Well, it almost happened. The New York Giants came within an inch of beating the undefeated New England Patriots. It was a game that was supposed to be a blowout, but the Giants lead for most of it, until it became a back and forth nail-biter in the fourth quarter.
On one hand, the Giants took the class of the NFL to the final second.
On the other hand, this was a game that the Giants had multiple opportunities to put away, and never quite could. In my prediction I said that this game was going to be much closer than everyone thught, and that when the Giants and Pats throw down, it is always a good thing.
I guess I was right, but why aren't I happy?
Odell giveth, the refs taketh away ...
At first I was wondering how to do these. Chronologically makes sense, the two plays bookend the game, after all. But instead I'm just going put them together. A yin and yang kind of thing.
After a methodical touchdown drive that took up most of the first quarter, pretty much everybody was questioning the Giants' decision to give the Patriots the ball to start the game.
In two plays later, Odell Beckham was dancing in the endzone, after scoring the longest play the Patriots have given up since Bill Belichick has been their head coach. It was also the longest play of Beckham's young career.
.@OBJ_3's 87-yd TD rec is the LONGEST play allowed by a Pats team coached by Bill Belichick. Today's his 278th game https://t.co/gViNCe64Ug— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 15, 2015
Then, with just 2:06 left in the game, Eli Manning threw a pass to the corner of the endzone. Once again, Beckham caught the ball. However just after he got his second foot down, Malcolm Butler swiped at the ball, knocking it loose.
After ruling the play a touchdown, replay officials overturned the call, ruling the pass incomplete.
But here's where things get sticky. This year the NFL reworded their "Catch/Non-Catch" rules, to say that a player who isn't going to the ground needs to become a "runner" in the end zone. That is defined as being "capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact."
However, this seems to contradict this passage from the NFL rule book: "In the field of play, if a catch of a forward pass has been completed, after which contact by a defender causes the ball to become loose before the runner is down by contact, it is a fumble, and the ball remains alive. In the end zone, the same action is a touchdown, since the receiver completed the catch beyond the goal line prior to the loss of possession, and the ball is dead when the catch is completed."
This raises the question ... How exactly does one become "clearly become a runner" in the end zone? Beckham clearly has the ball in his hands, and has two feet down, moving toward the sideline before the swipe connects, and the third step is taken before the ball starts moving.
Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin said he knew when the play went to replay that "it could be ruled against us."
Beckham said that he "definitely caught the ball and got two feet down." He also, however, shouldered blame for not finishing the play.
"I lost us the game with the play down in the end zone, a play that should have been made," Beckham said. "You can't leave it up to the officials to get anything right. You've got to make the play yourself and it was just a case of playing the play longer than the opponent."
Giants' quarterback Eli Manning was not surprised by the overturned call.
"Just lookg at it, it's kind of the way the rule is making the football move, especially in the end zone," Manning said. "You've got to have it the whole time and so I wasn't surprised after seeing the replay."
Butler, of course, applauded the call.
"I mean, look how the rule is. I mean, you can catch the ball and fall and come up. I mean that's not a completion but that's what's different. You're just standing up. I've got to believe that we were going to get the call," Butler said.
As Tony Dungy remarked after the game, a nearly identical "Bang-Bang" play happened with Golden Tate earlier in the season, and it was ruled a touchdown because he "wasn't going to the ground". Dungy then opined that he didn't know what a catch [in the end zone] was anymore.
Neither do we Tony. Neither do we.
Collins drops the ball ... and the game
After a Josh Brown field goal to put the Giants up 26-24, the Giants Tom Brady heaved a ball down the middle of the field with 1:47 -- That probably should have been lower, but Rashad Jennings had an un-timed 5-yard run with 2:10 left after the game clock failed to run after the Patriots' first timeout. The ball was a high floater as the Giants' pressure affected Brady, and it very nearly turned into the game winner.
With Aaron Dobson nearly 10 yards away from the pass, the only potential receivers in the area were Landon Collins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. DRC was in position to make a play on the ball, but Collins leaped into the air and caught it, effectively ending the game. Until a hard landing jarred the ball loose, and the Patriots got new life. Again.
It was a rookie mistake. Collins was in position, but DRC was in better position. He didn't have to leap, but he did. He had to come down with the ball at all costs, but he landed hard and awkwardly, and couldn't hang on. And as the ball bounced away, the so did the Giants' chances of beating the Patriots.
There were other opportunities. Poor offensive play calls, officiating mistakes and no-calls, but no other play sums up the game so eloquently: The Giants had this game in hand, but they couldn't quite reel it in.