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Giants beat Patriots 24-20 on last-minute comeback

By Howard Ulman
AP Sports Writer / November 7, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—The New York Giants rallied past the New England Patriots like they did in their Super Bowl-winning drive in 2008.

They know they're a long way from getting back there, though.

With Eli Manning leading a last-minute comeback reminiscent of that march, the Giants beat the Patriots 24-20 on Sunday on his 1-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left.

"Nobody's going to remember what we did in November," New York defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Nobody's going to remember what we did in December. It's about getting back to that Super Bowl and winning that."

The Giants (6-2) lead the NFC East by two games after their sixth win in seven games. The Patriots (5-3) are tied for first place in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, next Sunday's opponent.

The Giants won their last championship, 17-14, as Manning threw a 13-yard scoring pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds to go. Four plays earlier, David Tyree trapped Manning's third-down pass over the middle on top of his helmet for a 32-yard gain.

On Sunday, the teams met in a game that counted for the first time since then. And Manning set up the winning toss with another completion over the middle to an unheralded receiver on third down, connecting with a leaping Ballard for a 28-yard gain.

"If it was thrown anywhere else, I wouldn't have caught it," Ballard said. "You dream about making catches like that."

And Ballard's number? The same as Tyree's, 85. Five plays later, Manning and Ballard hooked up for the winning pass.

"I knew we would win," New York running back Brandon Jacobs said. "It definitely took me back to the Super Bowl."

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn't have any flashbacks.

"This is a whole new game," he said, "just trying to be in the moment against a really good team."

But his players were so excited that they lifted him on their shoulders in the locker room.

"I was thinking they were going to drop me on my head," he said.

The mood in the Patriots' locker room was, of course, much gloomier. They had just lost consecutive games for only the third time since the start of the 2003 season. And two streaks ended -- Tom Brady's NFL record of wins in 31 regular-season starts at home and the Patriots run of wins in 20 regular-season home games.

"I'm proud of our resiliency," said Brady, who brought the Patriots back from a 10-0 deficit midway through the third quarter. "They were a little bit better than we were."

Both offenses struggled through a scoreless first half, and the Patriots' defense, the worst in the NFL, failed down the stretch.

"We've got half the season to go," Brady said. "We'll see what our team's made of this week."

The Giants led 10-0 six minutes into the third quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes and a 10-yard run by Jacobs one play after Brady was sacked and fumbled.

The Patriots caught up on a 32-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski followed by Brady's 5-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez 32 seconds into the fourth quarter. Gostkowski's 45-yard field goal put the Patriots ahead 13-10 midway through the period.

But Manning led an 85-yard march capped by a 10-yard scoring pass to Mario Manningham as the Giants went ahead 13-10 with 3:03 to go. Then it was Brady's turn, throwing a 14-yard touchdown to Rob Gronkowski with 1:36 to play, making it 20-17.

The Giants still had enough time -- and they had Manning.

"The first half, offensively, we didn't get a whole lot going," he said, but "we stuck with it."

They were helped on the go-ahead drive by a 20-yard pass interference penalty against Sergio Brown that put the ball at the 1 with 30 seconds left.

"I was looking at the ball the whole time," Brown said. "I was surprised. They come and tell us as long as we're looking at the ball we can play the ball."

Three plays later, Manning found Ballard in the back left corner of the end zone -- the quarterback's second come-from-behind scoring pass in just more than three minutes.

"I've been here seven years with him," Tuck said, "Hes probably playing the best ball in those seven years."

On the final touchdown play, Ballard was guarded by Kyle Arrington.

"We're going to be hard on ourselves," Arrington said. "We don't take losing well."

Neither he nor Brown were on the 2008 Super Bowl team. The Patriots have just seven players from that squad.

But those who weren't on there got a feeling for what it was like.

So did the Giants.

"It was a big win," Tuck said, "and to win it in the fashion that we won it, it brings back memories."

NOTES: Gronkowski had a career-best eight receptions. ... The Giants have forced at least one turnover in 21 straight regular-season games. ... Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had a sack for the fifth straight game. ... The Giants have 14 players remaining from the 2008 Super Bowl team.

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