GLENDALE -- When Beanie Wells waltzed in for his third touchdown to put the Arizona Cardinals up by 10 points with just over five minutes to play, Justin Tuck looked around on the New York Giants' sideline.
"Guys started looking down," said Tuck, who didn't play due to injury.
But there's simply something magical about playing at the University of Phoenix Stadium for the Giants. Nothing seems impossible here at the stadium where the Giants shocked a previously undefeated New England Patriots team in Super Bowl XLII and now have erased a 10-point deficit in less than three minutes to pull out a stunning 31-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Much like their monumental Super Bowl victory, the Giants completed a stirring comeback when Eli Manning found his star receiver in the left side of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. On the same side of the very same end zone where Plaxico Burress caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to beat the Patriots, Hakeem Nicks hauled in a 29-yard touchdown with 2:46 remaining to push the Giants ahead.
It wasn't quite like upsetting one of the greatest teams in NFL history, but nevertheless this was an improbable victory for several reasons and the kind that just might propel this team to bigger things later on in the season.
The Giants (3-1) looked like they were on the verge of suffering a massive letdown one week after their inspiring victory in Philadelphia. With 5:20 remaining in the game, Wells walked into the end zone with his third touchdown of the game to put the Cardinals up 27-17.
Wells gashed the Giants for 138 yards and scored all three touchdowns running to his left and literally over the Giants right side of the defense. On his first two touchdowns, he flattened cornerback Corey Webster on one touchdown before scoring again with rookie middle linebacker Greg Jones clinging to his foot.
Up to that point, the Giants offense had some success moving the ball but there wasn't anything that would leave one to believe that Manning and his friends had 14 points in them in a matter of minutes.
"I felt good about our hurry-up offense," said Manning, who typically does well in the hurry-up. "Right before the end of the half, we had a good drive going down there in the same system [and scoring a field goal]."
Manning was working with backup center Kevin Boothe, who replaced starter David Baas, who suffered a burner. Boothe had missed a block on David Carter in the third quarter that led to a Manning fumble at the Giants' nine-yard-line which set up one of Wells' touchdowns in the third quarter.
But down 10, the Giants calmly marched 80 yards in seven plays and needed only 1:39 before Manning hit tight end Jake Ballard in the back of the end zone to cut the deficit to 27-24 with 3:37 remaining.
The defense then finally stopped Wells and Larry Fitzgerald, who had eight catches for 102 yards. Safety Antrel Rolle had a big breakup on a pass intended for Early Doucet on a third-and-4 to force a punt with 3:21 left.
With the ball again, Manning found himself under pressure and even collided with Darnell Dockett and was hit in the head. But he kept his balance and escaped the pressure (sound familiar?) and hit Victor Cruz on a 19-yard reception for a first down.
But as Cruz fell to the turf, he appeared to go down without being touched by a Cardinals defender. Cruz got up without the ball as the Giants were in hurry-up mode and the Cardinals pounced on the ball claiming they had recovered a fumble that certainly would have ended any Giant comeback.
"I thought I was touched and the ref called it down," Cruz said. "I was a little scared to be honest with you because I was looking at the replay [on the big screen and] it looked like somebody touched and it looked like they didn't. You never know with those plays, it can go either way."
But of course, this is Glendale, where things always seem to work out for the team in blue. After all, this is where David Tyree became a household name.
The officials said the play could not be reviewed because the down ended with the runner going down voluntarily without making an effort to advance.
"I thought we got a break on that one," Manning said. "I thought it was going to be ruled a fumble. I saw it pretty clear."
Still alive, Manning found Nicks open for the game-winning touchdown on the next play. The Cardinals defense had no answer for Manning, who completed 14-of-17 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"I'm at a loss for words because he threw the ball so well," Brandon Jacobs said.
And like during their 17-14 Super Bowl win here, the Giants defense had to come up with one more stop. The Cardinals drove down the Giants' 29 with 1:21 remaining but Osi Umenyiora, making his season debut, made one of his two sacks on Kevin Kolb for a 10-yard loss. Two plays later on a 4th-and-two at the Giants' 30, Kolb threw to the left side for Fitzgerald but Webster redeemed himself with a game-clinching breakup to preserve the improbable victory with 51 seconds left.
If only the Giants could play all their games in this building that looks like a silver spaceship in the middle of the desert.
"I can play in this building 16 weeks," said Jacobs, whose Giants improved to 3-0 at the University of Phoenix stadium, including a 37-29 victory here in 2008.
Afterward, multiple roars could be heard through the cement walls outside the Giants locker room. After a dismal preseason and a season-opening loss in Washington, the Giants have somehow won three straight games despite all the injuries.
Tuck said the team believed what it was capable of doing after beating the Eagles 29-16 last week.
Now that belief is only getting stronger.
"Today we showed ourselves how to finish football games," Tuck said. "We believe in each other. Our motto is finish and we are 3-1."