EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As far as bragging rights go, this was far from one to boast about.
Neither the Giants nor Jets looked much like playoff material after a week of trash talk about who ruled New York football. But the Giants kept their postseason hopes alive by winning 29-14 on Saturday, with Victor Cruz setting two franchise receiving records and Ahmad Bradshaw running for two touchdowns.
The Giants (8-7) are now in position to win the NFC East with a victory next week against Dallas. Meanwhile, the Jets' playoff hopes took a serious hit, and at 8-7 they'll need to win at Miami next week and get some help from several other teams.
Cruz, who had three catches for 164 yards, broke Amani Toomer's single-season mark for yards receiving — and the team's record for longest touchdown reception, a 99-yarder that gave the Giants the lead for good in the second quarter.
Jets coach Rex Ryan set the tone early in the week, saying he believed his club was the better team in the area. Tom Coughlin responded by saying, "Talk is cheap. Play the game."
It was the Giants who did.
"They were the better team today, and they're the better team this year," Ryan said. "Clearly, I was wrong."
The back-and-forth continued even before the game, when Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes and running back Brandon Jacobs both removed black curtains placed by the Jets over the Giants' Super Bowl logos. The Jets said it was simply their standard practice to cover those logos for every one of the team's home games, regardless of opponent, because it is the players' entrance.
It was a brutal game at times, with both offenses sluggish and prone to mistakes. The Jets were also penalized 10 times, including a late hit call on Aaron Maybin, who plowed into D.J. Ware in the fourth quarter — a play on which Coughlin was injured out of bounds.
The Giants coach needed to be checked out on the bench briefly before limping back to the sideline.
Eli Manning finished just 9 of 27 for 225 yards. Mark Sanchez completed 30 passes on a career-high 59 attempts but put up only 258 yards and was intercepted twice
The sloppiest stretch came midway through the fourth quarter with wild swings of momentum. The Jets got new life after an incompletion on fourth-and-1 from the 47 when Deon Grant was called for pass interference.
Two plays later, Plaxico Burress — playing against the Giants for the first time since they cut him in 2009 and he served a 20-month prison sentence on a gun charge — was called for offensive pass interference to negate a touchdown pass.
On the next snap, Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Sanchez, who lost the ball, and it was recovered by Justin Tuck. Ryan challenged the play, and officials reversed the call, saying Sanchez's arm was going forward.
The Giants got their turnover moments later, though, when Sanchez fumbled the snap from center Nick Mangold in the end zone.
The ball changed hands again when David Harris intercepted Manning's toss that tipped off Hakeem Nicks' hands. The Jets got yet another break after Sanchez was ruled to have been sacked by Linval Joseph, who forced a fumble that the Jets recovered. Ryan challenged again, and the play was reversed, with officials saying it was incomplete.
On third-and-12 from the 13, Sanchez scrambled for 11 yards — and Antrel Rolle was called for holding, putting the ball at the 1. Sanchez rolled right on the next play and dived into the end zone, making it 20-14 with 7:17 left.
But the Jets wouldn't get any closer. Chris Canty sacked Sanchez for a safety, and after an onside free kick by the Jets was recovered by the Giants, Bradshaw had a 19-yard TD run with 2:04 left.
Cruz's 99-yard catch — the longest scoring pass in team history — came with the Giants in dire straits facing third-and-10 from the 1. Manning, standing in the back of the end zone, zipped a pass to Cruz, who dodged tackle attempts by Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson and took off down the right sideline. Eric Smith was the only one with a chance to get him, but Cruz outran him to give the Giants a 10-7 lead with 2:12 left in the opening half.
It was also the longest offensive play against the Jets in team history.
The Giants nearly had another huge play moments later when Sanchez completed a short pass to Jeremy Kerley, who was spun down by Rolle and lost the ball. Aaron Ross picked it up and raced into the end zone. But the play went to video review and officials reversed the call, saying Kerley's elbow was down — although it looked as if the ball might have come out when the receiver's elbow hit Rolle's shoe.
With a second chance, Sanchez marched the Jets down the field to the 19, but the Giants' defense stiffened and Pierre-Paul got a sack on third down. Nick Folk then missed an opportunity to tie it, hooking a 44-yard attempt wide right as the first half ended.