A little more than five weeks ago, the New York Giants' season looked over.
They had played six games and failed to win. They were the worst team in the NFL, or at least had a share of that unwanted distinction.
Fast forward to the middle of November, and Tom Coughlin's team is back in the hunt.
New York (4-6) won its fourth straight game on Sunday, defeating the reeling Green Bay Packers 27-13 with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul icing the game with a leaping 24-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
The decision left the Giants (4-6) just 1½ games behind NFC-East leader Philadelphia (6-5), and within a game of Dallas (5-5) in the division. The idle Cowboys are scheduled to play at MetLife Stadium next Sunday.
"Playing the Cowboys is always good. That's one of the opponents I love to play more than anybody in the National Football League," said running back Brandon Jacobs, who scored on a 1-yard run.
"It means something to our football team. We've been on a roll, ripped off four straight, and we're looking forward to keep it going. We know we have a tough Dallas team coming in here next week, that's coming to break that streak."
While the Giants are making an unexpected move, the Packers (5-5) are sliding in the wake of an injury quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They have lost three in a row since Rodgers broke his collarbone against the Bears a little more than two weeks ago. It is their longest skid since losing five straight near the end of the 2008 season and it has left them a game behind Chicago and Detroit in the NFC North.
Green Bay will play Minnesota next weekend. It's not clear whether Rodgers will be ready to go or Mike McCarthy will have to go again with Scott Tolzien, who was 24 of 34 for 339 yards and three interceptions in his first start.
"You should never hit the panic button," said Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who had eight catches for 117 yards. "Whenever you lose your starting quarterback, it's gonna be tough. The thing is, we've had opportunities in all these games to make a play and get the win. We're close. We just need to finish these things out, if it's the drives individually or the game as a whole. Get a win. We just need a win."
The Giants probably can't afford a loss the rest of the way if they want to make the playoffs, while the Packers have room for maybe one.
New York never trailed after Eli Manning hit Rueben Randle with a 26-yard scoring pass in the first quarter.
Mason Crosby kicked field goals of 24 and 57 yards — the second longest in Packers' history — and Eddie Lacy scored on a 1-yard run, cutting the lead to 20-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Pierre-Paul, who was iffy for the game after hurting his shoulder against Oakland last week, clinched the win with his spectacular, two-handed interception of a quick out pass by Tolzien.
"I read the formation, the tight end, how he was set, and I caught the ball," said Pierre-Paul. who told teammates in the huddle before the play that he was going to pick the pass.
Fellow defensive end Justin Tuck didn't even run to celebrate the play with Pierre-Paul.
"If you could have looked at me, my face would have probably looked something like this because he literally called it and executed," Tuck said. "I don't know if he's voodoo, psychic, I don't know but that's something I've never seen before."
Five things learned in the Giants' second win over the Packers in as many years:
GIANTS DEFENSE: Perry Fewell's guys have given up just two TDs in the four-game winning streak. Once again, they stopped the run. Lacy, who was leading the NFL with 618 yards rushing since Oct. 1, was held to 27 on 14 carries. The defense intercepted three passes — Antrel Rolle and Jon Beason had the others — in a game for the first time since last season.
TOLZIEN PERFORMANCE: While he threw three interceptions and didn't have a touchdown, Tolzien made some impressive throws. He had 10 passes of more than 15 yards, including five of more than 25 yards. His long was a 52-yarder to Jarrett Boykin.
MANNING MISHAP: Manning threw his 17th interception of the season when Tramon Williams made a diving interception of a pass to Louis Murphy. It spoiled a 74-yard drive that started at the New York 11. Like so many of his picks this season, it was the result of bad communication. Murphy broke the pattern inside and Manning threw to the outside. After the play, Manning got in Murphy's face on the sideline.
MR JONES: Linebacker Brad Jones was by far the leader of the Packers defense. He had a team-high 13 tackles, including three for losses, and a sack. The much-more publicized Clay Matthews was somewhat invisible. He had four tackles and sack.
DOWN THE ROAD: Of their final six games, the Giants have only two against teams with winning records — Seattle (10-1) and Detroit (6-4). Besides Dallas, the others are against San Diego (4-6) and two with Washington (3-7). The Packers have Minnesota (2-8), Detroit (6-4), Atlanta (2-8), Dallas, Pittsburgh (4-6) and Chicago (6-4).
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org