CHICAGO -- Tim Jennings admittedly was beaten, but he still wound up with the ball in his hands to secure a win that helped the Chicago Bears snap a two-game losing streak.
After nearly blowing a 13-point lead in the second half, the Bears hung on to beat the winless New York Giants 27-21 on Thursday night at Soldier Field, riding out a nail-biting final New York drive thanks to the second of Jennings' two interceptions.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," said Jennings, who returned his first interception of the night for a touchdown in the first quarter. "Those guys gave us everything they had and they played great. We just made a few plays at the end, but we left so many plays out there that we've got to correct. But it feels good to get the win and we needed that one."
The Bears (4-2) took sole possession of first place in the NFC North for at least two more days, while the Giants absorbed another gut-wrenching loss. New York fell to 0-6 amid a frustrating start to the season marred by costly injuries and head-scratching mistakes -- including three interceptions thrown by quarterback Eli Manning.
Along with his touchdown return off a pickoff, Jennings hauled in the second one at the Bears 10-yard line with 1:54 left to play and Chicago clinging to six-point lead. He snagged the ball after it went through tight end Brandon Myers' hands in yet another vexing display of futility by the Giants.
"They went back to a play that they ran a couple plays earlier," Jennings said. "I guess they saw something. The ball was overthrown and I was there to make a tackle. I saw the ball was tipped and I was able to get my hands on it."
It was the 15th interception on just six touchdowns for Manning this season.
"I obviously threw the ball a little too high," Manning said of the game-clinching pickoff. "I had a guy open and felt that the ball came out how I wanted it to. I just obviously threw it a little too high. It's unfortunate. I thought we were going to make a drive and win the game, and you know, I made a mistake."
Despite his struggles, Manning's teammates are still firmly supporting him -- including veteran defensive end Justin Tuck, who's seen much better days for the Giants' to offensive threat.
"We've been together a long time and I've seen him do some remarkable things on the football field when all odds have been against him," Tuck said. "I know he's frustrated. He wants to come out here and be the Eli of old and lead us to victory. All we can do as his teammates is continue to support him and encourage him. I still truly believe that he's going to get out of this rut and start leading us to some wins."
The teams combined for 727 yards of total offense (372 for Chicago and 355 for New York), with both quarterbacks leading the way. Jay Cutler completed 24 of 36 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears, who also got a big game out of top receiver Brandon Marshall (nine catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns).
Prior to Jennings' game-clinching heroics, Manning rebounded from throwing interceptions to end the Giants' first two possessions. He wound up completing 14 of 26 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. Veteran Brandon Jacobs scored two rushing touchdowns and churned out 106 yards on 22 carries.
In the end, though, it was the Bears feeling some much-needed relief.
"It's big," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "We need to get as many numbers in that win column that we can. We've got to make a playoff push. We're not even close to where we need to be, but right now we have four wins and we need to get more."
NOTES: The Bears played without Tillman (knee, groin) and DT Stephen Paea (turf toe), who were ruled inactive before the game after being listed as questionable all week. Bowman held down the right cornerback spot in place of Tillman, and Landon Cohen started for Paea. ... The Giants played without starting RB David Wilson (neck), C David Baas (neck) and CB Corey Webster (groin). Jacobs started in place of Wilson, Jim Cordle replaced Baas and Terrell Thomas made the start at left cornerback for Webster. The 6-foot, 191-pound Thomas got the nod there instead of the smaller Trumaine McBride (5-9, 185), likely to match up with the size of Chicago's starting receivers, Marshall (6-4, 230) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3, 216). ... Jon Beason, obtained by the Giants in a trade a week ago, also got into the starting lineup, replacing MLB Mark Herzlich. Damontre Moore (hamstring) was active despite being listed as doubtful leading up to the game. ... The interception return for a touchdown by Jennings was his second of the year and third of the season by the Chicago defense, which has the most in the NFL (12) in the past two seasons. Six teams are tied for second in that category with five each. ... Devin Hester surpassed Glyn Milburn for most kick return yards (4,643) in Bears history.