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Panthers 38, Giants 35: Plays that changed the game

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The Giants have squandered more opportunities as they lose to the Panthers

Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants needed to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. Those hopes are still alive, but realistically, they're in the coffin and the shovels have dirt on the blades.

First, the Giants did everything they could to lose the game. Then they came roaring back ... Then, in the most "Giants" way possible, they lost on a field goal as time expired.

With the Giants locked into their third straight .500 (or worse) season, let's take a look at the plays that got them there.

Missed Opportunities ...

The Giants probably should have gone into half-time with a 24-21 lead. Instead, they went in with a 21-7 deficit. Why? With the 2015 Giants, why else? Missed opportunities that left points on the field.

1) The first of them came on the Giants very first drive. Odell Beckham was matched up on Josh Norman (something that will get talked about to no end throughout the week), and burned him to the tune of 2.5 yards of separation. Eli Manning let an absolutely perfect pass fly, which hit Beckham in the hands. It's a scene we've seen many times before, but this time instead of Beckham running away for the defense for a touchdown, the ball slipped through his hands. It was the beginning of a long afternoon for Beckham, and the first of -- at least -- five drops for the Giants.

A drop on the next play would bring Brad Wing on the field and a Giants' punt.

Points On the Field: 7

2) After a great punt by Wing and a quick three and out by the Giants' defense, the Giants were set to get the ball back with great field position. It got even better when Dwayne Harris returned the Panthers' punt to (about) the Carolina 32-yard line. The Giants should have been in field range from their first offensive snap.

However, a holding penalty by Tramain Jacobs pushed the Giants back to mid-field. Another three and out once again brought Brad Wing onto the field, and instead of a touchdown or field goal, the Giants gave the ball back to the Panthers.

Points On The Field: 10

3) Late in the second quarter, after JPP's first official sack of the season, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had the chance to do what he had done so much for the Giants' this season: Make a QB pay for an errant throw and get the Giants some points.

Pressure from the Giants' pass rush had gotten to Newton, forcing a poor throw. A poor throw that went right to DRC's hands. Uncharacteristically, Rodgers-Cromartie let the ball go through his hands, looking to the end zone before he could secure the ball. It was an easy touchdown, with nothing but green between DRC and the end zone. Instead, the ball once again fell harmlessly to the turf.

Points On The Field: 17

The Giants rose up midway through the third quarter and tied the game with a heroic effort, scoring 28 unanswered points in just under 15 minutes of game time, but ultimately it was too little, too late.

If any of these plays had gone the other way, perhaps we are talking about the Giants winning and keeping their playoff hopes alive. If they could capitalize on all of their opportunities, the Giants would have ended Carolina's undefeated streak in a blowout.

Of course, if the 2015 New York Giants could capitalize when opportunities presented themselves, they would be vying for a 1st round bye with the division locked up instead of wondering what is to come this offseason.