For the New York Giants, Sunday night was a tale of two halves. They dominated the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and watched their season die with a whimper in the second. That dichotomy was perfectly captured with two plays.
Let's just rip the band-aide off and address the second half first.
A Very Costly Interception
Other than the final play of the game -- which just seems to perfectly sum up the season as a whole -- no play defined the second half more than Eli Manning's only interception of the night.
With 3:16 left in the third quarter, the Giants were protecting a four-point lead and driving deep into Dallas territory. After a 12-yard completion to Odell Beckham Jr. the Giants were set up in scoring position on the Dallas 18-yard line. After an attempt to get Beckham Jr. his third touchdown of the evening fell incomplete, Eli tried his luck with Preston Parker over the middle.
The play was designed to use play-action to draw defenders down and open up the middle of the defense to a crossing route. It worked perfectly, with nothing but turf between Parker and six points. The problem came when Eli threw a poor pass that was just out of reach for the wide-open Parker. Instead of being caught, the ball was deflected to safety Barry Church. He then returned it 42 yards, setting up a touchdown that gave the Cowboys the lead and completely changed the complexion of the game.
Manning took the blame, as you knew he would.
"Just high, just threw it high. He was a little flatter than I anticipated and just kind of ... no excuse though, you've got a guy running open, I've got to hit him right in the numbers," Manning said.
Parker could have attacked the ball and come down with it, but it was a poorly thrown ball that he was expecting in stride, and that is on Eli.
Ultimately, the game was lost on the final play when Jennings came up short of the first down on a fourth-down reception, but for the second time in three weeks the downfall began with a deflating interception late in the third quarter.
It's Odell's World, We're Just Living In It
Now that the painful second half is over with, let's get to the one play that everyone, including Dez Bryant, will remember this game for.
Odell Beckham's second touchdown. The one that, for an hour or so, seemed to take over the world.
There really are no words to describe it other than simply amazing.
There are, however, plenty of tweets about it:
From Beckham's current (albeit injured) teammate:
That's the best catch I've ever seen— Victor Cruz (@TeamVic) November 24, 2014
Former Giants were impressed as well.
Lawrence Tynes (@lt4kicks) November 24, 2014
Here, incidentally, is a GIF you will enjoy:
And of course Beckham's biggest fan stated the obvious:
My Goodness.... That young man is bad!!!!— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) November 24, 2014
And even a former Cowboy and a Dallas fan had to stand up and take notice:
INCREDIBLE!!! to that Grab by @OBJ_3 simply one of the greatest grabs in a game I have ever seen. WOW— Michael Irvin (@michaelirvin88) November 24, 2014
Man I just witnessed the greatest catch ever possibly by Odell Beckham Jr! WOW!!!!— LeBron James (@KingJames) November 24, 2014
Not even Tom Coughlin had quite seen anything like it, and he gets to see Beckham every day: "He's got a gift, there's no doubt. I've seen him make a lot of one-handed catches, but none falling down like that."
That catch didn't just change the game, because Beckham had already shown truly amazing hands, catch radius, body control, route running, and athleticism. That catch changed the way defense have to view the New York Giants offense. It gave us a glimpse into the future, to what might be when Eli Manning gets a full off-season to work with Beckham, when Ben McAdoo's offense is fully installed, and the armory stocked with weapons.
In short, it gave every single Giants fan tremendous hope for the future. Not only will the offense continue to get better and more dangerous, but Odell Beckham will get better.