Giants Hang On to Beat Bills, 27-24

The coaches shout: It is the fourth quarter now. This is the end. We cannot lose the fourth quarter. We can’t. We have to finish.

“That’s been their thing since back in training camp,” wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said.

Tight end Jake Ballard backed up Nicks. “It’s constant,” Ballard said. “Finish. Finish. Finish. Finish the game. They won’t let us slack off at the end of practice at all. It’s a top priority. And the more we do it, especially in games, the more comfortable we are when things get tight.”

Ballard conceded that fans might not be so at ease with the high-pressure emotional swings, but Giants players, at least, seem to be growing more comfortable in the fourth quarter. Their over the on Sunday was the Giants’ fifth game this season in which they had a fourth-quarter drive that could tie the score or put them ahead, and their fourth straight game in which the decisive score came with nine minutes or fewer remaining. The Giants (4-2) have won three of the four.

Sunday’s version of the late-game dramatics featured two important interceptions by Giants cornerback Corey Webster, a career day from running back Ahmad Bradshaw and an unflappable performance from , who did not throw an interception against a Bills team that came into the game as the league leader in forcing turnovers.

“We have been striving to finish and win the fourth-quarter battle,” Webster said. “We did just that.”

With the score tied, 24-24, and the Bills driving with four minutes left, a reprisal of last week’s disappointing loss to Seattle seemed more likely. The Bills had a first down at the Giants’ 27, when receiver Stevie Johnson made a quick move at the line of scrimmage and got a step on Webster as he sped down the sideline.

It had been a mostly difficult day for Webster. He had missed an important tackle, been late on several pass coverages and now seemed a step slow on what looked to be a game-winning play for the Bills.

As the ball started to fall toward Johnson, however, Webster accelerated. And as Johnson reached high to pull it in, Webster’s hands went higher. He cradled the ball as he fell to the ground at the Giants’ 5-yard line, holding on even as Johnson pulled his facemask to the side.

It was Webster’s second interception of the game (he also picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier in the quarter), and he pranced to the sideline with glee. Minutes later, he was joined in celebration by the rest of his teammates. Manning led the Giants down the field for the go-ahead score, with Lawrence Tynes’s 23-yard field goal with less than two minutes to go providing the final margin.

It was an important win for the Giants, who, with a bye week, have two weeks to enjoy it. With the sting of last Sunday’s loss lingering and another rash of injuries sidelining their defensive captain Justin Tuck, their Pro Bowl right guard Chris Snee and the backup running back Brandon Jacobs, the Giants could have easily slipped again against the surprising Bills (4-2). Before Webster’s interception, it looked as if they might.

Instead, the Giants escaped with a victory on a day when Bradshaw scored a career-high three touchdowns, Manning passed for 292 yards and the defense rallied from an awful start to stand firm when the Giants needed it most.

Bradshaw was the finisher for much of the game, plunging into the end zone from 1 yard out on three occasions. When Bradshaw broke a 30-yard run to put the Giants into field-goal range on the final drive, it gave the Giants their first 100-yard rusher of the season (he finished with 104) — no small accomplishment considering the offensive line was operating with the backup Kevin Boothe in place of Snee.

“We knew if we kept pushing a little bit harder, we would get there,” left tackle Dave Diehl said. “Today was a total group effort.”

Stopping the run had also been a problem for the Giants, and much had been made of the defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s connection to the Bills. Fewell spent four years coaching in Buffalo and was the interim head coach for the final seven games of the 2009 season.

Buffalo Coach Chan Gailey had been concerned about Fewell’s familiarity with the Bills, but Fewell’s greatest focus in the buildup was on his own team. The Giants entered having allowed an average of 159.3 rushing yards a game over the previous three weeks, an ominous number because Bills running back Fred Jackson was averaging 96 yards a game on his own.

Early on, it looked as if nothing had changed. After the Giants went ahead with five minutes remaining in the first quarter on Bradshaw’s first score, Jackson immediately responded with an 80-yard touchdown run. Linebacker Michael Boley did not fill a hole, safety Deon Grant took a poor angle and cornerback Aaron Ross could not make a touchdown-saving tackle.

The Giants’ defense followed that by taking another hit, as Fitzpatrick found receiver Naaman Roosevelt for a 60-yard touchdown catch-and-run just before the end of the first quarter. This time, it was Webster and the backup cornerback Justin Tryon sharing the role of hapless would-be tackler, and Coach Tom Coughlin had a stunned look on his face as the Bills danced in the end zone.

“We could have let those two plays determine the outcome of the game, but we didn’t,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “We played relentless.”

They did. After struggling in the first quarter, the Giants’ defense held Jackson to 39 rushing yards the rest of the game, limited Fitzpatrick to 130 passing yards in the second half and did not allow the Bills to even get a first down on their final drive of the game. When Fitzpatrick’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 59 seconds left, the Giants had sealed a victory that will fit nicely alongside their thrilling wins over Philadelphia and Arizona.

“It was about fighting,” Coughlin said. “We knew it was going to be a 60-minute game.”

With these Giants, it seems as if it always is.

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Bills WR Johnson Probable for Patriots Game

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is expected to play Sunday against the New England Patriots (2-0).

Johnson has been nursing a sore groin that forced him to miss Wednesday’s practice, but he practiced fully on both Thursday and Friday with the Bills (2-0).

Defensive linemen Spencer Johnson (hip) and Torell Troup (back) are also both probable. Troup has missed the first two games because of his injury.

Backup linebacker Kirk Morrison won’t play because of a hamstring injury, and cornerback Terrence McGee will miss his second straight game because of a hamstring injury.

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Bills on 2-Game Roll, Suddenly Finding Ways to Win

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. Linebacker Reggie Torbor has a humorous theory to explain how the once-winless are suddenly on a roll.

After spending the first half of the season perfecting ways to lose, Torbor figured on Monday that it was only a matter of time for the Bills to learn how to win a couple. Something has certainly changed for a team that rallied from a 21-point, second-quarter deficit to pull out a convincing 49-31 win at Cincinnati on Sunday.

“At some point, man, it’s enough. We’re not going to find a new way to lose a game,” Torbor said with a smile, before going down the list of how the Bills bumbled through losing their first eight games of the season, including twice in overtime.

“The best way to learn is from mistakes,” he said. “And we made a lot of mistakes, so we’ve learned a lot, you know.”

The Bills weren’t perfect, especially in the first half, when they fell behind 28-7. They did prove to be the more resilient team in outscoring the by a whopping 35-0 over the final 30 minutes to win their second straight game.

It marked the third time in team history the Bills have won when trailing by 21 or more points. And they became the league’s first team to win a game by 18 or more when trailing by 17 or more at halftime.

And it happened in a season in which the Bills were once regarded as the NFL’s worst, which is no longer the case.

Buffalo has moved out of last place in the standings — a win ahead of Carolina — as it prepares to for a far more daunting challenge Sunday, when the (7-3) visit Orchard Park.

“We’re still a 2-8 football team, so we have a lot of work to do,” Torbor said. “But it’s good. Progress is starting to be made. It’s one thing to work, work, work. But now it’s to the point where we’re starting to see the fruits of those labors.”

The Bills are turning a corner thanks to improved play on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick shook off two interceptions in the first half — one returned for a touchdown — by going 10 of 13 for 139 yards passing and three touchdowns in the second half. His favorite target was Stevie Johnson, who scored three times to continue what’s been a breakout season for the 2007 seventh-round draft pick.

Johnson now has nine touchdowns receiving — three short of breaking the franchise single-season record and entered Monday tied for second among NFL receivers this year.

Running back Fred Jackson capped the second-half surge by scoring his second touchdown with a 30-yard run.

“Getting down helps nothing,” Fitzpatrick said, of how he stayed calm. “It doesn’t help you out. It doesn’t help your teammates out. I don’t know. I’m kind of that way all the time.”

The Bills defense did its part by forcing three turnovers and shutting out the Bengals in the second half. Cornerback Drayton Florence returned Cedric Benson’s fumble 27 yards for a touchdown. Then Buffalo’s secondary secured two interceptions to double the team’s season total to four.

Overall, the Bills continued to show the signs of how they’ve become a better team since entering their bye at 0-5.

After being outscored 161-87 through their first five games, they’ve outscored their opponents 126-115. They’re more efficient in converting third downs, going 42 of 81 in their past five after going 15 of 55 to open the season. And Fitzpatrick has two 300-yard passing games in his past five starts, this after the Bills endured a 59-game drought without one.

The progress is evident on defense, too. After managing four takeaways in its first five games, Buffalo’s managed eight in its past five. And they’re allowing 145 yards rushing over the past five, nearly 40 yards fewer than the first five.

“We’ve gotten over a couple of humps,” coach Chan Gailey said. “Whether we are where we want to be right now, I can promise you we’re not because our record says we’re not. Do I think we’re getting better? I think we’re getting better.”

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