To assert that the Giants’ playoff hopes were at stake Sunday versus the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium may not be an overstatement. Certainly their goal of winning the NFC East division title was in jeopardy of being recalibrated.
Despite it being only Week 6 of the National Football League season, the Giants were 2-3 and facing losing their fourth straight game. A defeat would have put them three games behind the 5-1 division-leading Dallas Cowboys and two full games in back of second place Washington. Simple mathematics bares that the Giants would have had to attain a record of 6-4 in their remaining 10 games just to reach 8-8, a .500 record unlikely to even earn them a wild-card spot.
Thus, their 27-23 victory was perhaps season altering, given the substantial obstacles they would be facing to scale their way to postseason contention. The win was achieved on the strength of a resolute goal-line stand by the defense to begin the fourth quarter and an electrifying 66-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on a fourth and one, do or die play with 1:24 left in the game and the Giants trailing 23-20.
Now the Giants head to London to lock up with the 3-3 Los Angeles Rams Sunday, with renewed confidence and a much more favorable position in the overall NFC standings. The teams will meet at Twickenham Stadium, a venue that is primarily utilized for rugby matches and is the second largest stadium in the United Kingdom, with kickoff scheduled for 9:30 a.m. for viewers in the New York tristate area.
Portraying the Giants’ matchup against the Ravens as a must-win scenario for them can be viewed as hyperbole. But the near euphoric reaction by the Giants players, coaches and their fans in attendance in East Rutherford after they turned back the 3-3 Ravens at the goal line on four straight plays to regain momentum of the game revealed the significance of the moment.
Ironically, it was Jersey City native, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who led the charge on fourth down. He met Ravens running back Terrance West almost as soon as the running back, who was sprinting left behind his offensive line, took a pitch from QB Joe Flacco. Casillas took on West and prevented him from reaching the end zone.
“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.”
That was the alpha for the Giants. The Omega was Beckham’s go ahead touchdown. The enigmatic supremely talented receiver was spectacular versus the Ravens, amassing eight catches for a career-high 222 yards and two touchdowns.
Manning also had a stellar day coming off suspect performances the previous two games against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. He riddled the Ravens for 402 yards and three touchdowns, moving into seventh place all-time with 302.
After traveling to London, the Giants will return home for their bye week before playing three straight games at MetLife Stadium, beginning with the Philadelphia Eagles, one of their division rivals, Nov. 6.