When Tony Gonzalez somehow came down with the ball in the end zone with 28 seconds remaining yesterday, you’d have been forgiven for thinking, Here we go again. The Giants had been in control for much of the game, but when you’re losing the way this team has over the past 42 days, things happen. So once you get scored on late, you probably lose the coin toss prior to overtime. And since there would be no reason to think that the Giants defense could keep Atlanta from scoring, you’d probably lose the game, too.
But this time, that didn’t happen: For once, finally, the Giants pulled one out. Eli Manning outplayed Matt Ryan, throwing to a balanced receiving corps for a career-high 384 yards. (A game ball goes to Kevin Boss, though, who’s emerging as a favorite target for Manning after a quiet start to the season.) But more important, Eli kept the Falcons off the field in overtime. Or perhaps more accurately, he kept the Giants defense off the field in overtime.
For the second straight game, the defense was powerless to stop a late fourth-quarter drive when they couldn’t afford to allow points. This time, they squandered a 31–17 fourth-quarter lead, and they’ve given up an average of 32.8 points over the last five games. Even more worrisome: Antonio Pierce is out indefinitely with a neck injury he apparently sustained weeks ago against Arizona.
Of the four NFC teams that entered yesterday’s game at 5–4, only the Falcons lost, which makes yesterday’s win even more important. (Dallas won, too — barely, over lowly Washington — to stay ahead of both the Giants and Eagles in the NFC East.) But here’s another score to keep in mind: San Diego 32, Denver 3. The Giants play Denver three days from now, and just like they caught Atlanta in the middle of a tailspin, they’re catching the Broncos at the right time: They’ve lost four straight after a 6–0 start. So maybe the best way for a team to get right is to play teams in the midst of their very own collapse. It’s working so far.