By Jerry Beach
The Sports Xchange
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Victor Cruz' 99-yard touchdown catch gave the Giants the lead for good and his 36-yard reception in the third quarter set up another touchdown as the Giants remained alive in the NFC East race Saturday and earned local bragging rights with a 29-14 win over the New York Jets in front of 79,088 at MetLife Stadium.
The win was just the second in the last seven games for the Giants, but it created a winner-take-all duel for the NFC East crown against the visiting Dallas Cowboys in next week's season finale. The Giants' win also eliminated the surging Philadelphia Eagles from playoff contention.
The Jets' playoff hopes were badly damaged with the loss. The Jets (8-7) fell behind the Cincinnati Bengals (9-6) in the race for the final AFC wild card spot and have lost head-to-head meetings with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, each of whom are also 8-7.
Cruz only had three catches, but he made them count. His 29-yard reception early in the second quarter gave the Giants a first down at the Jets' 2-yard-line and led to a field goal. With the Giants down 7-3 and pinned at their own 1-yard-line with a little more than two minutes left in the first half, Cruz took a short pass from Eli Manning, eluded swipes by Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie at the 10-yard-line and raced up the right sideline for the 13th 99-yard touchdown reception in NFL history, hopping over a defender and staying in-bounds along the way.
The Giants recorded just one first down in their first three second-half possessions before Cruz hauled in a 36-yard pass from Manning along the right sideline. Two plays later, Ahmad Bradshaw steamrolled Brodney Pool on his way to a 14-yard touchdown that gave the Giants a 17-7 lead.
Cruz finished with three catches for 164 yards and has a franchise-record 1,322 receiving yards this season. Manning was 9-of-26 for 225 yards, the long touchdown and one interception, while Bradshaw had 54 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
The Jets opened the afternoon in impressive fashion when Mark Sanchez capped a 10-play, 53-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to rookie John Baker. But the Jets didn't move inside the Giants' 40-yard-line again until the final minute of the first half, when Nick Folk missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
The Giants' defense dominated the Jets for most of the second half. The Jets punted on all four third-quarter possessions before Sanchez -- who was sacked four times and had several passes tipped or batted down over the final two quarters -- threw an interception in the first minute of the fourth quarter. A 23-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress on the Jets' next series was negated by pass interference on Burress and the drive ended when Jacquain Williams recovered Sanchez' fumble in the end zone with 9:35 left.
The Giants, though, gave the ball right back as Manning was intercepted on the next play. Sanchez (30-for-58, 258 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) then pulled the Jets within 20-14 on a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:17 left.
He had a chance to author his fifth fourth-quarter comeback of the year and the 10th of his career when the Jets took over at their own 8-yard-line with 2:24 left, but he was sacked by Chris Canty for a safety on the next play. The Jets then tried a rare onside free kick, but the Giants recovered and Bradshaw's 19-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage provided the final margin.
NOTES: The win was the Giants' fifth in a row against the Jets in the quadrennial series. The Jets last beat the Giants on Halloween 1993. ??? Eli Manning's 99-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz was the longest pass in Giants history. Earl Morrall threw a 98-yard touchdown pass to Homer Jones on Sept. 11, 1966 ??? Mark Sanchez set a career-high with 58 pass attempts, shattering his previous high of 44.
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