By Curt Macysyn
Realistically, if prior to the game, fans of Big Blue were given a scenario where the New York Giants led the New England Patriots with under two minutes left in the game, they would have signed up for it right then and there. Those who now say “no way” are either utilizing revisionist history, or quite simply, lying through their teeth. Conversely, acknowledging any lead late in a game represents a good thing is much different than saying a two point lead against the defending world champions with 1:47 left in the game is a secure one. Obviously through the resulting 27-26 loss to the Patriots, the Giants and their fans, know otherwise.
Unlike some games, the closeness of the one point margin was not contradicted by the games statistics. The G-men outgained the Pats by a small margin (422 total yards vs. 406 total yards), yet we are not likely to hear an indictment of the Patriots defense this week. Ironically, the Giants and the Patriots each gained an average of 6.0 yards per offensive play, as well as an identical 7.3 yards per pass play. That sums up how close the game was.
Einstein opined that the definition of insanity was doing the same things over and over, yet still expecting a different result. With that theory as the back drop, we can take a look at the key points of this latest Giants late game flop.
After making similar egregious errors against the Dallas Cowboys on opening day, as well as some of the same clock management mistakes in close losses to the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, the Giants apparently have learned nothing. And while the issues with clock management are exacerbated at the end of the game, the underpinnings of this problem exist throughout the game.
Having the ball first and goal, first and goal on the Patriots five-yard line with 2:06 left in the game and one time-out left, the Giants were seemingly in the catbird seat. Being aggressive is great, but in that situation, Big Blue could have hedged its bet by running the ball once, if not twice, in order to burn clock. Three pass plays later, two incompletions and one quarterback sack, the Patriots came out smelling like roses with a two-point deficit and almost two minutes for Tom Brady and company to get in field goal range.
If there is a fault that Eli Manning still has not overcome, it is his constant check-offs at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes just running the play call is the best option. After the game Manning admitted that run plays were called on the final drive, but “[the Patriots] were not going to let us run.” Of course the were not going to allow that, but running plays at that point served a dual purpose.
It also would not hurt if the team gave a solid commitment to the running game, and one running back to get into a rhythm. For instance, the Giants had the lead for close to 18 minutes on Sunday, including the entire third quarter, but the G-men lost the time of possession battle by three minutes on Sunday. The lack of a running game has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for Big Blue.
Drop It Like Beckham
Much is being made of the Odell Beckham drop of a touchdown pass on the last drive, and certainly the play merits scrutiny. To his credit, Beckham took full responsibility, not only for the play, but for the loss, in his post-game comments. “I lost us the game with the play down in the end zone, a play that should have been made. 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.”
While it is great to see Beckham show leadership characteristics by owning the drop, the fact of the matter is that a touchdown there would not have sealed the deal for the Giants. With a Beckham touchdown, and a successful two-point conversion, the Giants would have had a 31-24 lead with 2:06 remaining in the game and one time-out. Certainly Beckham has to tuck the ball away, especially when the Patriots were making a special emphasis to defend until the whistle. Even with a successful catch, there still would have been plenty of time for Brady to march the offense down the field for a game-tying or game-winning touchdown, which is why burning the clock and time-outs were so critical.
Landon On His Head
It probably was not so much that a potential interception by safety Landon Collins was dropped, but more so how that occurred that should be scrutinized. Only Collins knows why he pulled up two steps early on one of the worst passes you will ever see Tom Brady throw, in a situation that would have iced the game for the G-men. In this generation of ESPN Sport Center highlights, the routine must become spectacular, in order to stand out from the crowd.
If it was not a case of theatrics, then it was an inferior play on the ball from a player who has touted his SEC lineage for playing in big games. In the cases of clock management and the Beckham drop, we can only speculate what the ultimate outcome of the game might have been. In the case of the dropped interception by Collins, we know that it would have iced a Giants victory.
“I’ve made many plays like that. It’s the fact that I just didn’t keep my body upward. If I kept my body upward and landed on my back and made the ball, I just landed on my head at the time,” Collins said after the game. Maybe when he takes a look at game film he might see that he did not need to leap at all in order to get the pick.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.