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The Plays That Changed The Game: Controversy And History

Two plays, one controversial, one historic, changed the game for the New York Giants.

Robert Griffin III loses control of the ball as he cross the goal line
Robert Griffin III loses control of the ball as he cross the goal line
Al Bello/Getty Images


The New York Giants are officially on a winning streak after beating the inimitable Washington Redskins. The game, however, was both closer and farther apart than the 11 points the final score indicated.

The game essentially hinged on a sequence of two plays surrounding halftime. The Giants were not playing well in the first half of the game. They were being gashed by the Washington rushing attack, and having difficulty adjusting to the change in quarterbacks when Colt McCoy left with an injury.

Then the final play of the first half happened.

With the Redskins down to a third-and-8 with eight seconds to go, Washington attempted a pass into the end zone with the idea of going in to the half with a 17-7 lead, and receiving the kick-off to start the second half. However, Griffin was immediately flushed from the pocket by Damontre Moore and Mike Patterson.

This has normally been a nightmare scenario for the Giants as Griffin's speed virtually guaranteed the touchdown. Unfortunately for Washington and Griffin, Jason Pierre-Paul showed just how special a player he can be. Coming from the opposite side of the field, JPP showed off his athleticism, taking a phenomenal angle and using his length to intercept Griffin and jar the ball loose just before Griffin crossed the goal-line.

What was initially called a touchdown was over-ruled because Griffin couldn't regain possession of the ball before the ground knocked the ball completely away.

The Redskins, understandably, objected vehemently to the call that looked like it robbed them of a touchdown. In the middle of that, Santana Moss got penalized -- twice -- for unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in his being ejected.

Those penalties led to the rarest of unicorns for the Giants: A well-designed, well-executed special teams play to start the second half that resulted in a positive play for the Giants.

With the 30 yards in penalties drawn at the end of the half, the Giants were kicking off from the Washington 35-yard line. Naturally, the Giants opted for the on-side kick, and Josh Brown delivered an excellent one, which the Giants recovered on the Washington 17-yard line. That recovery led to a game-tying field goal.

Given how the Giants' defense had been playing up to that point, it is very possible that if JPP's play just before half accounted for a 17-point swing in the game.

Washington Got Beckham'd

When you're writing about plays that changed the game for the Giants, it's pretty much obligatory that you have to mention Odell Beckham Jr. And given that Beckham effectively changed the Giants' offensive game the first time he stepped on the field against the Falcons, its really a matter of picking out which play changed each game the most.

This week, I'm going to have to go with his second touchdown. Not only did it give Odell Beckham the Giants' record for most receiving yards, but it went a long way to helping the Giants come away with the win.

Washington had just retaken the lead after the Giants had tied it up after recovering the on-side kick to start the second half. The Giants were moving the ball on the Redskins, and had a second-and-5 on the Washington 35-yard line. Then Eli Manning and Odell Beckham hooked up to give the Giants the lead, and they made it look easy.

Manning recognized that the Redskins were in a zone coverage, and had Larry Donnell run down the seam to clear out the middle, while Odell Beckham ran a slant route into the area vacated by Donnell. Eli then used his eyes to hold the defensive backs to the right sideline until the very last instant when he threw the pass to Beckham. On Beckham's part, he ran a characteristically crisp route, then turned on the afterburners to outrun any defenders who might have been able to make a play.

That touchdown gave the Giants the lead, a lead that a freshly energized defense would not let go.