- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. | Eli Manning and the New York Giants were just happy to celebrate a victory again. It had been six frustrating weeks, not that they were counting or anything.

“It’s been a long time, 42 days since our last win,” Manning said. “It felt like it, too.”

Lawrence Tynes kicked a 36-yard field goal 3:54 into overtime to make up for an earlier miss and lead the Giants past the Atlanta Falcons 34-31 on Sunday. The win snapped a four-game skid and came after the defense blew a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter.

“It’s nice to win,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “We were miserable around here for a month.”

Manning threw for a career-high 384 yards and three touchdown passes, including two to Kevin Boss, as New York kept pace with NFC East-leading Dallas, which beat Washington to maintain a one-game division lead.

The Giants can’t savor this one for long, though: They play at Denver on Thanksgiving.

“There are not many better feelings than in a locker room after a win,” Manning said. “It was good to see the high-fives and the smiles, especially when you haven’t had that feeling for a while.”

Manning, who had his first 300-yard passing game at Giants Stadium, set up Tynes’ winner when he connected with Mario Manningham for a 29-yard pass that put the Giants at the 23. New York hadn’t won since beating Oakland 44-7 on Oct. 11, but this one didn’t come easily.

The Giants’ defense — without injured linebacker Antonio Pierce indefinitely — couldn’t hold a 31-17 lead against Matt Ryan and the Falcons.

“I am concerned,” Coughlin said of his defense.

New York also lost running back Brandon Jacobs to an injured right leg late in the third quarter. Coughlin had no update on the injury, but Jacobs was on the sideline during the fourth quarter and overtime.

Ryan threw a 4-yard scoring pass to Eric Weems with 6:01 left in regulation, then found Tony Gonzalez for 11 yards with 28 seconds remaining to tie it.

“It’s disappointing because we didn’t come out with the outcome we wanted,” Ryan said. “We had a lot of great contributions and great efforts from a lot of guys in the second half to come back from 14 down. But with that said, there are no moral victories.”

Atlanta (5-5) has lost four of five after a 4-1 start.

“What I told our team is that we’ve been through a long road in terms of the last six weeks,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Four of the six games we’ve played have been against teams that have been coming off the byes.”

Ryan finished 26-for-46 for 268 yards and two touchdowns, and Gonzalez had eight catches for 82 yards and the score. Jason Snelling, filling in for the injured Michael Turner, had two touchdown runs.

With the win, the Giants became the first home team to win in the series since New York beat Atlanta in 1979. The visiting teams had won 12 straight in the series, and the Falcons gave it a good shot at making it 13 in a row.

“Disappointing loss but we can’t be discouraged,” Ryan said.

Madison Hedgecock’s 3-yard touchdown catch with 12:08 remaining made it 31-17, but the Falcons stormed back.

Ryan converted three third downs on a 12-play drive that was capped by Weems’ touchdown catch.

New York had trouble again on the tying drive as the Giants allowed Ryan to convert two third-down passes. After an incompletion to Gonzalez, Ryan found the big tight end in the end zone for the score.

The Giants won the overtime toss — after referee Gene Steratore fumbled the first flip — and Manning went to work again.

“I knew we had moved the ball very well, especially in the second half, so I felt good,” he said. “I’m glad we got the ball first. That gave us the opportunity to go out there and win the game.”

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