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Giants Run Out of Fourth-Quarter Magic

Game over.

Eli Manning has led so many successful late-game drives, you might have been under the impression that when the Giants got the ball at their own nine, with just under three minutes left, they had the Cardinals right where they wanted them — even if that's kind of a crazy thing to think. When the Giants converted a third-and-fifteen from their own four moments later, thanks to a terrific catch in traffic by Steve Smith, it appeared as if Manning was at it again. But on a night when the Cardinals defense made life miserable for Eli, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that this drive ended not with a dramatic touchdown to send the game into overtime, but with an Antrel Rolle interception.

The Cardinals blitzed their way to a 24–17 win last night by forcing four turnovers, including three Eli interceptions. Manning was also just 19 for 37 passing, and was responsible for a pair of delay-of-game penalties. Even Manning's one touchdown pass was a complete fluke: Officially a 62-yard pass to rookie Hakeem Nicks, it was more accurately a 22-yard pass to Mario Manningham that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie swatted right to a streaking Nicks.

Just eight days removed from possibly being the best team in the NFC East, the Giants look very beatable. Last week, it was their own defensive line that killed them; this week, it was their opponent's. Are the last two games (against two good teams) a better indicator of how good this team really is than the three before? That would make sense, but we're not sure we believe it. They're still atop the NFC East — a half-game over Dallas, who they beat — as they head to Philly Sunday afternoon as the opening act to that night's Yankees-Phillies World Series game across the street. A third straight loss (especially to a team that couldn't beat Oakland) would probably be cause for panic. But let's only cross that bridge if we get to it.

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Photo: Getty Images