The Dolphins didn’t blow their lead in the final minute this week.
They got it out of the way a bit earlier when Eli Manning found Victor Cruz for a 25-yard touchdown pass that provided the Giants with their margin of victory in a 20-17 victory at the Meadowlands. The Dolphins had a chance to make a bid at their own comeback when Steve Slaton returned a kick to about midfield, but two sacks of Matt Moore spelled the end of that chance. Miami got the ball back once more, but the Giants defense, awakened once the Dolphins got desperate, sacked him twice more before Corey Webster picked off a last ditch toss to seal the victory.
Manning finished the game 31-of-45 for 349 yards, numbers that would have been much bigger if not for a slew of drops by his receivers. His two touchdowns came at the end of the first half and near the end of the fourth quarter, two big plays that erased an afternoon that his teammates made far more difficult than it should have been with sloppy performances everywhere you look. That’s pretty much been the story of the Giants’ season thus far. Sloppy play that Manning has overcome to lead them to wins five times. That doesn’t seem like it will be enough to get it done against a tough schedule over the final nine weeks of the season, but the Giants are in the position they need to be to make a playoff push.
It also won’t help if they don’t have Hakeem Nicks. The receiver left the game early with a hamstring injury, although a foot injury suffered by Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t seem too serious since Bradshaw returned to the game after getting x-rays in the third quarter.
One of those aforementioned drops seemed to be incorrectly ruled on the field to be a catch by Mario Manningham on the last play of the third quarter. Tony Sparano, who used his job status to beg for a review last week, didn’t challenge the play, though, and the Giants got a third-and-nine instead of a third-and-15 out of the play. The Dolphins had just one timeout remaining because Moore had to burn two of them during the third quarter, but with so much on the line it was odd to see Sparano pass on throwing the red flag. Manning hit Cruz to convert the first down and the Giants got a field goal out of the drive.
The Dolphins also got another painful call against them in the fourth quarter. Moore hit Brandon Marshall for 26 yards on a rare big second-half offensive play for Miami, but the play was waved off on an offensive pass interference call. Marshall’s reputation for pushing off must have been on the mind of the official, because there wasn’t much in the way of contact on the play.
That’s not why the Dolphins lost, but it was a break they could have used. This was a game winnable game for them, but they couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to earn their first victory. The team clearly hasn’t quit on Sparano, but they might not need to in order to secure Andrew Luck when all is said and done.