New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer catches a pass for a 31-yard gain during overtime of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants beat the Bengals 26-23.(AP)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The New York Giants are off to their best start since 2000, thanks in large part to a little tiptoeing in overtime by Amani Toomer and the sure leg of 44-year-old John Carney.
Carney kicked a 22-yard field goal with 8:39 left in the extra session after Toomer danced the sideline on a 31-yard reception, and the Super Bowl champions overcame a strong effort by the winless Cincinnati Bengals for a 26-23 victory on Sunday.
“My message today was … it ended up being really the power of the will,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “It wasn’t our best game, by any means, but we hung in there, we kept battling and scrapping, and in what was not our best game, we found a way to win against a good football team.”
The play that set up Carney’s fourth field goal was the long pass from Eli Manning to Toomer down the left sideline on a third-and-10 from the Bengals 38.
It was difficult to tell whether Toomer got both feet in bounds. The Giants hustled to the line of scrimmage and handed the ball to Derrick Ward for a 3-yard run to the Bengals 4, precluding a video review.
“I couldn’t tell,” Toomer said when asked if he was in bounds. “I just got as many feet down as I could.”
Toomer is one of the best in the league at getting both feet down, said Manning, who hit 26 of 43 passes for 289 yards.
Coughlin said that the umpire moved off the ball so the Giants knew that the replay official had allowed the play to stand.
The Bengals wanted referee Jeff Triplette to review the play. He could not do it in overtime unless asked by the replay official.
“I don’t know if that was a completion or not,” said Bengals receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who had 12 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. “But yeah, man, you have to review that. It’s too close. I don’t know. I was on the side. I thought it was an incompletion, obviously. But yeah, it was close.
“I thought they would review it; they didn’t. It was a catch. They won.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the replay official looked at the play and ruled it legal. Aiello said the official would have prevented the ball from being snapped if he had any doubts.
Carney, who was signed before the season to fill in for the injured Lawrence Tynes, has hit all nine of his field goal attempts this season.
“I realize at this point in my career and this opportunity, I am a relief pitcher and when my job is done I will go back to the bullpen and hope for another opportunity somewhere around the league,” Carney said.
Brandon Jacobs scored on 1-yard run and Manning threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Boss to seemingly give New York a 23-20 victory with 1:50 to play.
But the Bengals (0-3) drove 71 yards and got a 21-yard field goal from Shayne Graham on the final play of regulation.
There were three scores in the final 4:39. A 17-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Houshmandzadeh gave Cincinnati a 20-16 advantage. Then the Giants went 68 yards in nine plays to retake the lead.
But Palmer drove the Bengals again, hitting Houshmandzadeh on passes of 20, 8, 16 and 9 yards to set up Graham’s tying field goal.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, right, is sacked by New York Giants defensive tackle Fred Robbins during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants won 26-23 in overtime.(AP)
Graham also kicked field goals of 22 and 30 yards for the Bengals, who are 0-3 for the first time since 2003, coach Marvin Lewis’ first season. Chris Perry, who rushed for 74 yards on 20 carries, also scored on a 25-yard run.
“It’s definitely a tough situation, a situation we never envisioned ourselves being in,” said quarterback Carson Palmer, who was 27-of-39 for 286 yards. “We got to keep coming together as a team. It may sound crazy but we have improved, but not enough.”
Until the overtime, the Bengals appeared ready to borrow a page from the Giants’ path to the Super Bowl last season. After an 0-2 start, the Giants went on the road and beat Washington to turn around their season. New York ended that game with a goal-line stand.
The Bengals, who scored a total of 17 points in losing to Baltimore and Tennessee, took a 13-10 halftime lead by scoring on their final three possessions of the half.
Graham sandwiched field goals of 22 and 30 yards around a 25-yard touchdown run by Perry. The key to the success was Palmer’s ability to hit quick swing passes, crossing patterns and flanker screens against an all-out pass rush that sacked him four times in the first half—and six times overall.
New York, which squandered early field position, answered Cincinnati’s first two scores with Jacobs’ short TD and Carney’s 24-yard field goal.
Carney tied the game at 13 in the third quarter with a 46-yard field goal, and he put New York ahead 16-13 with a 26-yarder.
NOTES:@ The Giants had given up only 20 points in their first two games. … Giants DT Fred Robbins had two sacks for the second straight week. … Former Giant Dhani Jones led the Bengals with 12 tackles. LB Antonio Pierce had 13 for New York. … Chad Ocho Cinco had three catches for 29 yards, with 15 coming on a short flea flicker. Ward had 80 yards rushing on nine carries.