The Giants (4-2) won for the fourth time in five games since a season-opening defeat to the Washington Redskins. They moved into the division lead entering their bye week.
“I would like to be 6-0,” Giants Coach Tom Coughlin said. “But this is a hard-earned win. To be 4-2 right now and have the bye and to be an optimist, if I may, maybe we do get some guys back after this two-week period.”
The Giants won on a day when the injured players on their inactive list included defensive end Justin Tuck, running back Brandon Jacobs and guard Chris Snee. Quarterback Eli Manning passed for 292 yards. Bradshaw ran for 104 yards and had a trio of one-yard touchdowns, two of them in the first half.
The Giants rebounded after surrendering a pair of long touchdowns in the first quarter, one on an 80-yard run by Bills tailback Fred Jackson and another on a 60-yard pass from Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt.
Fitzpatrick’s fourth-quarter touchdown pass to wideout Stevie Johnson tied the score at 24. But the Giants got the second of cornerback Corey Webster’s two interceptions and drove to the Buffalo 1-yard line before being pushed backward and settling for a 23-yard field goal by Tynes with 1 minute 32 seconds remaining. Fitzpatrick threw a fourth-down incompletion with 59 seconds left and the Giants ran out the clock.
“We knew coming in that we had to protect the ball,” Manning said. “We couldn’t afford to have turnovers. They won a lot of close games because they were getting turnovers. . . . We played smart football.”
The Giants had no turnovers Sunday while the Bills, who entered the game leading the NFL with a plus-11 turnover margin, had two. The Bills’ record dropped to 4-2 as they, too, entered their bye week. They return from their bye for an Oct. 30 game against the Redskins.
“We had that opportunity,” Jackson said. “We just didn’t finish it.”
The Giants were coming off a loss at home a week earlier to the Seattle Seahawks, which had dulled the enthusiasm generated by their 3-1 start.
“We talked a lot about positive energy this week because obviously there was a lot of negative out there,” Coughlin said.
The Giants had the early lead Sunday after finishing their second drive of the day with the first of Bradshaw’s touchdowns. But the Bills used their quick-strike offensive approach to move in front. Jackson took a handoff and ran straight up the middle of the field, then maneuvered around safety Deon Grant and outraced the other members of the Giants’ secondary to the opposite end zone.
The Buffalo defense forced a punt and the Bills followed with another long-distance touchdown. Fitzpatrick zipped a short pass to Roosevelt on a third-and-six play from the Buffalo 40-yard line. Roosevelt did the rest, sprinting across the field to get into the right side of the end zone.
“We had a couple lapses on defense obviously for big plays,” Coughlin said. “But we settled in there and came out after the half and played much better.”
The Giants moved to the Buffalo 8-yard line but had to settle for a field goal by Tynes. Two sacks by the Giants thwarted a Bills drive and Manning’s 60-yard completion to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks led to Bradshaw’s second touchdown. Bradshaw was stopped short of the end zone by three Bills defenders but managed to reach out and hold the ball over the goal line.
“Any time they give me a shot, I try to take advantage of it,” Bradshaw said.
Place kicker Rian Lindell’s 49-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half got the Bills even. But the Giants reclaimed the lead in the third quarter on Bradshaw’s third touchdown. The Giants appeared to get a touchdown on a pass from Manning to wide receiver Mario Manningham. But the officials ruled on an instant-replay review that Manningham’s knee was down with the ball just shy of the goal line. It didn’t matter. Bradshaw scored on the next play.
Webster intercepted a pass by Fitzpatrick but the Giants couldn’t capitalize. Manningham nearly had a touchdown catch but lost the ball after landing on the ground and the officials ruled the play an incompletion, both before and after a replay review via a challenge by Coughlin. Tynes had a 50-yard field goal try blocked.
The Bills, after converting on fourth and one near midfield, tied the score with just less than nine minutes remaining on Fitzpatrick’s nine-yard touchdown lob to Johnson. Buffalo got the ball back and was moving toward a go-ahead score, but Webster made a leaping interception of a pass intended for Johnson inside the 5-yard line.
“He made two super plays,” Coughlin said.