EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants very nearly squandered a golden opportunity, but some fourth-quarter magic from Eli Manning and Larry Donnell helped them escape with a 30-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. The victory was the third straight for the 3-2 Giants. With the Dallas Cowboys suffering a 30-6 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon the Giants are in sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
"We have to give credit to San Francisco for coming in here off of three losses and playing like this. We knew it would a dangerous, dangerous team with nothing to lose and everything to gain and they played like it," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "Their quarterback [Colin] Kaepernick did an outstanding job, I thought, tonight as well. Their running game hurt us -- we had a lot of difficulty stopping the run. But in the long run, we amassed a lot of yards and put some points on the board, got a little better than what we're shooting for from a role standpoint. But to win, and to comeback and win like that, that's very exciting."
The Giants were 7-point favorites, and with San Francisco (1-4) having been outscored 107-28 in its three previous games some thought Sunday night would be an easy victory for the Giants. It was anything but.
The Giants took a 23-20 lead with 4:29 to play on a 24-yard field goal by Josh Brown. That capped a 13-play, 74-yard, 7:20 that still felt unsatisfying because the Giants stalled at the 6-yard line.
It looked as if failing to score a touchdown there would doom the Giants when San Francisco quickly marched 80 yards in seven plays. A 2-yard run by Carlos Hyde had gave the 49ers a 27-23 lead with 1:45 to play.
Then the Giants, who have struggled so mightily in the fourth quarter this season -- including the first 13:15 of this one -- found some fourth-quarter magic.
The Giants went into their final drive without Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, who both left the game with fourth-quarter hamstring injuries. Coughlin said Beckham "felt a little tug" on his hamstring.
The Giants drove to the San Francisco 44 before Manning put his 50th pass of the night up for grabs in the direction of Myles White and it was ruled an interception Replay overruled the play and the Giants still had the ball at the 49ers 44.
After that replay reversal, Manning hit Shane Vereen for 24 yards with 30 seconds to play. A pass interference call on a throw to Beckham, who returned for that one play, gave the Giants the ball at the 12-yard line.
"The medical people said let him go, I let him go," Coughlin said letting Beckham back into the game. "We'll see what he's like tomorrow."
Manning then fired a pass to Donnell, who leaped over San Francisco's Navarro Bowman and Antoine Bethea for the game-winning grab with 21 seconds to play.
"Once I had it I had to hold onto that thing," Donnell said of the game-winning grab. "You know, the game was on the line and I had to make a play."
Manning completed 41-of-54 passes for 441 yards and three touchdowns. The 41 completions is a Giants' franchise record, breaking Phil Simms' record of 40, The 54 attempts is a career-high for Manning.
Beckham had seven receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Shane Vereen had eight catches for 86 yards, incluiding three catches for 51 yards on the game-winning drive. Dwayne Harris had a career-high six catches for 72 yards and Donnell had a season-high six receptions for 35 yards.
The Giants gained 525 total yards, their highest total since they finished with 604 yards in a 41-34 victory over Tampa Bay on Sept. 16, 2012.
The Giants travel to Lincoln Financial field next Monday, October 19, to face the Philadelphia Eagles.
Scoring play: 43-yard field goal by Phil Dawson (SF)
Drive: 8 plays, 55 yards, 3:31
Key play: 30-yard pass, Colin Kaepernick to Bruce Ellington
Score: 3-0, 49ers (11:19)
Scoring play: 22-yard field goal by Josh Brown (NY
Drive: 9 plays, 76 yards, 4:57
Key play: 49-yard pass, Manning to Beckham Jr.
Score: 3-3, 6:22
Scoring play: 2-yard pass, Manning to Vereen
Drive: 14 plays, 81 yards, 5:47
Key play: 31-yard pass from Manning to Beckham on third-and-7 at Giants' 47-yard line. Gave Giants a first down at the 49ers' 22-yard line.
Score: 10-3 Giants, 12:15
Scoring play: 41 yard field goal by Josh Brown
Drive: 10 plays, 43 yards, 4:05
Key play: 16-yard pass from Manning to Rueben Randle on first play of drive put Giants at midfield.
Score: Giants 13, 49ers 3, 3:57
Scoring play: 22-yard field goal by Phil Dawson
Drive: 11 plays, one penalty, 76 yards, 2:56
Key play: Giants hold on third-and-one at the 4-yard line, forcing an incomplete pass with Kaepernick under pressure from blitzing linebacker Mark Herzlich.
Score: Giants 13, 49ers 6, 1:01
Scoring play: 3-yard pass, Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin
Drive: 10 plays, 88 yards, 4:56
Key plays: Kaepernick completed a pass of 37 yards to Boldin and Carlos Hyde had a 22-yard run during the drive.
Score: Giants 13, 49ers 13, 8:00
Scoring play: 17-yard pass from Manning to Beckham
Drive: Seven plays, 61 yards, 3:16
Key play: On the touchdown, Beckham took a short pass from Manning over the middle, spun away from San Francisco defenders to the outside and raced to the end zone.
Score: Giants 20, 49ers 13, 1:14
Scoring play: 5-yard touchdown pass, Kaepernick to Garrett Celek
Drive: 11 plays, one penalty, 80 yards, 4:25
Key play: A pass interference penalty on Landon Collins of the Giants cost the Giants 28 yards and gave San Francisco a first down at the New York 15. The 49ers scored four plays later.
Score: Giants 20, 49ers 20, 11:49
Scoring play: 24-yard field goal by Josh Brown
Drive: 13 plays, 74 yards, 7:20
Key plays: The Giants got a 16-yard completion from Manning to Geremy Davis on third-and-one at their one 30-yard line to keep the drive going. San Francisco cornerback Kenneth Acker dropped a potential interception in the end zone on a pass for Myles White from the 14-yard line. The Giants then ran a draw play with Vereen to set up the field goal.
Score: Giants 23, 49ers 20, 4:29
Scoring play: Carlos Hyde 2-yard run
Drive: 7 plays, one penalty, 80 yards, 2:44
Key plays: San Francisco went 78 yards in four plays after Brown's kickoff, setting up first-and-goal at the 2-yard line.
Score: 49ers 27, Giants 24, 1:45
Scoring plays: 12-yard pass from Manning to Larry Donnell
Drive: 8 plays, 82 yards, 1:24
Key play: With a first down at the San Francisco 44, Manning tossed an errant pass down the middle of the field toward Myles White that was originally ruled an interception by Tramaine Brock. Replay overturned the call, though, ruling the pass incomplete.
Score: Giants 30, 49ers 27, :21