Giants rally in 2nd half to keep Dolphins winless, avoid letdown

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All the warnings coach Tom Coughlin gave the New York Giants before their game with the winless Miami Dolphins seemingly went in one ear and out the other.

The Giants' running game was non-existent. The defense showed up for a half. And as the minutes ticked by, it seemed the Dolphins were sensing victory -- that is until Eli Manning stole it from them, like so many others before him.

Manning threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 5:58 to play and the Giants barely avoided a post-bye letdown, keeping Miami (0-7) winless with a 20-17 victory Sunday.

"The pressure was there just to get the win," Giants guard Chris Snee said. "No one was concerned about 'Oh, we're going to lose to a winless team, or we were going to lose.' We thought we were still going to win the game and that's just the confidence we have, and that stems from Eli."

Despite some pressure, Manning was outstanding in handing the Dolphins another late loss that has to increase the pressure on embattled coach Tony Sparano.

He hit 31 of 45 passes for 345 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in rallying the Giants from an 11-point first-half deficit. He would have had a lot more yards if tight end Jake Ballard and receiver Hakeem Nicks held on to a couple of perfect long tosses.

Mario Manningham caught the other touchdown, a 7-yard play that got New York (5-2) back into the game late in the first half.

"We knew we were going to get pressure," Coughlin said. "We probably got pressure 40-50 percent of the time. It caused some issues with the running game (58 yards). But Eli made some big plays. Obviously he threw the ball a lot today. No turnovers, no interceptions, and he made plays when we had to have them. Once again, he did a very good job."

Manning said the Giants had chances to put up a lot more points, but they hurt themselves with the drops, penalties and negative plays down close.

"We knew coming in it would be a tough battle," Manning said. "A lot of games have come to the fourth quarter, and we knew it would be a tough road. They did a lot of good things defensively, ran a lot of different blitzes. We didn't run the ball real well today, and we had to throw the ball more than we wanted to. But we're capable of doing that."

And when they are close this season, Manning has found a way to win most of the time. Four of their five wins have come in the fourth quarter.

"He is a clutch player," said center David Baas, who joined the team this season. "No matter what happens, he stays calm and rises to the occasion."

The loss was another frustration for the Sparano, who endured a week of hearing rumors that the Dolphins were interested in hiring former Steelers coach Bill Cowher next season. It followed a brutal loss to Tim Tebow and Denver, a game in which Miami blew a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to play.

"We went toe to toe with them, swung hard. We didn't win. It's not acceptable," Sparano said.

Cowher issued a statement Sunday, saying no one has approached him about a job and he intends to work for CBS TV again next season.

Lawrence Tynes kicked two short field goals, and New York's defense got four sacks on the Dolphins' final two drives. Corey Webster iced it with his third interception in the last two games.

Steve Slaton and Matt Moore (13 of 22 for 138) capped the Dolphins' first two drives with 1-yard runs. But Miami could only muster a 40-yard third-quarter field goal by Dan Carpenter the rest of the way.

The Giants' winning drive covered 53 yards in six plays.

Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed much of the second half getting his right foot X-rayed, had runs of 2 and 11 yards to get the drive started and Manning hit Nicks for 17 yards to the Miami 23.

The quarterback found a wide open Cruz over the middle and the New Jersey native spun out of Will Allen's attempted tackle at the 5-yard line.

"It was basically a seam route," said Cruz, who has four touchdown catches as a part-timer. "They were playing Cover-2, Eli put it on me, and I just went up the field spun around, and got into the end zone."

A kickoff return by Slaton to the Dolphins 45 resulted in nothing when New York got two sacks, the last by a combination of Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck, who was playing for the first time in four games.

Miami, which wasted two timeouts early, got the ball back at its 16 with 3:35 to play and quickly got a 24-yard completion to Davone Bess.

However, Osi Umenyiora and Kiwanuka got sacks for 10-yard losses on consecutive plays to set up Webster fourth-down pick.

Miami, which came in having scored seven touchdowns in its first six games, scored on its first two series, the first time they scored on consecutive drives this season.

Moore looked like Tom Brady -- next week's opponent -- in leading the Dolphins on scoring drives of 66 and 90 yards. He had a 15-yard third-down scramble to set up Slaton's 1-yard run, and an 11-yard third-down run on the longer drive that he capped with a fourth-down 1-yard bootleg.

Game notes
The game was the Giants' 1,200th regular-season game. They join the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Chicago-St. Louis-Phoenix-Arizona Cardinals at that plateau. ... Moore rushed for a career-best 31 yards. ... Reggie Bush rushed for a season-high 103-yards. ... Dolphins C Mike Pouncey missed much of the second half after taking a shot to the head that left his body numb. ... Nicks pulled a hamstring on the Giants next to last series.