EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The winless Miami Dolphins keep finding ways to lose in the closing minutes, and it’s only adding to the pressure on embattled coach Tony Sparano.
Sparano could merely watch as Eli Manning threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 5:58 to play for the winning score. The Dolphins (0-7) blew a fourth-quarter lead for the second straight week Sunday and dropped a 20-17 decision to the New York Giants.
“When it gets into the 55th minute, we’ve got to find ways to make those kind of plays,” Sparano said.
The Dolphins, up by 14-3 midway through the second quarter, let another one slip away. Last week, Miami blew a 15-0 lead in the closing minutes, falling 18-15 to the Denver Broncos in overtime.
“It’s the same story all year,” said Brandon Marshall, who had four catches for 55 yards. “We have some good players in this room. Why we can’t put it together, I really don’t know.”
The Giants, coming out of their bye week, avoided an embarrassing loss at home.
“I think Tony Sparano is a heck of a coach,” said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “He got his guys ready to play under very difficult circumstances. Imagine being up 15-0 and losing a game, and having to come in here the next week. I give them a lot of credit. He was on my staff in Jacksonville and he did a great job.”
Manning hit 31 of 45 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns in rallying the Giants. Mario Manningham caught the other touchdown, a 7-yard play that got New York (5-2) back into the game late in the first half.
Lawrence Tynes kicked two short field goals, and New York’s defense got four sacks on the Dolphins’ final two drives. Corey Webster iced it with his third interception in the last two games.
Steve Slaton and Matt Moore (13 of 22 for 138) capped the Dolphins’ first two drives with 1-yard runs. But Miami could only muster a 40-yard third-quarter field goal by Dan Carpenter the rest of the way.
“We didn’t move the ball like we did in the first half,” Moore said of the Dolphins’ second-half futility. “That’s where it started to turn.”
The Giants’ winning drive covered 53 yards in six plays and came after the defense forced Miami to punt from its 22.
Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed much of the second half getting his right foot X-rayed, had runs of 2 and 11 yards to get the drive started and Manning hit Hakeem Nicks for 17 yards to the Miami 23.
The quarterback found a wide-open Cruz over the middle and the New Jersey native spun out of Will Allen’s attempted tackle at the 5-yard line. Cruz seemingly was flung into the end zone by the former first-round pick of the Giants.
“I was trying to sling him down, but he was twisting and he twisted out of my tackle,” Allen said.
A kickoff return by Slaton to the Dolphins 45 resulted in nothing when New York got two sacks, the last by a combination of Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck, who was playing for the first time in four games.
Miami, which wasted two timeouts early, got the ball back at its 16 with 3:35 to play and quickly got a 24-yard completion to Davone Bess.
However, Osi Umenyiora and Kiwanuka got sacks for 10-yard losses on consecutive plays to set up Webster fourth-down pick.
Miami, which came in having scored seven touchdowns in its first six games, scored on its first two series.
Moore, who made the Giants look foolish two years ago in their last game in Giants Stadium, looked like Tom Brady — next week’s opponent — in leading the Dolphins on scoring drives of 66 and 90 yards. He had a 15-yard third-down scramble to set up Slaton’s 1-yard run, and an 11-yard third-down run on the longer drive that he capped with a fourth-down 1-yard bootleg.
After walking into the end zone, he spiked the ball with a vengeance.
Trailing 14-3, Manning hit 9 of 10 passes on a 13-play, 84-yard that he capped with a 7-yard fade to Manningham in the corner of the end zone.
New York earlier settled for a 25-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes after a drive that reached the Dolphins 12 was short-circuited by consecutive penalties.
“We knew coming in it would be a tough battle.” said Manning. “A lot of games have come to the fourth quarter, and we knew it would be a tough road. They did a lot of good things defensively, ran a lot of different blitzes. We didn’t run the ball real well today, and we had to throw the ball more than we wanted to.”
Notes: RB Reggie Bush had a season-high 103 yards rushing, his highest total as a member of the Dolphins and second most of his career. Bush’s single game rushing high of 126 yards came during his rookie campaign against the Giants on Dec. 24, 2006 as a member of the Saints. … Dolphins C Mike Pouncey left the game in the second half after taking a blow to the head. “I couldn’t feel my legs,” Pouncey said “I’m all right now. It’s my arms that are tingling. It was more scary than anything. I never had that happen in my life.”