- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Ross started the game on the sideline, benched for a half by the New York Giants for violating team rules.

Then the rookie cornerback came up with two of the game’s most important plays.

Ross returned the second of his two interceptions 43 yards for a touchdown with just more than three minutes left to seal a 35-24 victory over the Jets yesterday in the latest battle of New York.

“I think the reason I was drafted here was to make big plays, and I have to hold up my end of the bargain,” the first-round pick out of Texas said.

Neither Ross nor coach Tom Coughlin would reveal the nature of the indiscretion, but the cornerback was in the game when it mattered most.

“It was just a mistake on my behalf, and something I have to learn from,” Ross said. “It’s between the coach and me. Rest assured, it’ll never happen again.”

With the Jets driving for a potential go-ahead score, Chad Pennington threw a pass to Jerricho Cotchery. Ross stepped in front of it and took off down the left sideline and into the end zone with the partisan Giants fans on their feet screaming.

The touchdown gave the Giants (3-2) an 11-point lead with 3:15 left and helped them beat the Jets (1-4) for the seventh time in 11 meetings.

“There’s no magic formula,” a downtrodden Pennington said. “We just fell apart right there at the end.”

A week after getting 12 sacks against Philadelphia, the Giants had only one — by Osi Umenyiora with less than three minutes left — but intercepted Pennington three times.

“It’s frustrating,” said Pennington, who had good protection by the offensive line all game. “And believe me, it makes you sick to your stomach.”

Pennington finished 21-for-36 for 229 yards and a touchdown to Brad Smith, but the three interceptions sunk the Jets.

Eli Manning recovered from a miserable opening half to finish 13-for-25 for 186 yards with touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey and one interception. Brandon Jacobs had 100 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in his first game since spraining a knee in the season opener.

“I take full responsibility for the first half,” Coughlin said. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we came back and we still felt like we could win the game. Our second half was outstanding. We didn’t get some continuity in the first half.”

After Ross’ first pick, the Giants drove 98 yards and took their first lead at 28-24 on Burress’ 53-yard touchdown reception with 7:52 left. Two plays after David Harris was called for a personal foul after horsecollaring Derrick Ward, Burress caught a pass, stiff-armed cornerback Andre Dyson, high-stepped out of a tackle and scored.

The Giants got within 24-21 with an efficient drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown catch by Shockey with 33 seconds left in the third quarter. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma was called offside on a third-and-4 play to keep the drive alive.

“There’s only so many more times that we can say, ‘Well, we have time,’ ” Vilma said. “We have to start really getting after it and figure out what’s going on.”

The Jets took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Kerry Rhodes ripped the football out of Jacobs’ left arm and returned the fumble 11 yards for a touchdown.

The Giants tied it on Ward’s 8-yard run up the middle 4:06 into the second quarter, but the Jets went ahead 14-7 just before the half on Smith’s first NFL touchdown, a 16-yard catch over Kevin Dockery in the right corner of the end zone.

Manning went 3-for-10 for 22 yards, 20 on a pass to Shockey, and the interception in the opening half.

“We knew we could turn around and get things going,” Manning said. “We just had to calm down. We had to stay confident and realize there were plays out there to be made, and we had to make them.”

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