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Win One, Lose One

December 21, 2015

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The Jets won on Saturday night, defeating (and eliminating) the Dallas Cowboys.

The Giants lost on Sunday morning, going down to the undefeated Carolina Panthers.

Saturday’s high was followed by Sunday’s low. Life in the NFL is never dull, I will give you that. Life is magical… but full of pain.

Saturday’s game was not all thrills and cheers, however, and Sunday’s was not all gloom and doom (though it ended that way). Truth be told, Gang Green’s 19-16 win over Dallas was a lot closer than it should have been. The Cowboys, without Tony Romo, have been a shell of themselves this season. The Jets should have rolled right over them, especially since the ‘Boys were playing with their third-string quarterback, and soon replaced him with their fourth-stringer, a kid who had never thrown a pass in the NFL before. The kid threw three interceptions, yet somehow moved Dallas as well, and kept them in the game till the end.

(One has to wonder whatever happened to Matt Cassell, the ineffective third-stringer he replaced. Cassell was pretty good just a few years back, when he filled in for an injured Tom Brady for the Patriots, but since moving on via free agency he just seems to get worse and worse).

Anyway… the Jets should have crushed Dallas in a laugher. But at least they hung on and won, and thereby kept their playoff hopes alive. At 9-5, they are tied with the Chiefs and the Steelers, and two of those three teams will get a wild card slot. Unfortunately, New York has the toughest schedule and the worst tie-breakers of the three, so their chances are slim… and pretty much gone if they lose to the Patriots next week (unless Johnny Football somehow manages to upset either KC or Pittsburgh, and I’m not holding my breath). But at least Todd Bowles will finish with a winning record in his first year as coach, whatever happens.

Which brings us to Sunday, and Big Blue’s 38-35 loss to Carolina.

That had to be one of the strangest games I have ever seen in half a century of watching pro football. The first quarter and the fourth quarter featured some pretty exciting football, but in between came the second and third quarters, which were nightmares for any Giants fan.

The G-Men left two touchdowns on the field in the first half. On the fourth play of the game, Eli Manning hit Odell Beckham Junior in stride for what should have been a 52-yard touchdown… but Odell dropped the ball. And early in the second quarter, Cam Newton threw what should have been a certain pick-six right at Giants CB Dominque Rogers-Cromartie… who dropped the ball. Turn those two drops into catches, the Giants have a 21-7 lead midway into the second quarter, and we have a whole different ballgame

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Sadly, the drops were dropped. The game was tight right up until Giants RB Rashad Jennings fumbled in the second quarter. That seemed to change momentum. Suddenly the Giants could not do anything right, and the Panthers could not do anything wrong. Cam and his crew shredded New York’s defense (worst in the NFL), and the score mounted. 14 -7. 21 – 7. 28 – 7. 35 – 7. By that time, I was feeling suicidal, Cam Newton was on the sideline icing his knee, and Troy Aikman was suggesting that it might be time for Carolina to pull him out and let his backup finish the blowout.

Not so fast. With twenty minutes left in the game, late in the third quarter, Eli and the Giants woke up, and started fighting back. A nice drive ended in a touchdown pass to tight end Will Tye made in 35 -14. Then Rashad Jennings broke through the middle for a long run and it was 35 – 21. Carolina drove back and seemed to be about to make it a three-score game again, but the field goal attempt was blocked by Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, and a few plays later Eli hit Shane Vereen and it was 35 -28 and we had a game again, and I was screaming just as loud as the crowd at MetLife Stadium. Especially when the Panthers went three-and-out, with JPP blocking Cam’s third-down pass with his “club” (the massive cast on his mangled hand). Then came another drive, but Carolina stiffened and it came down to a fourth-down play in the Red Zone… and Eli hit Odell Beckham Junior for the tying score. 35 – 35.

That was one of the most amazing comebacks I have ever seen a football game. Offhand, the only games that compare are the “Midnight Miracle” of last decade, when the Jets rallied on Monday Night Football to defeat the Dolphins, and that long-ago playoff reversal where Frank Reich led the Buffalo Bills back against the Houston Oilers.

I have to say, I am proud of the way of the Giants fought back. Most teams would have packed it in at 35 – 7. The comeback is a credit to Tom Coughlin, and the fighting spirit of Big Blue. And I want to single out three players, who screwed up early and made up for it later. Rashad Jennings lost the fumble early on that started the Carolina scoring spree… but his gutsy breakaway TD run in the fourth quarter ignited the comeback. DRC dropped the pick-six in the second quarter… but blocked the field goal in the fourth that really got things rolling. And Odell dropped the 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter… but caught the tying fourth-down touchdown at the end, when everything was on the line, and set things up before that with a long catch-and-run to get the Giants to the red zone.

Of course, in the end all the heroics came to naught. The Giants tied the game, but they left Cam Newton almost two minutes, and the worst defense in the NFL (unsurprisingly) failed to hold him. Boom boom zoom, down the field came Carolina, and with seconds left a field goal made it 38 – 25, and all the G-Men had for their efforts was another agonizing fourth quarter loss. Their fifth of season, I believe. Yes, technically they are still in contention for the NFC East title… but don’t believe it. It’s over.

Still… that rally was one for the ages. I wish we had capped it with a fairytale ending, but it was nice while it lasted.

Congrats to the Panthers, and especially Cam Newton. He’s this year’s MVP for sure.

((I have not addressed the war between Odell Beckham Junior and Josh Norman. I will, but in a separate blog post. Save your comments for that one. I do not want discussion of that issue to overshadow a great game)..

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