EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Despite struggling with injuries to key starters, the New York Giants again got a significant contribution from an unlikely source as they overcame a 17-10 second-half deficit to top the Cleveland Browns 41-27 Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
This week, the big contributor was third-year man Stevie Brown, who, after playing well last week in relief of injured starter Kenny Phillips against the Eagles, was given the start at strong safety. Brown's 46-yard interception return of Brandon Weeden's pass intended for receiver Josh Gordon ended up being the catalyst for 17 unanswered points that gave the Giants a 27-17 halftime lead.
"He was running a sprint out," Brown said of Weeden's errant throw. "I know they like to put the back in the flats and all the receivers were going that way, so I was trying to push with it and then when he threw it, I could see it was being overthrown, so I broke on it."
"You can't do that," said Weeden of his mistake. "Against a team like that, you can't give them extra opportunities. I was just trying to make a play and it was stupid. That's obviously one throw I want back."
Pat Shurmur, the Browns head coach, was a bit blunter in describing what happened on that play.
"It was a bad throw," he said.
New York's victory also came on the heels of a career-high 200 rushing yards from Ahmad Bradshaw, who had 30 carries after fumbling his first handoff.
"We knew we could run the ball," said Bradshaw. "We plan on it every game. We just came out today fired up and ready. I was disappointed with the fumble but you have to put it out of your mind."
"It's pretty awesome," added center David Baas, who helped block for Bradshaw. "After the start he had, he was a little down and we told him we had his back. We did and he had ours, and was making cuts. We worked well together."
Immediately following Bradshaw's 4-yard touchdown off the turnover, Brown was at it again, this time recovering a fumble by Cleveland kickoff returner Josh Cribbs to give the Giants first down on the Browns' 29.
Five plays later, Giants quarterback Eli Manning connected with Victor Cruz on the second of the receiver's three touchdown receptions on the day, this one for the 7-yard score to give the Giants their first lead of the day.
"It shows how resilient we are," Cruz said of the Giants comeback from their slow start. "We started out rough and got behind the eight ball a little bit, but we knew we had to keep plugging away, keep putting the drives together, and we're a resilient team, we did that today."
New York kicker Lawrence Tynes, who last week missed a field-goal attempt for the first time this season, was back on track, nailing a 40-yarder with 4 seconds left in the half to give the Giants a 10-point lead.
Things got off to a rocky start for the Giants, who in addition to Phillips were missing receivers Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, plus defensive tackle Rocky Bernard. Bradshaw fumbled the ball away on New York's opening play from scrimmage, and the Browns converted two plays later. Trent Richardson carried twice for 22 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown right up the gut.
The Browns made it 14-0 after their first two possessions of the game, with Weeden hitting Gordon for a 62-yard touchdown reception. Although the Giants cut that lead in half on Manning's first touchdown pass to Cruz, Cleveland got a 32-yard field goal by Phil Dawson to make it 17-7 before the Giants went on their scoring splurge.
In the second half, Cleveland did get a 41-yard field goal by Dawson and a 20-yard touchdown catch by Gordon to close up the gap. The Browns could have had more, though, as after Cleveland cornerback Usama Young picked off a Manning pass intended for Cruz, linebacker Chase Blackburn returned the favor by picking off Weeden's pass intended for tight end Benjamin Watson in the end zone.
That turnover set the stage for Giants running back David Wilson's first career touchdown, a 40-yard run, allowing New York to match its season-high total of 41 points. Wilson's score, which was followed by a celebratory backflip, capped a fine day by the Giants running backs, who combined for 32 carries for 244 yards with two touchdowns.
Moreover, the score helped vindicate Wilson, who had a critical fumble in the Giants' opening game against Dallas, a miscue that landed him in head coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse.
"The offensive line did a great job, so I ran through the hole they created," said Wilson, who said his opening night fumble was in the past. "I'm just focusing on going out there and executing each week and preparing to be ready."
With the win, the Giants improved to 3-2 with a big NFC game coming up next week on the road against the San Francisco 49ers, whom they defeated last year in the NFC Championship Game.
The Browns (0-5) play host to the Bengals next week.
Notes: Manning improved his won-loss record in the month of October to 24-5. ... The Giants have won seven straight against AFC teams, including the postseason, and they have won five of their last six against the Browns. ... The Browns have tied a franchise record for the most consecutive losses. Their five losses this year combined with six straight losses at the end of last season tie their mark of 11 losses set over the 1974 and '75 seasons. ... The Browns have not beaten an NFC team since Oct. 23, 2011, when they topped Seattle 6-3.