It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t impressive. And it certainly wasn’t a blowout like a week ago.
The New York Giants simply found a way to keep winning Sunday, and the error-prone and road-awful Detroit Lions helped them along the way.
Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes and the Giants (4-2) held on for their third straight victory with a 28-20 decision that sent the Lions to an NFL record-tying 24th straight road loss.
“Games aren’t always going to be blowouts,” Giants offensive tackle David Diehl said of last week’s 34-10 win over Houston. “Games aren’t just going to click where everything happens. This was a grinder game and we stuck together and made it happen. We have a lot of confidence in each other.”
Safety Deon Grant preserved the win by forcing and recovering a fumble by Lions receiver Nate Burleson at the Giants 42 with about 5 minutes to go and New York ahead by four points.
Ahmad Bradshaw, who finished with 133 yards, ran for 45 yards on the first play, setting up Brandon Jacobs’ second touchdown run, a 6-yarder. Jacobs also scored from 4 yards out, helping New York avoid the trap.
Manning’s TD passes covered 33 yards to Mario Manningham and 1 yard to Travis Beckum.
“If you lose this one, you go back and talk about all the opportunities you had to win,” defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. “The reality is you’re just happy to take any win, any way it comes. This team (the Lions) won 44-6 last week so obviously they are doing some things right.”
The difference was the Giants made fewer mistakes than the Lions, who had three turnovers and 11 penalties for 91 yards, including two that kept New York touchdown drives.
“This game resembled our first four when we started 0-4,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Till the end, we were a play away. There were some really good things but there were things that caused us to be on the wrong side of the score.”
Drew Stanton, who took over after starter Shaun Hill broke his left arm late in the first half, had an 87-yard scoring pass to Calvin Johnson in the fourth quarter and moved Detroit to the Giants 38 in the closing seconds before safety Antrel Rolle intercepted his desperation heave at the 16-yard line.
The Giants, who play Dallas on the road a week from Monday — hence the trap game — also had their own blunders. Punter Matt Dodge dropped a snap to set up Detroit’s first touchdown and Rolle took a horrible angle on the long touchdown pass to Johnson.
The bottom line was that the Lions’ futility on the road continued. They have not on the road since Oct. 28, 2007, and this latest setback allowed them to tie their own league record for consecutive road loss (24), set in the 2001-03 seasons.
“To be honest, we don’t care about streaks and records,” said Burleson, who caught a 14-yard TD pass from Hill. “As soon as we get a victory on the road, it’s going to be forgotten. We’re just trying to win games. It wasn’t motivating us coming in the door. We came to New York to win. We played well at certain points in the game but we didn’t do our job.”
The Lions’ big mistakes were the penalties. With the game tied at 7, rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was called for a hands to the face on a second-and-20 at the New York 19. The first down allowed the Giants to continue what turned into an 11-play, 93-yard drive with Jacobs scoring the go-ahead touchdown from 4 yards out with 3:14 left in the half.
Hanson closed the gap to 14-10 with his first long field goal and the Lions squandered a chance to take the lead early in the third quarter when an illegal formation nullified a 28-yard Stanton to Burleson pass to the New York 5.
Stanton was sacked on the next play by Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck recovered at the Giants 43.
Seven plays later, Manning hit Beckum on the 1-yard TD pass on third down.
The drive was kept alive when defensive end Cliff Avril took a swing at Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie after Manning missed Hakeem Nicks on a fade pattern in the corner of the end zone.
Given a first down at the 1, the Giants eventually got into the end zone for a 21-10 lead.
“Everybody has to evaluate themselves and the mistakes they made,” Burleson said. “Now that we have a bye week, you have to take that week to evaluate yourself as a player and figure out what you can do better.”
The long touchdown pass to Johnson got Detroit in position again and they were driving for a go-ahead score when Burleson fumbled, Grant recovered and New York took advantage again.
“I thought it was out and then I heard their bench yelling, so I knew,” Grant said.
The Giants got off to a horrible start when Dodge dropped the snap and then mishandled the ball again after picking it up.
The Lions took over on the Giants 43 and scored nine plays later on the pass to Burleson.
Dodge redeemed himself on the next series, when his 56-yard punt died at the Lions 4. New York’s defense got a three-and-out and Jacobs scored from 4-yards out after Manning hit Steve Smith on passes of 20 and 11 yards.
NOTES: Giants PK Lawrence Tynes was inactive because of sprained ankle, so Shayne Graham, who was signed Saturday, handled extra points and kickoffs. He did not attempt a field goal. … Detroit outgained New York 366-334. … Umenyiora had two sacks and two forced fumbles. He has seven sacks and six forced fumbles in the last three games. … Grant led the Giants with 10 tackles. … Ashlee Palmer, who started at middle linebacker for the Lions with DeAndre Levy and Landon Johnson inactive, had a game-high 13 tackles. … Stanton had three rushes for 30 yards to lead Detroit.