dallas.

For the fifth straight game, the Giants lived dangerously as the game was decided in the fourth quarter. And for the fourth time during that stretch, the Giants pulled it out as Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz across the middle for a 25-yard touchdown with 5:58 left. Cruz broke a tackle by Will Allen for the score.

The Giants defense, which had trouble with Matt Moore and Reggie Bush for just over the first half, shut down the Dolphins in the fourth. Entering this game, the Dolphins had been outscored, 49-25, by opponents in the fourth.

Easy Eli: Manning continued his solid play, completing passes to eight different Giants for a total of 349 yards and two touchdowns. Manning also received terrific protection at times from his offensive line.

Sloppy return: The Giants, who had won their post bye week game in the three previous years, came off this bye week playing sloppy football at the start.

They had five penalties in the first half, including two consecutive penalties that came when the Giants were at the Miami 12-yard-line in the first quarter. The Giants had to settle for a field goal on that drive. And on Miami’s first scoring drive, Aaron Ross was flagged for a pass interference penalty that put the Dolphins at the Giants’ 1. And then after stuffing Steve Slaton on a run, Linval Joseph was called for a personal foul and Slaton scored on the next run in the first quarter.

The Giants’ tackling woes continued as quarterback Matt Moore escaped a few and Reggie Bush also evaded two by Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross on a 35-yard run that set up Miami’ second touchdown of the first half. Bush had another 28-yard run in which he was able to break a tackle in the third quarter.

And as if that wasn’t all bad enough, Manning was plagued by a few drops as Hakeem Nicks, Jake Ballard and Brandon Jacobs all dropped passes.

Welcome back: Justin Tuck returned after a month off from resting due to pain in his neck and a strained groin.

He rotated with Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Dave Tollefson and played inside on some passing downs in which the Giants used four defensive ends up front.

Jacobs also returned from a two-game absence and heard some boos after he fumbled his first carry in the second quarter and dropped a short pass on the same drive. Jacobs voiced frustration with his role and amount of carries last week.

Jacobs and D.J. Ware spelled Ahmad Bradshaw, who went back to the locker room twice to have his foot examined in the second half. Bradshaw returned with 8:28 remaining in the game.

What’s next: It’s the elite showdown. Eli Manning versus Tom Brady. Back in August, Eli said he believes he is an elite quarterback in Brady’s class. Now the Giants travel to face the Patriots and Brady, starting a daunting six-game stretch.