EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — While Robert Griffin III is quickly becoming the NFL’s most exciting quarterback, there’s none better than Eli Manning with the game on the line.
Manning one-upped the Redskins’ rookie sensation with a pinpoint 77-yard scoring pass to Victor Cruz with 1:13 to play as the New York Giants overcame a late touchdown toss by Griffin to defeat Washington, 27-23, on Sunday.
‘‘With our offense and Eli at the helm, we’re never too worried,’’ Cruz said. ‘‘No matter what situation we’re in, no matter how many points we need or a field goal we need, we have the confidence we can do it. We have a lot of confidence in each other, and in Eli.’’
The Redskins (3-4) fell two games behind New York (5-2) in the division, as the Giants have won three straight.
The winning drive was the 22d of Manning’s career in either the fourth quarter or overtime, and eighth over the past two seasons. Manning finished 26 of 40 for 337 yards.
This pass might have been one of the most improbable. It came two plays and 19 seconds after Griffin capped a 77-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown toss to Santana Moss. The rookie had kept the drive alive with a 19-yard pass off a desperate scramble on a fourth-and-10 play deep in his own territory, and a 24-yard run on the next play.
“It’s just more of the same,’’ said veteran Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty. “He continues to get better. He is probably the most deadly quarterback in the fourth quarter.’’
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan agreed, even though he was miffed that defensive backs Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams allowed Cruz to blow by them on the seam pattern.
‘‘Two guys have got one guy we focused on,’’ Shanahan said, ‘‘and they went down and beat us.’’
Griffin and everyone else on the offense felt they would use the final 73 seconds after Cruz’s TD to stage another comeback. But Moss fumbled at the Washington 43.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown scored on 1-yard runs and Lawrence Tynes kicked a pair of field goals for the Giants, who won despite giving up 480 yards in total offense.
Griffin was 20 of 28 passing for 258 yards, with Moss catching both of his TD passes. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris gained 120 yards rushing and Griffin added 89.
‘‘I'm pretty mad at the football gods for putting him [Griffin] in the NFC East,’’ Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. ‘‘To face that guy twice a year is going to be a headache.
“He takes away from your enthusiasm for the game when you play a play perfectly and he still has 4.3 speed to make plays. I don’t think there is anybody in the league just like him. If I was going to run an offense and they asked me [Michael] Vick, Cam Newton or RG3, I'm taking that guy hands down.’’
Griffin was picked off by safety Stevie Brown and his 41-yard return late in the third quarter set up Bradshaw’s 1-yard touchdown.
Griffin moved Washington into position to tie the game on the next possession, but he fumbled after being sacked by Jason Pierre-Paul, and Linval Joseph recovered the ensuing fumble at the Giants’ 29.
On the next play from scrimmage, linebacker Rob Jackson intercepted a quick out by Manning and Kai Forbath kicked a 45-yard field goal to narrow the lead to 20-16 with 5:21 to go.
The Giants were forced to punt on their next series and Washington got the ball back at its 23. After gaining nothing in three plays, Griffin went back to pass on fourth down, eluded Pierre-Paul, and then danced around long enough to find tight end Logan Paulsen for a 19-yard gain and a first down at the 42. The 24-yard scamper got the ball to the New York 34, and two plays later Moss beat Jayron Hosley and hauled in Griffin’s perfect pass as Griffin lay on his back and celebrated like a snow angel.