Cardinals blow late lead again, lose to Giants

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By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) These fourth-quarter flops are growing old in a hurry for the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals stuck to the theme on Sunday, giving up a pair of quick late touchdown drives to hand the New York Giants a 31-27 victory.

Arizona (1-3) has lost three games by a combined eight points. In each game, the Cardinals had a chance to win at the end.

"It's one thing to go into a game when you don't have a clue and you just get beat from the start," defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "That's not the case with this team. We've got to find a way to finish these games, and we will do that."

Instead, Eli Manning did the finishing.

Playing at the scene of his 2008 Super Bowl triumph, he threw two touchdown passes in a 58-second span late in the game.

The scoring passes of 2 yards to Jake Ballard with 3:37 to go and 29 yards to Hakeem Nicks with 2:39 left came after the Cardinals seemingly had taken control at 27-17 on Beanie Wells' third rushing touchdown of the game with 5:16 to go.

The go-ahead touchdown came after Manning threw 29 yards to Victor Cruz, who stumbled to the ground, got up and left the ball on the ground on a play the Cardinals insisted was a fumble. The referee said the call could not be challenged because Cruz "gave himself up" on the play and therefore was down.

The rule book says a play is over when a runner "declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance." Cruz said he thought he was touched before he went down.

"We got a break on that one I think," Manning said. "I thought it was going to get ruled a fumble and I saw it pretty clear. I don't know what the call was or why."

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said all he knew was that the referee told him it could not be challenged.

"What's the understanding of that rule? I don't know," Whisenhunt said. "I'd like to think it shouldn't have come to that play. That's kind of the way I have to look at it."

The Cardinals were still fuming when Manning ran the next play, throwing to Nicks for the go-ahead score.

"It hurts because we thought it was a fumble and it should be our ball, and then we probably win the game," Arizona defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. "Then you get caught up in the emotion and they line up and throw a deep ball. They took advantage of our emotions."

The Giants went no-huddle on the last two drives, and Manning completed 7 of 8 for 126 yards as the Giants (3-1) won their third in a row.

Arizona rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson was asked what Manning did differently on those last two possessions.

"Honestly he didn't do anything impressive," Peterson said. "We've just got to make plays, to be honest with you."

Wells, who missed the previous game with a hamstring injury, rushed for a career-best 138 yards. Echoing his teammates, he emphasized the potential, not the fact the team has lost three in a row.

"We know how good of a football team we can be," he said. "It is very evident when we go out there and play."

The Cardinals' last gasp ended when Kevin Kolb's pass to Larry Fitzgerald from the New York 30 fell incomplete.

Arizona has lost three in a row, all in the same excruciating fashion.

"I'm just disappointed, very disappointed," Kolb said. "It's just hard to swallow losing one like that."

Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 102 yards to break the franchise records for career yards receiving and career 100-yard games. He was asked why his team wasn't able to respond to the late New York drives.

"I wish I had an answer for you," Fitzgerald said. "We just weren't able to when we needed to. At times we looked good out there. We were in sync, we were moving the ball around, and guys were all getting involved. There were other times when we were just stagnant."

Kolb, still struggling to take hold of Arizona's offense, was 20 for 34 for 237 yards, with one interception and one lost fumble.

The Cardinals took the lead with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, one set up by Fitzgerald's phenomenal grab of a 47-yard pass, the other when Manning fumbled the ball at the New York 5.

Nose tackle David Carter, a sixth-round draft pick out of UCLA, burst up the middle and stripped the ball out of Manning's hand. Dockett fell on the ball for Arizona. Wells ran for 4 yards, then plunged in from the 1 to put Arizona up 20-10 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

The big play for Arizona earlier in the third came when Fitzgerald and defender Deon Grant went up after Kolb's long pass. Initially, Grant appeared to have the ball, but as they came down, Fitzgerald wrestled it away with his right arm. The 47-yard completion gave Arizona the ball at the New York 10.

A 7-yard pass to Fitzgerald gave Arizona a first down at the 1, and Wells pounded it in from there to put Arizona up 13-10 with 10:24 left in the third quarter.