Heart. Energy. Big downfield throws and some final drive magic from Eli Manning. Odell Beckham Jr. finally getting into the end zone. Saquon Barkley scoring twice. Fighting back from a 27-16 fourth-quarter deficit. Eclipsing the 30-point mark for the first time in 38 games.
Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers had everything the New York Giants could have wanted. Except for the victory they so desperately needed.
What is it about the Giants and the bad karma of 60+ yard game-ending field goals? In Week 3 of 2017, Jake Elliott of the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Giants with a 61-yarder as time expired. Sunday, Graham Gano drove a dagger into their season with a 63-yarder as time expired that sent the 1-4 Giants to a 33-31 defeat.
An angry, raw day for the Giants
Beckham’s comments to ESPN reporter Josina Anderson, aired to a national TV audience and made with rapper L’il Wayne along for the ride, cut the Giants open. The remarks first surfaced on Friday, and they caused coach Pat Shurmur to make Beckham apologize to the team.
Shurmur had to be wounded by Beckham’s decision to air his gripes the way he did. The coach has invested tons of time and effort into building a relationship with Beckham, something neither Tom Coughlin nor Ben McAdoo were able to do. Until Friday, all signs were that it had worked. Shurmur had every right to be “livid” with Beckham, as a FOX Sports report indicated was the case.
The bleeding hadn’t stopped after the game, something made obvious by the challenging, emotional tone of his post-game remarks.
The way the game unfolded didn’t stanch the wound. It pretty much just ripped it open wider, or opened up a whole bunch of new wounds.
The phantom unnecessary roughness call on Landon Collins was perhaps the game-changing play. Instead of a Carolina punt, the Panthers were gifted a first down at the Giants’ 44-yard line and turned it into a touchdown that gave them a 26-17 lead with less that 12 minutes to play.
Shurmur said he saw Collins “making a play on the ball with no attempt, no attempt to target the receiver.” Several Giants players will be sure to see the NFL lighten their wallets this week after their angry reactions, especially Damon Harrison, who said the Giants had the win “stolen” from them.
The questionable giving of a first down to Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey on a third-and-1 at the Giants’ 46-yard line, and the replay booth’s failure to stop the action and review it, was another wound-inducing officiating blunder.
That didn’t end up changing the distance of the kick, but the Panthers — out of timeouts — were gifted a first down with 12 seconds left and could then control the clock rather than having to rush Gano onto the field for a harried kick in the waning seconds likely made a huge difference.
The gut punch of watching Gano’s kick, which tied the NFL record for the longest game-winning kick ever, sail through the uprights, was just final cruel knife twist for the Giants.
But, was it a mortal blow?
The Giants are 1-4. They have to regroup quickly and get ready for a Thursday Night Football game against the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium.
When the Giants took a similar gut punch last season, losing to the Eagles on a 61-yard game-ending field goal by Jake Elliott after staging a furious fourth-quarter rally, you could tell from the blank faces and the beaten voices in the post-game locker room that the season was over.
There was no anger. There was just shock. And resignation.
After that, the season — as all Giants fans know — went all the way off the rails.
Will that happen this time?
I don’t think so. The Giants are angry now. Not shocked and resigned.
They hurt themselves in a lot of ways on Sunday. Beckham wounded them with his words. Manning threw two interceptions before rediscovering the late-game magic that once was routine, throwing two touchdown passes in the final 8:53 and giving the Giants a chance to win. Beckham messed up a punt that cost the Giants a touchdown and he dropped a fourth-and-3 pass that cost them an early scoring opportunity. Saquon Barkley had runs of 30 and 20 yards, yet somehow managed only 48 total rushing yards on 15 carries. The pass rush was mostly non-existent. The tackling was often shoddy.
A lot of good things happened, though. The best thing was that the Giants, as Shurmur said, “played hard” and “played tough.”
They kept going. Despite falling behind 17-3. Despite the special teams’ mistakes. Despite the two second-half interceptions. Despite losing a fumble recovery because Curtis Riley was out of bounds. Despite their own all-too-apparent shortcomings. Despite the poor work by the officials.
The Giants made plays. They dug deep into the playbook for a home run pass from Beckham to Barkley. Despite the awful run-blocking they gave the ball to Barkley often enough for him to create a couple of spectacular runs. They attacked down the field on offense. They kept working on defense, kept trying to hold Carolina at bay. They didn’t pack it in when it was 26-17 and the game looked lost.
I have no idea what the rest of the season will be like for the Giants. Maybe they are on their way to another 3-13 season. Maybe they can use their anger, whether it’s at Beckham, the officials, the football Gods who control 60-yard field goals, the media, the schedule-makers for making them play the Eagles on short rest, as a springboard to better results over the final 11 games.
I do know, however, that I like these angry 2018 Giants have a better chance of getting things right before the season ends the 2017 version of the Giants ever had.