TEMPE, ARIZ., DEC. 23 -- Backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler scored the decisive touchdown on a four-yard run in the final period today as the New York Giants beat the Phoenix Cardinals, 24-21, to clinch a first-round playoff bye.
But the NFC East champions had to withstand a career-high 381-yard passing performance by Timm Rosenbach, who also tied a career-high with three touchdown passes. Rosenbach, 23 of 41 with two interceptions, had the Cardinals threatening a final time at the New York 40 after a successful onside kick.
But a holding penalty and a sack by New York's Lawrence Taylor enabled the Giants to hang on.
Rosenbach's final scoring pass, a three-yarder to rookie Ricky Proehl, who then recovered the onside kick, capped a 68-yard drive with 2:09 remaining.
The Giants (12-3) beat the Cardinals (5-10) for the fifth straight time and eliminated them from playoff contention.
Hostetler, who completed 13 of 23 passes for 190 yards and rushed nine times for 31 yards, has beaten Phoenix three straight times in relief of the injured Phil Simms, including a 20-19 comeback victory on Oct. 21.
His touchdown run with 8:58 left, capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive to give New York a 24-14 lead.
Hostetler gave New York a 17-7 lead with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Mark Ingram, who made a diving catch with 7:31 left in the third quarter.
The Cardinals closed to 17-14 just 22 seconds later when Ernie Jones turned a swing pass from Rosenbach into a 68-yard touchdown play.
Phoenix appeared ready to tie or take the lead, but reserve running back Terrence Flagler dropped a third-down pass at the 5 and Al Del Greco missed a 30-yard field goal attempt with 1:50 left in the third quarter.