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Did a linebacker save the Giants’ season on a goal-line stand?

Jonathan Casillas’ fourth down stop might have saved the Giants’ season

Baltimore Ravens v New York Giants
Jonathan Casillas tackles Terrance West on a fourth-and-goal play.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The New York Giants’ season was on life support coming in to Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, and to a certain extent it still is.

But the Giants got a win, getting back to .500 before leaving for their game against the Los Angeles Rams in London next week, though they are still at the bottom of an improved NFC East.

The talk of Sunday’s game is the electric performance by Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning completing just under 70 percent of his passes for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, and rightfully so. Lost in the talk, however, is a play that might have saved the Giants’ season.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Giants’ defense stood strong and held the Ravens out of the end zone on a fourth-down goal line stand. At the end of the third quarter a 70-yard strike from Joe Flacco to Mike Wallace put the Ravens in scoring position on the Giants’ 3-yard line. The next three plays were running plays: The first by Terrance West to the right for two yards, a quarterback run up the middle by Flacco for no gain, and another run by West to the left for no gain.

End of third quarter — 15 minutes of football left to play.

The very first play of the fourth quarter saw the Ravens lined up in a heavy formation on fourth down with one more chance to go one yard to score and go up 20-17.

It was linebacker Jonathan Casillas who made the play to keep the Giants alive. West got a pitch to the left, and Casillas was there almost before he had the ball to make the stop for the loss.

“Yeah, it was an outside toss play and they have a good fullback,” Casillas said, “the fullback cut me and I did a good job of using my hands and protecting my legs and it was one on one with me and the back and I made a pretty good play.”

It was a “pretty good play” indeed. Fellow linebacker Mark Herzlich was in position to make sure that West wouldn’t get back to the line of scrimmage but when the running back got more than three quarters of his nearly 100 yards rushing after contact the week before, you can’t take any tackle for granted. And a lot more goes into it than just making the tackle.

“Have your eyes in the correct place.” Casillas said when asked what the key was “If I had been too heavy on the tight end, I would have maybe got sealed by the fullback. I felt like I had my eyes in the right place and I did a good job in block construction and made a sound tackle on the running back.”