Giants 19, Bills 17

As Cary Blanchard lined up for a field goal that would decide whether the New York Giants would win or lose, he figured the pressure was off.

Buffalo's Steve Christie had already missed a couple, so Blanchard decided he couldn't look too bad.

``When the other kicker misses, it gives you more confidence,'' Blanchard said. ``If you miss, it's a wash.''

Blanchard didn't miss the final kick or three others Sunday, and his 48-yarder with 40 seconds left beat the Bills 19-17, keeping the banged-up Giants close in the NFC East playoff race and damaging Buffalo's hopes in the AFC East.

``It's all feel,'' said Blanchard, whose confidence, and foot, never wavered. ``It's like hitting a golf shot. When it left my leg, I knew it was good.''

The Giants defense stopped the Bills cold on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1, giving quarterback Kerry Collins and Blanchard another shot.

The win kept the Giants (7-6) in a second-place tie with Dallas, one game behind Washington in a forgiving division. The Bills (8-5) trail Indianapolis by three games and now must struggle just to make the playoffs.

``We can kiss the division goodbye,'' said Bills tailback Antowain Smith, who gained 19 yards on six carries as Buffalo's running game managed just 76 yards. ``I guess we thought they were going to give us the game.''

Blanchard, signed after Brad Daluiso was lost for the season Oct. 18, kicked three other field goals, two of 21 yards and one of 42 yards, making him 13-of-14 for the season. Collins accounted for the Giants' touchdown with a 14-yard pass to Amani Toomer.

``I don't know if I've ever been as proud of a team,'' Giants coach Jim Fassel said. ``Even with the injuries, the attitude was that we were going to fight.''

The Bills scored on Doug Flutie's TD pass to Thomas in the veteran's first game back since the Bills' leading career rusher was injured on the first play of the season.

Buffalo (8-5) added a 50-yard field goal by Christie and a 2-yard touchdown by Jonathan Linton with 9:34 to play after Bills defensive end Marcellus Wiley grabbed Collins' batted pass and returned the interception 52 yards. Linton's run made it 17-16.

New York (7-6) began its winning drive at its own 36 with 2:09 to play.

Collins, making his third straight start after replacing Kent Graham, drove the Giants 33 yards in nine plays, including a 15-yard pass to Tiki Barber on third-and-15 to the Buffalo 36.

That set up Blanchard for the winning field goal and New York's second straight victory over an AFC East team.

Collins, who threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over the Jets last week, completed 23 of 44 passes for 240 yards. Rookie running back Joe Montgomery gained 77 yards on 20 carries.

``We just kept our confidence from last week,'' Collins said.

Buffalo seemed headed for a win after Collins had his pass blocked by backup Sean Price and caught at the line of scrimmage by Wiley.

Wiley looked up at the stadium JumboTron as he ran to see who was behind him. Giants receiver Ike Hilliard caught Wiley from behind at the New York 22. Flutie then threw a 13-yard pass to tight end Bobby Collins on third down, and Linton scored three plays later.

The injury- and penalty-plagued Giants sputtered before Buffalo gave them the ball back after failing to convert on fourth-and-1 with 2:09 to play.

``Our defense held their ground and guys made plays,'' Collins said. ``I said: `Just give me time.'''

Tackle Keith Hamilton came up with stops on Thurman Thomas on third-and-1 and Linton on fourth-and-1 at the New York 36.

Christie gave Buffalo a 3-0 lead on the Bills' first possession, but struck the left goal post on a 39-yard attempt in the second quarter. He pushed a 48-yarder wide right in the third.

New York took a 13-10 halftime lead when Collins drove the Giants 67 yards, capping the drive with 3 seconds left with the 14-yard touchdown pass to Toomer.

Buffalo took a 10-6 lead on Flutie's 23-yard screen pass to Thomas, who rambled to the end zone with 1:51 left in the half.

Collins engineered another drive for a 21-yard field goal by Blanchard and a 16-10 lead with 4:28 left in the third quarter. Collins threw 14 yards to Barber, and Montgomery weaved through the Buffalo defense on a 14-yard run to set up Blanchard's easy kick.

The Giants were banged up with defensive back Jason Sehorn out for the season. Jessie Armstead and Michael Strahan both played on injured knees, middle linebacker Corey Widmer was battling back spasms, and Shaun Williams was back after missing five games with a strained hamstring.

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