At the site of their Super Bowl XLII triumph, the New York Giants completed an improbable comeback for another miraculous victory. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty, and there was plenty of controversy. But the New York Football Giants are 3-1 after sneaking out of the desert with a 31-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The victory gives them a share of the NFC East lead with the Washington Redskins.

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A 29-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks with 2:46 remaining proved to be of the game-winning variety, giving the Giants a 31-27 lead. The Giants battled back from a 27-17 deficit with 5:16 remaining to remarkably score 14 unanswered points. Eli’s pass to Nicks would normally be the play of the game but it’s the previous play everyone is talking about…

With 2:55 left in the third, following Chris “Beanie” Wells’ second 1-yard rushing score of the quarter to put Arizona ahead 20-10, the Giants faced a 10-point deficit on the road playing lethargic football. Wells was wearing down the Giants defense all afternoon to the point where the front seven was about to break. His second touchdown of the quarter came after just a one-play Giants’ drive, which started and subsequently ended when Eli was sacked and stripped of the ball inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, and it’s 20-10.

It took until that point in the game for the Giants offense to finally wake up.

The Giants took the ball on the ensuing drive from their own 24-yard line, and drove 76 yards in 13 plays capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs. On the drive Eli went 7-for-8, leading the Giants down to the one where Jacobs finished it off. Unfortunately the Big Blue defense was still in its idle state, as it took three minutes and six plays for the Cardinals to drive 82 yards and put another seven points up on the board.

With 5:16 left and the Cardinals all smiles, the Giants sparked a comeback by unleashing a no-huddle offense on their ensuing possession. The no-huddle has been an offense the Giants have typically ran extremely well under current offensive-coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and Sunday’s game against Arizona was no different. Only 1:39 elapsed off the clock on the Giants 7-play, 80-yard drive, cutting Arizona’s lead to three on Eli’s two-yard pass to Jake Ballard with 3:37 to go.

The Giants forced an extremely quick three-and-out resulting in Arizona punting from their own 26. Aaron Ross had a great return, returning the kick 18 yards to the Giants’ 48-yard line. With 3:10 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Giants out of timeouts, Ross and the Giants’ return team gave Eli and the offense excellent field position with plenty of time left.

Turns out the Giants only needed 31 seconds, and a little bit of good fortune.

On the opening play of the Giants’ drive Eli escaped the Cardinals rush to hit Victor Cruz at the ‘Zona 34-yard line, where he spins out of a tackle immediately. Cruz has little space to make a big play even bigger as there is one Cardinals defensive back directly in front of him, another closing in from his right side, and a third closing down about seven yards in front of him at the time of his broken tackle. He slips out of the tackle and advances ahead a couple yards. He attempts to juke left, which doesn’t fool the defender in front of him, advances to the 30 where he sees a second defender coming at him from the right, and falls forward to the 29-yard line. He hesitates momentarily on the ground before getting up, untouched while down on the ground, and begins to walk back to the huddle calmly while all hell breaks loose around him. Check the video here which includes the play and everything that follows.

Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1e, on page 35 of the NFL Rule Book, states: “Official shall declare ball dead when runner declares himself down by falling to ground or kneeling & making no effort to advance.”

Did the officials make the correct call? Yes. Cruz falls to the ground and makes no effort to go any further than the 29-yard line, signaling his intention to surrender. Ball dead. First down. Let’s roll the clock.

Now, I realize how difficult it is for an official to call an NFL game; it’s hard enough as-is. Asking an official to judge a player’s intent – getting in a player’s head and figuring out the objective of a player’s actions – is a ludicrous responsibility to place on a referee. If any detail is different, such as Cruz stumbling instead of purposely falling, sliding forward and gaining extra yards, then still getting up calmly while being untouched, his intent would have been unclear. A referee would need to rule that a fumble.

Cruz’s play, however, was a by-the-book surrender and I think the referees made the appropriate ruling. Proper application of the rule does not mean Cruz did not suffer a serious brain cramp. He should have waited to be touched or waited to hear the whistle before getting up at all. But after watching the replay countless times – as well as immediately after it occurred – I think the refs made the right call.

One play later Eli hit Hakeem Nicks for the go-ahead touchdown, in the same stadium as Super Bowl XLII in the same left corner of the end zone to take the lead in an extraordinary game – which was somehow still far from being over.

With 2:39 still left on the clock and two timeouts remaining, Kevin Kolb and the Arizona offense drove all the way to the NYG 29. On 2nd-and-1 Kolb was sacked for a loss of 10 by Osi Umenyiora, Osi’s second sack of the game in just his first game back from knee surgery. On 3rd-and-long Kolb completed a short pass over the middle to Giants’ 30, which brought up a fourth-and-2. Earlier in the game during the second qaurter, Arizona ran a quick slant to Larry Fitzgerald on a 4th-and-1 and completed it without contention. This time, however, Corey Webster correctly diagnosed the slant to Fitzgerald and timed it perfectly, breaking up the play and effectively ending the game.

In a 58-second span late in the fourth quarter Eli Manning threw two TD passes, giving the Giants an improbable 31-27 lead after the Cardinals seemingly had taken control of the game with only 5:16 to play. Whichever way this win is looked at it – the Giants got lucky; they somehow escaped with a win; they didn’t deserve it – there’s only one conclusion to come to: a win is a win, and the Giants have three thus far.