By Larry Fine
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Reuters) - A 77-yard touchdown bomb from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz with 73 seconds left gave the New York Giants a 27-23 win over the Washington Redskins in a thrilling see-saw battle on Sunday.
The long connection to Cruz came just 19 seconds after Redskins signal caller Robert Griffin III hit Santana Moss with a 30-yard TD strike that had given Washington a 23-20 lead.
"We had him double-teamed, two guys double-teamed him on that play," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. "Obviously Cruz did a great job of splitting the double-team."
The victory improved the reigning Super Bowl champions' record to 5-2 and tightened their hold on first place in the National Football Conference (NFC) East Division.
The Redskins, despite a spectacular showing by their rookie quarterback, dropped to 3-4 after narrowly missing a chance to move into a tie for the division lead.
"We found a way to win, we found a way to win," said relieved Giants coach Tom Coughlin. "Thank God for that."
After a first half in which the teams traded points to enter halftime knotted 13-13, they traded turnovers in the third and fourth quarters with New York scoring last to register the win.
Washington lost three fumbles in the second half and Griffin was intercepted once, while New York's Manning had two passes picked off after intermission.
But it all boiled down to a sensational finish.
The dynamic Griffin, known by the nickname RG3, produced three jaw-dropping plays late in the fourth quarter to put Washington into the lead.
FROZE THE GIANTS
Trailing 20-16 with less than three minutes left, Griffin converted on a fourth-and-10 from his own 23-yard line when he froze the Giants on a scramble before connecting with Logan Paulsen for 19 yards and a first down at the 42.
Griffin scrambled to his right on the next play for 24 yards and after one short pass completion, he hit Moss over the shoulder on the run for a go-ahead score with 92 seconds left.
That proved to be enough time for Manning and the Giants.
"We have the best quarterback in the league, it's never over," said Giants linebacker Michael Boley. "We put our offense in a bad spot, but we know what Eli is capable of, so we weren't worried."
Gaining possession on the ensuing kickoff at their 23, Manning sent a pass down the middle that was corraled by Cruz, who ran away from defenders and into the end zone where he performed his signature salsa dance to celebrate the winning touchdown.
Cruz led all receivers with seven receptions good for 131 yards.
Manning completed 26-of-40 throws for 337 yards but also tossed a pair of interceptions, the second one on a badly underthrown short pass that was picked off by Washington linebacker Rob Jackson midway through the fourth quarter.
Griffin, who directed a first-half attack that centered on running the ball, finished up completing 20-of-28 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns to Moss. He also rushed for 89 yards on nine carries.
"I feel like this is a game we should have won but we lost," said Griffin, whose last-gasp final drive ended when Moss fumbled a reception after a hit by Chase Blackburn that was recovered by Jayron Hosley at the Washington 43 with 39 seconds left in the game.
The rookie was playing without one of his favorite targets, injured wide receiver Pierre Garcon, and the team's leading pass catcher this season, tight end Fred Davis, went down in the first quarter with a season-ending Achilles injury.
Alfred Morris led all rushers with 120 yards as Washington ran for a massive 248 yards in the game.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)