Published October 07, 2012
| Sports Network
East Rutherford, NJ – Eli Manning and Victor Cruz hooked up for three touchdowns and the New York Giants closed out the first half with 20 consecutive points en route to a 41-27 victory over the still-winless Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium.
Ahmad Bradshaw contributed a career-best 200 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 carries to help the defending world champion Giants (3-2) fight back from an early 14-0 deficit and bounce back from a tough loss at NFC East-rival Philadelphia a week prior.
New York erupted for 17 unanswered points over the final 2:52 of the second quarter to claim a 27-17 advantage, converting two takeaways by safety Stevie Brown into touchdowns by Bradshaw and Cruz.
Manning finished with 259 yards on 25-of-37 passing and was intercepted once in directing a Giants offense that racked up 502 total yards on the afternoon.
"It's obviously not the way you want to start, but we never get down or frustrated or start to panic," said Manning. "We were able to put some good drives together offensively. The defense got us some turnovers and special teams got us a turnover. We were able to take advantage of that and get touchdowns, and guys made some big plays for us."
Cleveland's Brandon Weeden completed 22-of-35 throws for 291 yards and a pair of touchdowns to fellow rookie Josh Gordon, but was intercepted twice as the Browns fell to 0-5 for the first time since losing their first seven tests of 1999.
The Browns have now dropped 11 in a row and 14 of their last 15 outings dating back to last season.
"We battled, and you can talk about specific situations, but when I watch the thing in total, you have to play 60 minutes," said Browns head coach Pat Shurmur. "When one bad play happens to start that stretch, then you've got to stop the bleeding and everybody make their next-best play, and then you get back on the stick and you're rolling. We can't let it snowball like it did there."
Trent Richardson accumulated 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts for Cleveland, while Jordan Norwood paced the Browns receivers with a nine- catch, 81-yard effort.
Cleveland owned a 17-10 lead late in the first half and was threatening for more, having driven down to the New York 25-yard line nearing the four-minute mark. That's when Brown, starting in place of an injured Kenny Phillips, picked off Weeden's overthrown pass intended for Gordon and raced 46 yards down the far sideline into enemy territory.
Manning hit Reuben Randle for a 36-yard gain on the following play, and Bradshaw followed with a 4-yard burst into the end zone to tie the score.
"That play was a huge momentum shift for us," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said of Brown's interception. "He made a great play on the ball and returned it to back to a position where our offense could punch it in, and that kind of got us rolling."
Reserve safety Will Hill then jarred the ball loose from Cleveland return man Josh Cribbs on the ensuing kickoff, with Brown recovering at the opponent's 29 and giving the Giants another golden scoring chance.
Manning delivered a 17-yard connection to tight end Martellus Bennett on 3rd- and-8 to move New York to the Cleveland 10, then found a wide-open Cruz in the left corner of the end zone shortly afterward for a 24-17 advantage with 1:10 left before intermission.
The Giants then forced a quick three-and-out, and quickly got inside the Browns' 25-yard line when Cleveland cornerback Buster Skrine was flagged for pass interference on Manning's deep heave for Randle. That led to a 40-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal that gave Big Blue a 10-point cushion heading into the half.
"The last three or four minutes in the first half was probably the worst three minutes of football of the year," Weeden remarked. "One thing compounded after another, and you can't do that. Against a team like that, you can't do that."
New York's offense continued to fire after the break, marching 95 yards in nine plays on its first possession of the second half. Bradshaw accounted for much of the damage with a 37-yard burst off left tackle, and Manning capped the sequence with a 28-yard strike to Cruz for the salsa-dancing wideout's third score of the day.
The Browns answered with Phil Dawson's 41-yard field, set up by Cribbs' 74- yard kick return to the New York 30, to enter the fourth quarter with a 34-20 deficit, and had an opportunity to further close the gap after driving down to the Giants' 5 with under 10 minutes left.
However, Weeden attempted to thread the needle to a well-covered Benjamin Watson and paid the price, with Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn intercepting the rookie in the end zone.
Just over three minutes later, backup running back David Wilson broke free for a 40-yard touchdown that gave New York a commanding 41-20 lead with 5:49 to go.
Weeden and Gordon teamed up for a 20-yard score with just under four minutes remaining, but the Giants recovered Dawson's onside kick attempt and were able to run out the clock from that point on.
The teams experienced a role reversal during the game's initial stages, with Cleveland resembling more of a championship outfit in scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions against a New York squad plagued by early mistakes.
Bradshaw fumbled on the opening snap from scrimmage and the Browns recovered, with Richardson powering through the Giants' defense for a 15-yard touchdown two plays later to put Cleveland in front just 52 seconds in.
On the Browns' next series, Gordon blew past a mismatch against Blackburn and hauled in Weeden's well-thrown deep ball for a 62-yard score that extended the margin to 14-0.
The Giants countered with an 11-play, 92-yard march in which Manning completed all six of his attempts, the last of which was a 3-yard delivery to Cruz with 3:22 left in the opening quarter.
The teams would trade field goals to start the second, with Dawson knocking home a 32-yarder and Tynes making good on a 29-yard try to bring New York within 17-10.
The victory was Giants head coach Tom Coughlin's 77th in the regular season with the franchise, tying Bill Parcells for second-most in club history ... Bradshaw's previous career best was 151 yards, established at Buffalo on Dec. 23, 2007 ... Cruz is the first Giant to catch three touchdown passes since injured teammate Hakeem Nicks accomplished the feat against Carolina in the 2010 season opener ... Richardson became the first Browns rookie to score a touchdown in four straight games and the first Cleveland player to accomplish the feat since Peyton Hillis in 2010 ... The Browns had won three of their previous four matchups with a defending Super Bowl champion, having downed the Giants in 2008, Pittsburgh in 2009 and New Orleans in 2010.