(Eli Manning under pressure – @Giants)
The Giants and Patriots have developed quite a rivalry despite not being in the same conference. That is because the five times they have played since 2007 have all been classics, including two of the greatest Super Bowls ever.
The rivalry began with the last game of the 2007 regular season when the Patriots beat the Giants to secure their 16-0 record. Five weeks later, the Giants beat them in the Super Bowl. Four years later, in 2011, the Giants won in Foxborough in the regular season and then stunned the Patriots again in the Super Bowl.
The fact that the Giants have arguably had the most success against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, especially denying them two Super Bowls, is what makes this rivalry so compelling.
Sunday at MetLife Stadium was another classic that went down to the wire, as if it was destined to, and it was New England who came out on top, 27-26, on a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from 54 yards out in the closing seconds.
Gostkowski said of his mindset going into the kick after the Giants called a timeout to ice him, “You’ve got to expect it. I have one job to do and if I let anything get me off focus, I have a good chance of missing the kick. I think me, Joe [Cardona] and Ryan [Allen] just felt eerily calm out there. Me and Ryan were looking at each other smiling on the sidelines. It just felt like I was going to get that opportunity. I think it’s a little easier thinking that you’re going to get it and going out there and getting it is a lot easier. I go out there and attack every kick to try and make it. I don’t worry too much about results. Obviously, if I would have missed that kick, we would have lost. That’s the name of the game. It’s fun to be in those situations. They don’t come up very often, especially long kicks like that. It’s all about the team here though. [Danny] Amendola’s punt return, Tom [Brady] getting us into field goal range. Joe snapping. Ryan holding. The guys blocking. It’s fun and we all get to celebrate together as a team. That’s what they preach, that’s what we do around here. It’s fun, especially to beat a good team like the Giants on the road. We get to fly home happy.”
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick whether he thought Gostkowski has enough on it, “Looked pretty good. Looked pretty good. Looked like it was going to be inside the left upright. I thought 53 [yards] for Steve, especially kicking that way … there wasn’t a lot of wind but what little wind there was it was tending to blow that direction. I think there was a little more wind earlier in the game – I think it died down – from their bench to our bench. So if anything, I think the wind was kind of blowing it to the kicker’s left. Stephen hits a true ball. I’ve seen him hit so many of those, in practice and in games. The way it came off his foot, it was straight; there was no tumble, it was true. That’s the guy you want out there. You want your best player in that situation – an opportunity to win the game for you – and he did, as he’s done many times before.”
What made that kick possible was the fact that the Patriots kept the Giants out of the end zone late in the fourth quarter, and held them to just a field goal, making it a two-point game at 26-24. There also was a favorable call for the Patriots when Odell Beckham, Jr.’s touchdown on that drive was taken off the board.
Beckham did not ask for an explanation from the referees and he said of the play, “Yeah. I mean I caught it. I trust in my hands. I go up and catch it. You come down with two feet and you can’t try to do anything too early. You’ve got to complete the whole process. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”
On if he got his feet in bounds, Beckham said, “Yeah. I definitely caught the ball and got two feet down. Like I said, it’s just playing the play longer than the opponent. It came in late and knocked it out after I felt like it was already a catch.”
Beckham said of the game, saying, “We lost the game. 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.”
On if he was accepting blame for the loss, Beckham said, “Yes. I didn’t catch the touchdown. We could have had a touchdown and made the Patriots go down and have to score and not put a kicker who is one of the best kickers in the league for a chance to kick an easy field goal.”
Even though New England used all their timeouts to preserve that much time, Tom Brady had 1:48 to go down the field and get a field goal.
The Patriots’ defense also kept the Giants out of the end zone for the entire second half, and limited them to just three field goals. If the Giants converted just one of those into touchdowns, they would have likely won the game.
Eli Manning said of not being able to cash in on opportunities to seal the game, “Well, I think just at the end of the game, not getting the touchdown right there. Had a couple opportunities and we just didn’t make it. For the first throw to Odell [Beckham Jr.] to the corner route and then on third down, they played it well. Went to the play and they passed it off and played it well and right there, just had to go down and make sure we get the field goal, but yeah, we had some opportunities. Obviously can’t turn the ball over in the red zone—earlier in the game on the fumble. Our defense gets a turnover, we go backwards on the sack, so you know we definitely had some opportunities. You have to look at it at the very end, we had a chance to win and that’s what you want and defense did a great job getting us some turnovers. We put a great drive together and we’ve just got to find a way to get the touchdown right there and give us a little more lead.”
Based on his success against New England late in games, Manning said of being surprised he couldn’t get the winning touchdown, “We had a good drive, we needed to get the field goal. We were close. We had some opportunities. Sometimes they play well and make some plays. They did a good job. They make it tough for us, went to goal line personnel. First play had opportunity with Odell [Beckham Jr.]—makes a good play, knocks it out of his hands. Second down they had pretty good pressure and what you do in that situation is an all-out blitz. You don’t have enough blockers to block them all and just didn’t quite get to hang in there and wait to see how the play was going to develop. Played it well on third down, but just one of those tough situations where we didn’t run enough clock and had to settle for a field goal right there.”
Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin said of the game, “Extremely disappointing loss. Not much for me to say about it other than the frustration was—I mean, finish the game. Just get the game over with. We had the ball in the end zone that’s knocked out of the hands. We have to kick a field goal, which makes you right away worried because they have an outstanding kicker who might kick it from 58 to 60 yards, he’s done that before. You have a chance to intercept the ball in the middle of the field and it’s just thrown up and we don’t catch the ball.”
Coughin said of the later parts of the game, “I thought there were times in the second half we weren’t able, obviously, to sustain any kind of drives, and that was frustrating in itself. They did put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We’re up 10 and then we give up a punt return, which you know, jeez, here we go.
“I’m very disappointed, upset, whatever the words might be. Guys practiced hard, they worked hard, they wanted it badly, they prepared well, they battled out on the field. We knew it would have to be physical. Was it as physical as I would’ve liked? I don’t know, I would have to look at the numbers, but very frustrating loss,” said Coughlin.