For two and a half quarters the New York Giants played with a certain malaise a horrific loss would likely entail. They were down 20-10; watched the Atlanta Falcons take full advantage of their mistakes, and couldn't do much offensively against one of the NFL's worst defenses.
With an upcoming match-up against the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday, the Giants were putting forth the kind of effort that made this day look every bit like a trap game. Little did anyone know that the trap was intended for Atlanta instead.
The Giants offense suddenly found life late in the third quarter, with both the game and arguably their season hanging in the balance. At 2-2, the Giants knew that falling to 2-3 had the potential for a cataclysmic disaster, especially after a two game winning streak brought life back to their season.
Trailing 20-10, with the football at their own 29, Eli Manning heaved a pass down field to Odell Beckham Jr. who got interfered with by Atlanta's Robert Alford, spotting the ball in Falcons territory at the 45. Never has a pass interference penalty rejuvenated a staggering offense as much as it did the Giants.
Manning then went to work. He hit Andre Williams underneath for 14 years, and Beckham for eight more. Williams then took over, plowing through Falcon defenders for 11 yards to the Atlanta three yard line, before finishing it off with a touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-17.
The Giants defense then tightened, forcing an Atlanta three and out on their next possession, getting the football back into the hands of Manning and the offense.
They didn't disappoint. Manning played out of a no-huddle shotgun for much of the Giants drive in the fourth quarter. He hit Beckham for 14 yards and Victor Cruz for 12 more on two huge plays to keep the drive alive. Finally, on third and three, Manning hit Beckham in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown to give the Giants their first lead, 24-20.
With the Giants crowd behind them, New York's defense pinned their collective ears back and slapped around the Falcons. They held the Falcons to a combined 7 yards on their next two drives, both of which ended in punts.
On each of those failed Falcon possessions the Giants cashed in for points, kicking field goals to extend their lead to 10 points.
From the point the Giants started to rally late in the third quarter, New York outscored Atlanta 20-0; outgained the Falcons 179-48, and had more plays than Atlanta 34-18. At one point the Falcons had only 7 yards on 10 offensive plays in the fourth quarter.
The Gians rally was a great coming out for Beckham, who not only battled a hamstring injury, but took a lot of flack from fans and media for not getting onto the field earlier in the year. After his four reception, 44 yard day, Beckham looks like the monster weapon the Giants thought they were getting.
The Giants (3-2) are now in a much better position than they would have been if they lost this game. They are only a game behind Philadelphia and Dallas, and will play both teams over the next two weeks on the road. Buckle the chin straps.
Michael Cohen can be heard live on BlogTalk radio every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 p.m.