EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — That four-year playoff drought could soon be nearing an end for the New York Giants.
Riding the play of their big-bucks defense and the gutsy play-calling of rookie coach Ben McAdoo , the Giants (6-3) posted their first four-game winning streak since 2013 by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 21-20 on Monday night.
Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes, with the biggest being a 3-yard toss to rookie Sterling Shepard on a fourth-and-goal early in the fourth quarter with New York trailing 20-14.
The six wins match the Giants’ total in each of the past two seasons under Tom Coughlin, and they give New York the best record among NFC teams not leading a division. Dallas tops the NFC East at 8-1, putting the Giants two games back.
What helps the Giants is their upcoming schedule. They have a home game against Chicago (2-7) on Sunday and a visit to winless Cleveland the following week.
“The team is playing as one,” said safety Landon Collins, who had his fourth interception in the past three games. “We’re playing as a unit and playing sound. We’re playing every week as a whole. We’re taking it week-by-week and getting better.”
The Bengals (3-5-1) trail the first-place Ravens (5-4) in the AFC North but can still make the playoffs for a sixth straight year. Cincinnati has two games left with Baltimore and one with the Steelers, so it can make up ground.
“It’s a long season, but obviously, it’s getting shorter,” said tight end Tyler Eifert , whose 71-yard catch-and-run set up A.J. Green’s touchdown reception. “We’re not too far back to where we can’t find a way to get into the playoffs. So we just have to keep our heads down, keep playing hard and control what we can control. We have to work on winning games, and when we do that, we’ll put ourselves in a winning position.”
Here are other things to watch:
On a night when the Giants inducted Coughlin into their Ring of Honor, the team played the way their former coach always exhorted them: They finished the game.
New York played the fourth quarter like a top-tier team. The Giants defended a one-point lead, holding Cincinnati to 37 yards in the last period. On offense, they controlled the clock at the end, never giving the ball back to the Bengals.
“We had a lot of pressure on Andy Dalton and got a couple of sacks, and for us to get the ball and run out the clock, that’s big-time football right there,” Manning said.
BENGALS’ SLUGGISH OFFENSE
Cincinnati was held to 264 total yards and was only 2 of 11 on third down.
“We were in too many 3rd-and-longs and that hurt us. We’ve got to be in 3rd-and-manageable situations,” Dalton said.
The Bengals twice had to settle for field goals when they got to the red zone. The first came when they started a drive at the 7 after Dre Kirkpatrick’s interception in the second quarter. The Bengals didn’t gain any yards and got a short field goal. And rookie Tyler Boyd dropped a possible touchdown catch in the third, forcing Mike Nugent’s 38-yard field goal.
“We have opportunities on offense to put more points on the board and we end up having to kick field goals and that ended up probably being the difference in the football game,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
THE GIANTS CAN RUN THE BALL
New York’s anemic ground game finally got going against the Bengals and sealed the victory with several clutch runs in the final minutes.
The Giants had a season-high 122 yards rushing, the first time in six games they cracked the 100-yard barrier.
Rashad Jennings led the way with 87 yards on 15 carries.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and —http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL.