EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants were loathe to admit it, but they desperately needed a victory Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens. And they knew it.
So, after all the twists and turns. After thinking they had the game in hand only to see a highly questionable pass interference call against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie set up a go-ahead score for Baltimore with 2:08 left. After a 75-yard Odell Beckham touchdown gave them back the lead with 1:36 to play. After surviving a final desperation drive by the Ravens that was given life by a fourth down roughing the passer penalty on Owamagbe Odighizuwa, there was relief after the Giants escaped with the 27-23 victory.
“This was a must win. Maybe we didn’t say that too much, but it was,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said after the game in the Giants’ locker room. “Two and four, not a good look. Three and three, that’s manageable. We’d of dropped two at home if we’d of lost this one. That’s not cool at all.”
“We had to win this week,” said offensive lineman Justin Pugh. “I don’t want to say it was a must win, but the confidence that just gave us. Now we’ve got to go out next week, get another win, 4-3 going into the bye sounds pretty good.”
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said the Giants recognized the “big difference” between 2-4 and 3-3.
“You’re right in the hunt,” DRC said.
Yes, the Giants are. The Washington Redskins defeated the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, 27-20. If the Dallas Cowboys can hold off Green Bay they would be 5-1, but Sunday’s win keeps the Giants in the NFC East conversation.
The Giants have had three straight losing seasons and haven’t made the playoffs in the past four. We talked earlier Sunday about how, when things began to go wrong in those earlier seasons, they stayed wrong.
Sunday against the Ravens, there were plenty of times when it looked eerily similar to the last three years, when it looked like the Giants might be headed to a largely self-inflicted fourth straight loss that would likely lead to another season of playing out the string.
Only this time, the Giants were able to fight back.
A Beckham fumble on the Giants’ first offensive play helped Baltimore to a 10-0 lead.
The Giants didn’t get a first down until there were less than 10 minutes left in the first half.
They didn’t score until Roger Lewis caught a 24-yard touchdown pass with 2:28 left in the first half.
They had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line on their first possession of the third quarter and could only come away with a game-tying field goal.
An interception of Eli Manning by Tavon Young set Baltimore up for a field goal that gave them a 13-10 lead, and you might have figured at that time that the Giants were ready to fold. The last three seasons they almost certainly would have.
Not this time.
One play after Baltimore took the lead, Beckham went 75 yards for a score to give the Giants back the lead.
The Giants then came up with a goal line stand, Jonathan Casillas stopping running back Terrance West on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
The Giants, though, had more to overcome.
Leading 20-16, it looked like the Giants would stop the Ravens when Rodgers-Cromartie batted down a deep Joe Flacco pass. He was mysteriously called for pass interference, though, a call no one in the Giants’ locker room agreed with. That put Baltimore at the 8-yard line and helped the Ravens regain the lead with 2:04 left.
Then Beckham and Manning struck again, with a fourth-and-one 66-yard connection on a slant pass.
There was one final thing to overcome, one final Ravens drive which was lengthened when the fourth down roughing the passer penalty put Baltimore on the Giants’ 24-yard line with 15 ticks still on the clock. The Giants held, though, forcing three game-ending incompletions.
“You have to believe that we’re going to make the plays that we need to. The defense did a great job making stops. Offensively, same thing. We didn’t start off great but we got a great rhythm and kept going. There were some unfortunate plays but we bounced back and made the plays that we needed to so that’s what we had to do this week,” said Manning, who passed for 403 yards and three scores. “It’s not always going to be easy, it’s going to be tough at times. There’s going to be lulls when you’re playing great and not playing great. But you just have to believe you can do it every time and make the plays you need to make to win the game.”
Whether they believed they could or not, in the last three seasons the Giants have almost always come up short when it was time to make those plays. They made them on Sunday.
Does that mean they will go to the playoffs? No, they’re still in last place in the division. It means though that maybe, just maybe, they have have a chance to make things turn out differently this season. And that is a positive development.