Trailing 17-6 at halftime and 17-9 after three quarters and showing less energy than than the turkey that was in the middle of your table on Thursday, the Giants finally came to life in the final 15 minutes. Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes and the defense, which was made to look fraudulent for most of the afternoon, finally started finding a way to put pressure on David Garrard and the Jaguars.
That culminated in a three play sequence from their own 29 after the two-minute warning that sealed the victory. On first down, Garrard was sacked by Justin Tuck and Antrel Rolle. On second down, Jason Pierre-Paul stripped the quarterback and Dave Tollefson walloped him when he recovered the bouncing ball. The final blow was struck by Terrell Thomas on a corner blitz as he forced another fumble, which Rolle recovered to seal the 24-20 victory.
The comeback allows everyone to exhale and stop pulling their hair out about the second half collapse for a few days. There was plenty of evidence that the slide was still in progress on Sunday, but only the darkest pessimist wouldn't be able to see a bright side in the way things turned out for Big Blue.
Manning, who the team desperately needs to step up and lead them, did just that in the final minutes. He also didn't turn the ball over, a huge step for a player who is as fond of giving the opponent chances as he is for making petulant body gestures whenever something doesn't go his way. Those weren't in evidence either as Manning made do with the hand he was dealt and succeeded.
The rebound of the defense, which gave up 236 yards in the first half, was just as encouraging. Assuming Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith do come back this season, that unit will have to carry the team until they return. If they don't make it back, the hopes and prayers of the season rely entirely on Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and the rest of the gang. The second half today makes such dreams seem like less of the pipe variety than ones that can actually come true.
This season is going to come down to Manning and the defense. They passed their first test on Sunday.