Detroit Lions Haloti Ngata raises his hands as New York Giants Eli Manning throws a pass in week 15 of the NFL at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on December 18, 2016. The Giants defeated the Lions 17-6. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Quarterback Eli Manning threw touchdown passes in the first and fourth quarters as the New York Giants beat the Detroit Lions 17-6 at MetLife Stadium.
The Giants, who were nursing a slim 10-6 lead after three quarters of play, got some much-needed breathing room on an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter that saw Manning connect with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on a key third-and-10 pass completion that went for 25 yards.
On the ensuing pass, Manning hit Sterling Shepard for a 23-yard completion to get New York into the red zone with a first-and-10 from the Lions 13.
Three plays later, Manning found Beckham again for a big touchdown to give the Giants a 17-6 lead.
Hanging on to finish off Detroit helped New York's postseason chances.
The Giants' offense, which has been sluggish all season, got off to an impressive start on the opening drive, eating up a 75-yard, 10-play drive that ended with Manning connecting with Shepard on a 6-yard touchdown pass on a corner fade.
On that drive, Manning also hit receiver Victor Cruz on a 29-yard reception -- Manning's 4,000th career completion -- to get New York into the red zone. The Giants also got some solid running on the drive from rookie Paul Perkins, whose runs of five and 11 yards set up Manning's touchdown pass to Shepard.
The Lions got field goals of 48 and 33 yards in the second and third quarters, respectively, from kicker Matt Prater. Detroit might have had more in the second quarter, but misfortune struck.
Quarterback Matt Stafford, playing with a special glove to protect his middle finger on his injured throwing hand, connected with receiver Golden Tate on a 67-yard strike. But on the next play, cornerback Leon Hall forced a fumble against Zach Zenner and the loose ball was recovered for a touchback by Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon.
"I was just trying to make a tackle," said Hall when asked what happened with his forced fumble. "I guess I hit it with my helmet and the ball popped out."
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell wouldn't quite call the fumble a turning point in the game considering it happened so early, but he was bothered that his offense failed to come up with any points on that drive.
"Any time you're down there (in the red zone) and you come away with no points, that's huge," said Caldwell.
The Giants also had a chance to pad their lead in the game. On the drive ending with Gould's 47-yard field goal, Manning, who completed his first 11 pass attempts, found running back Shane Vereen on third-and-12.
Vereen fumbled the ball as he crossed into the end zone, the ball being recovered by Cruz. However, the score was wiped out when right tackle Bobby Hart was called for illegal hands to the face.
The Lions' second scoring drive saw the offense convert three out of four third down attempts against the New York defense, the drive ending in Prater's 33-yarder to make it 10-6 in the third quarter.
Detroit, which had been the comeback king this season, tried one last attempt to get his team in a position to win, but Stafford's pass from the Giants' 17-yard line intended for receiver Anquan Boldin was picked off by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone, sealing the Giants' 10th win of the season and putting them in a position to clinch a playoff berth Thursday night in Philadelphia.
"You're right where you want to be," said Rodgers-Cromartie. "You have the opportunity to play in the postseason, but you first gotta finish out this season to get where you want to go. It's very exciting because you're winning games in the fourth quarter so you already have the mentality on how to win, so it can only get better."
The Lions (9-5) will visit the Dallas Cowboys next week and then finish the 2016 season at home against Green Bay. With the Packers (8-6) having won their game against the Bears, the Lions will try again next week to lock down the NFC North.
"We just keep taking one game at a time," said Stafford, who finished 24 of 39 for 273 yards no touchdowns and the one interception in his first full game with his injury on his throwing hand. "We'll take a look at this tape and I'm sure there's some stuff we wish we could have done better. So figure it out and just play better next time around."
New York (10-4) will visit the Eagles on Thursday night and then close the 2016 campaign in Washington.
Thanks to their win over the Lions, the Giants are not only still alive for a postseason berth, they're also alive for the NFC East title regardless of what Dallas does in its game against Tampa Bay.
Detroit P Sam Martin's 63-yard punt on the Lions' opening drive tied a season long. Punt was downed by Don Carry at the Giants 7-yard line.
Both teams lost a starting cornerback in the second quarter. Janoris Jenkins of the Giants was injured when he was hit in the back by teammate Trevin Wade. Lions CB Darius Slay injured his hamstring while in coverage on a pass play. Neither player returned to the game.
Giants backup QB Ryan Nassib was a surprise scratch before the game. Per a Giants spokesperson, Nassib's elbow issue that landed him on the inactive list on Week 9 flared up during pregame warmups.
The Lions fell to 0-4 this year when trailing at halftime.