EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — All the warnings coach Tom Coughlin gave the New York Giants before their game with the winless Miami Dolphins seemingly went in one ear and out the other.
The Giants' running game was non existent. The defense showed up for a half. And as the minutes ticked by, it seemed the Dolphins were sensing victory — that's is until Eli Manning stole it from them, like so many others before him.
Manning threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 5:58 to play and the Giants barely avoided a post-bye letdown, keeping Miami (0-7) winless with a 20-17 victory Sunday.
"The pressure was there just to get the win," Giants guard Chris Snee said. "No one was concerned about 'Oh, we're going to lose to a winless team, or we were going to lose.' We thought we were still going to win the game and that's just the confidence we have, and that stems from Eli."
Despite some pressure, Manning was outstanding in handing the Dolphins another late loss that has to increase the pressure on embattled coach Tony Sparano.
He hit 31 of 45 passes for 345 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in rallying the Giants from an 11-point first-half deficit. He would have had a lot more yards if tight end Jake Ballard and receiver Hakeem Nicks held on to a couple of perfect long tosses.
Mario Manningham caught the other touchdown, a 7-yard play that got New York (5-2) back into the game late in the first half.
"We knew we were going to get pressure," Coughlin said. "We probably got pressure 40-50 percent of the time. It caused some issues with the running game (58 yards). But Eli made some big plays. Obviously he threw the ball a lot today. No turnovers, no interceptions, and he made plays when we had to have them. Once again, he did a very good job."
Manning said the Giants had chances to put up a lot more points, but they hurt themselves with the drops, penalties and negative plays down close.
"We knew coming in it would be a tough battle," Manning said. "A lot of games have come to the fourth quarter, and we knew it would be a tough road. They did a lot of good things defensively, ran a lot of different blitzes. We didn't run the ball real well today, and we had to throw the ball more than we wanted to. But we're capable of doing that."
And when they are close this season, Manning has found a way to win most of the time. Four of their five wins have come in the fourth quarter.
"He is a clutch player," said center David Baas, who joined the team this season. "No matter what happens, he stays calm and rises to the occasion."
The loss was another frustration for the Sparano, who endured a week of hearing rumors that the Dolphins were interested in hiring former Steelers coach Bill Cowher next season. It followed a brutal loss to Tim Tebow and Denver, a game in which Miami blew a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to play.
"We went toe to toe with them, swung hard. We didn't win. It's not acceptable," Sparano said.
Cowher issued a statement Sunday, saying no one has approached him about a job and he intends to work for CBS TV again next season.
Lawrence Tynes kicked two short field goals, and New York's defense got four sacks on the Dolphins' final two drives. Corey Webster iced it with his third interception in the last two games.
Steve Slaton and Matt Moore (13 of 22 for 138) capped the Dolphins' first two drives with 1-yard runs. But Miami could only muster a 40-yard third-quarter field goal by Dan Carpenter the rest of the way.
The Giants' winning drive covered 53 yards in six plays.
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