Giants beat Cardinals: It’s better to be lucky

Hakeem Nicks catches the eventual game-winning, 29-yard touchdown over rookie Patrick Peterson.

There’s magic in University of Phoenix Stadium.

At the same stadium where Eli Manning dodged Patriots and won a Super Bowl MVP, the Giants lucked into their third win of the season.

The Giants trailed by 10 points with less than four minutes to play when Manning led his team to two touchdowns in 58 seconds.

But it wasn’t without controversy.

Manning threw a touchdown pass to Jake Ballard in the back of the end zone to make it 27-24 Arizona with 3:37 remaining. From there it got crazy.

When the Giants got the ball back, Manning threw a pass to Victor Cruz for a large gain — before Cruz stood up without being touched and left the ball behind. While Arizona recovered, officials ruled Cruz had “given himself up,” the ball stayed with the Giants and by rule couldn’t be challenged.

“He just told me I couldn’t challenge,” Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I like to think it shouldn’t have come to that play. That’s the way I have to look at it.”

Manning threw a 29-yard touchdown to Hakeem Nicks on the next play to take the lead. 

Four good …

1. Deja vu: Manning re-created his magic in the Cardinals’ home stadium by leading a late comeback. The suddenly-hot Manning found Hakeem Nicks in the back of the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown with 2:39 remaining in the comeback win. Manning went 27-of-41 for 321 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. We ’si you: Osi Umenyiora’s season debut was a success, as he strip-sacked quarterback Kevin Kolb midway through the first quarter. Umenyiora, who missed most of training camp and all of the season to date with a bum knee, easily beat the left tackle and chased Kolb down to force the fumble. Rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams, who has also impressed this season, recovered at the Giants’ 14-yard line to thwart a driving Cardinals offense. 

3. Tuck-ered out: Justin Tuck (neck/groin) made the trip but never suited up. The Giants’ pass rush didn’t suffer though, as the front seven tallied four sacks. Tuck’s replacement, Dave Tollefson, registered two sacks, both in the first half, while Umenyiora added the other two.  

4. Catching up:

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All wasn’t totally lost for
Big Blue, as the receiving corps did just as much damage as their Arizona
counterparts. Nicks bounced back in a big way, as he recorded 10 catches for
161 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown. Tight end Jake Ballard
represented for the unsung tight ends with a stellar game. He had three
catches for 33 yards, including an athletic touchdown in the back of the end
zone late in the fourth quarter to keep the Giants within striking distance. It
was Ballard’s first career touchdown.   

Four bad …

1. No big surprise: As expected, Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald was a problem for the Giants secondary. He registered eight catches for 102 yards. Fitzgerald, maybe the best jumpball receiver in the game, nestled a 48-yarder over a Giants safety Deon Grant to set up Arizona’s go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter. The catch also put Fitzgerald into the Cardinals’ history books as it made him the franchise’s all-time leader in receiving yards (8,510 at the time of his catch). He also later set the franchise record for most career 100-yard games.

2. Line change: The offensive line also had its troubles with the aggressive Cardinals’ 3-4 defense. Eli Manning was knocked down several times and sacked once. The biggest turning point was the injury to center David Baas, who went out with a neck burner late in the third quarter. Arizona quickly capitalized, as his replacement Kevin Boothe allowed a strip sack by David Carter. The Cardinals recovered inside the 10-yard line and scored a touchdown two plays later to stretch the lead to 20-10.           

3. Security: Ahmad Bradshaw’s ball security issues reared their head again and set the tone for an uneven performance by the Giants. Bradshaw, who was benched late last season due to his penchant for putting the ball on the turf, fumbled on New York’s opening drive inside the 20-yard line. The shifty Bradshaw didn’t see a hard-charging Cardinal defender who let loose on the unsuspecting running back after catching a screen pass. The fumble turned into a short field goal by the Cardinals.

4. Wells off: 

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Beanie Wells, who was
much-maligned this season for underachieving after finally becoming the
unquestioned No. 1 running back, had a breakout game. The third-year back
registered his first-career three touchdown game en route to a 27-carry, 138-yard


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