Hester, Bears fall to Giants
Instead, he shrugged off the criticism.
“I don’t read it,” he said after leading the New York Giants to a 21-16 comeback win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. “I don’t worry about it. My focus was on Chicago, (to) come out here and have a good week and win the game.”
Well, his team did win. Whether the embattled quarterback had a good game can be debated.
Manning led two late touchdown drives and Reuben Droughns scored on a 2-yard run with 1:33 remaining as the Giants delivered a staggering blow to the Bears’ playoff hopes.
Manning was awful for most of the game but delivered in the latter stages after throwing four interceptions the previous week in a drubbing by Minnesota.
“All of us make mistakes,” defensive end Michael Strahan said. “And for Eli to stand up, come back and do those things, hopefully that builds some confidence in him because really that’s all his game is. Talent-wise, he’s as talented as any other quarterback in the league.”
Manning threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer, which was initially ruled incomplete, with 6:54 left to cap a 75-yard drive and cut the Giants’ deficit to 16-14.
“I knew I caught it,” Toomer said. “And I knew (the replay) was going to look like I caught it, so it wasn’t a problem. I don’t know if it hit my arms or hands, but I was underneath it. I didn’t even think it was that close.”
After the Bears (5-7) punted, the Giants launched a 77-yard drive that ended with Droughns running around the right end with 1:33 left. Manning hit David Tyree with a 24-yard pass and threw a 15-yarder to Plaxico Burress that put the ball on the 2.
The Bears got the ball with 1:28 remaining and marched from their 41 to the Giants 28, before Rex Grossman threw three incompletions – the last one broken up by James Butler.
It was a brutal loss for the defending NFC champions, who looked like they were about to put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
“We got to play anyway, so let’s go play and let’s try to win and see what happens,” defensive end Alex Brown said.
Manning was 16-for-27 with 195 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble, the turnovers dousing several scoring threats by the Giants (8-4) or putting Chicago in good position. He got intercepted on the game’s opening possession by Brian Urlacher, leading to a touchdown, and he fumbled the ball away deep in Chicago territory in the second quarter. That led to a field goal by Robbie Gould.
Trailing 16-7 in the third, the Giants drove to the 1, only to see him give it away again. He spun and avoided a sack by Alex Brown and lofted a pass to Burress in the left corner of the end zone that a leaping Charles Tillman intercepted.
The crowd erupted, but the Giants celebrated in the end.
Derrick Ward ran for 154 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries for New York, but injured his left ankle. He left the stadium on crutches and is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.
Although he got sacked six times, Grossman was solid. He completed 25 of 46 passes for a season-high 296 yards and did not throw an interception.
After losing Cedric Benson to a season-ending left ankle injury last week, the Bears turned to Adrian Peterson and he ran for 67 yards and caught seven passes for 82.
But there were no sparks from Devin Hester.
As expected, the Giants did all they could to avoid him and the result was just three punt returns and one kickoff return for a total of 35 yards.
Notes: Bears CB Nathan Vasher back missed his ninth game with a groin injury. ... Chicago benched SS Adam Archuleta in favor of Brandon McGowan. ... The Giants were without CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and S Gibril Wilson (knee injury). Kevin Dockery, who replaced Ross for most of the second half in the loss to Minnesota, started in his place. Rookie Michael Johnson filled in for Wilson.