Bears squander lead as Chicago's playoff hopes take hit

CHICAGO (AP) -- Eli Manning's second pass landed in Brian Urlacher's hands. There was a fumble that led to a field goal, too, and just when it seemed his day couldn't get much worse, he threw an interception in the end zone.

Then, everything turned around.

Manning redeemed himself just in time, and the New York Giants dealt the Chicago Bears' playoff hopes another staggering blow.

Manning led two late touchdown drives and Reuben Droughns scored on a 2-yard run with 1:33 remaining to lift the Giants to a 21-16 victory over the Bears on Sunday.

Manning was awful for most of the game but delivered in the latter stages after throwing four interceptions the previous week in a drubbing by Minnesota.

"It's easy to forget bad plays," Manning said. "And to be a quarterback, to be a football player, you have to be able to do that. You have to be able to forget the week before. You have to be able to forget the play before and just move on and work out the next play."

The embattled quarterback threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer, which was initially ruled incomplete, with 6:54 left to cap a 75-yard drive and cut the Giants' deficit to 16-14.

"I knew I caught it," Toomer said. "And I knew [the replay] was going to look like I caught it, so it wasn't a problem. I don't know if it hit my arms or hands, but I was underneath it. I didn't even think it was that close."

After the Bears (5-7) punted, the Giants launched a 77-yard drive that ended with Droughns running around the right end with 1:33 left. Manning hit David Tyree with a 24-yard pass and threw a 15-yarder to Plaxico Burress that put the ball on the 2.

The Bears got the ball with 1:28 remaining and marched from their 41 to the Giants 28, before Rex Grossman threw three incompletions -- the last one broken up by James Butler.

It was a brutal loss for the defending NFC champions, who looked like they were about to put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

"We'll continue to play until they tell us we're out of it," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Winning out would've pretty much guaranteed us getting in. ... You just have to keep playing and see what happens."

Defensive end Alex Brown wasn't ready to quit, either: "We got to play anyway, so let's go play and let's try to win and see what happens."

Manning kept at it and made up for the turnovers with a strong finish.

He was 16-for-27 with 195 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble, the turnovers dousing several scoring threats by the Giants (8-4) or putting Chicago in good position. He got intercepted on the game's opening possession by Urlacher, leading to a touchdown, and he fumbled the ball away deep in Chicago territory in the second quarter. That led to a field goal by Robbie Gould.

Manning's problems continued in the third period. Trailing 16-7, the Giants drove to the 1, only to see him give it away again. He spun and avoided a sack by Brown and lofted a pass to Burress in the left corner of the end zone that a leaping Charles Tillman intercepted.

The crowd erupted, but the Giants celebrated in the end.

Derrick Ward ran for 154 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for New York, but injured his left ankle. He left the stadium on crutches and is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.

Although he got sacked six times, Grossman was solid. He completed 25 of 46 passes for a season-high 296 yards and did not throw an interception.

After losing Cedric Benson to a season-ending left ankle injury last week, the Bears turned to Adrian Peterson and he ran for 67 yards and caught seven passes for 82. Peterson had been used primarily on third downs this season, after spending most of his five years on special teams.

But the offense stalled in the second half. There were no sparks from Devin Hester, either.

As expected, the Giants did all they could to avoid Hester and limited him to just three punt returns and one kickoff return for a total of 35 yards.

New York's defense tightened up in the second half, holding the Bears to 98 yards after allowing 214 through the first two quarters.

Game notes
The Bears had hoped to get Pro Bowl CB Nathan Vasher back, but he missed his ninth game with a groin injury after practicing on a limited basis during the week. ... Chicago also benched SS Adam Archuleta in favor of Brandon McGowan. ... The Giants were without CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and S Gibril Wilson (knee injury). Kevin Dockery, who replaced Ross for most of the second half in the loss to Minnesota, started in his place. Rookie Michael Johnson filled in for Wilson. ... Chicago had John St. Clair start at right tackle over Fred Miller.