Coming into the game between the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, every single Big Blue View staff member listed this game as one that scared them. A game where, on paper, everything was going in the Giants' favor. An injured, flawed team that does not play up to their potential on the road coming to Met Life, to play a Giants team coming off consecutive dominant wins.
In years past these were the games where the Giants would ALWAYS come out flat and look like the team that was supposed to lose.
And for the first half of the game, it looked like deja vu all over again. Then over halftime, something clicked.The defense started to show some signs of life, but they couldn't get out of their own way. They kept forcing three and outs, but still couldn't get off the field, giving the ball back to the Falcons twice on the same possession. Then Antrel Rolle missed a tackle, and Dominique Rodgers- Cromartie took a horrible angle, too spring Antoine Smith for a huge touchdown.
Then the Giants got the ball and Odell Beckham Jr changed the game.
Odell Beckham - Making Impressions
Odell Beckham draws two defensive penalties on the same play
At the start of the play Beckham is matched up one on one with Robert Alford, who is in tight press man coverage. As you can see, the Falcons are selling out to generate a pass rush, sending seven blitzers with man coverage on Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Beckham.
Just two plays prior, Alford had tried to play off Beckham slightly, but the rookie wideout ran right by the corner for what could have been a long touchdown.
This is the result. Alford jammed Beckham off the snap, and transitioned into a hold down the field. That hold turned into a pass interference after the ball was thrown. You can see Beckham's jersey pulled up over his shell and his arm held.
This play moved the Giants offense 26 yards and helped to put them in position for --fellow rookie-- Andre Williams' touchdown rumble. But more importantly, this play absolutely forced the Falcons to respect Beckham's speed and game breaking ability. After this play Atlanta was forced to move a defensive back away from the line of scrimmage. That opened things up for Victor Cruz and Andre Williams.
Johnathan Hankins - Fourth and Sacked
I wanted to find a play by Jason Pierre-Paul that changed the game... But I couldn't. He took over the defensive side of the ball, and was just consistently dominant.
Instead, I decided to focus on Johnathan Hankins, who had a great game -- and season -- in his own right. This play didn't exactly change the game. No, it effectively ended it for the Atlanta Falcons.
John Hankins Sacks Matt Ryan For A Loss Of 9 On 4th Down
It is still a 7 point game, and this is the Falcons last (realistic) chance of moving the football and forcing over-time or going for the win. Since the start of the second half the Giants' defense had largely been playing lights out, however Mike Smith made the decision to trust his offense to pick up one yard, rather than his defense's ability to stop Eli Manning and the Giants' offense.
On this crucial fourth down the Giants are showing blitz, while Falcons look likely to throw the ball.
John Hankins -- in yellow, because of the shadow on the field -- beats the left guard immediately off the snap with a quick inside move. Beside him JPP has rookie Jake Matthews overwhelmed and on his heels while Markus Kuhn is (somewhat inexplicably) dealing with a double team. Matt Ryan is holding the ball waiting for a receiver to work open.
And here's the end of the play. Both Mathias Kiwanuka and JPP have beaten their blockers, but it was Hankins' rush up the middle that ended the play with the sack.
Going in to the 2014 season Giants' fans knew they had a load of a defensive tackle in Hankins. They saw how he played a roll in shutting down some of the best running backs the NFL had to offer in 2013. What nobody counted on was the unfair amount of quickness the big man had to go along with his mass and power.
The title for this is "Two Plays That Changed The Game", but really only one of them changed the game. The second just shut the door on any chance the Falcons had of coming back and winning. Forcing the turnover on downs deep in the Falcons' territory and late in the game set the Giants up to go up by two scores, but it was Odell Beckham providing the spark to change the game and get the Giants engine firing on all cylinders.
The Giants reportedly had him rated higher than either Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, and Sunday we saw why. Beckham brings a speed and dimension to the offense that it lost with David Wilson and Jerrel Jernigan. He changed the game.