The last time the Giants won a game that mattered was Week 17 of the 2016 season when they beat the Redskins 19-10, and that game didn’t even really matter. It mattered more to the Redskins, who had to win to clinch a playoff berth, but it didn’t matter for the Giants. All it did was make everyone think the team could go on an extend postseason run because they played to win a game they didn’t need. Instead, their extended postseason run lasted one half.
I forgot what it felt like to experience a Giants win because it had been so long. That win over the Redskins was nearly 21 months ago and since that win the Giants had been 3-16, including the postseason. That’s an incredible amount of losing over almost a two-year period that had Odell Beckham Jr. telling the media last week he didn’t remember the last time he won a football game since the Giants were still winless when he was lost for the year last season.
I didn’t think the Giants were going to win in Houston. Even though I wagered on them at +260 despite swearing off betting on them following the disaster in Dallas the week before, I talked myself into placing money on them despite not truly believing they would win.When the news broke that Ereck Flowers was going to be benched, I was ecstatic. It had been a move now two seasons overdue and even if the Giants were going to lose, at least they weren’t going to lose with the untalented Flowers ruining the game for them.
After their first two losses and the way the offensive line played against the Cowboys, going on the road to play the also 0-2 Texans and the mobile Deshaun Watson and Top 5 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the stacked pass rush featuring J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, I figured the Giants were in for their second straight 0-3 start. When the Texans marched down the field to the Giants’ 5 on the opening possession of the game, my expectations for the game were flawlessly unfolding.
First-and-5 at the Giants’ 5 after driving 69 yards and I was furious both at the Giants defense and at myself for wagering on the team after what they had done to my bank account in the first two weeks. Somehow, the Texans didn’t target Hopkins once in the end zone, after a pair of runs to Lamar Miller and an incomplete pass to Will Fuller, and the Giants were able to hold them to 3.
Not only had I forgotten what it felt like to win, I had forgotten what it felt like to have a lead. The last lead the Giants had that mattered was back in Week 3 last season when they scored 24 fourth-quarter points against the Eagles to take a 24-21 lead before eventually losing 27-24. Once they lost that game, their season was over at 0-3, so that 24-21 lead was the last time they had a meaningful lead.
Ten plays and 75 yards later and Saquon Barkley capped off the Giants’ most impressive drive of the season (their only real drive of the season) and the Giants had a 7-3 lead. I didn’t know how to feel or how to react. It had been so long since I had that feeling, I can only imagine it’s how a major league pitcher feels to take the mound after a pair of Tommy John surgeries. I suddenly remembered what it felt like when watching the Giants was fun and when they were good and when they were expected to win.
The Giants scored on all four of their first-half possessions for a 20-6 lead at halftime, and they were getting the ball to start the second half. I began to wish I had only hammered their money line at +260 even more than I had, but the negative thoughts about blowing a two-touchdown lead started to creep in.
The Giants punted on their first possession of the second half and the Texans answered with a field goal. 20-9.
The Giants punted again and I began to get worried as the Texans drove to the Giants’ 33. But on second-and-10 from the 33, Miller fumbled and the Giants recovered to take at least three points off the board from the Texans.
Unfortunately, the Giants punted again, and the worrying returned as Watson hit three passes in a row for 24, 22 and 14 yards to put the Texans on the Giants’ 8. An illegal block penalty on Miller followed by a sack moved the Texans back to the 25. And on second-and-goal from the 25, Watson noticed Miller was being covered 1-on-1 by linebacker Alec Ogletree, so he went for the touchdown, and Ogletree intercepted it in the end zone.
The offense had punted three times in the second half already and had been saved twice by the defense with two turnovers in Giants territory. Four plays and a couple of sacks later and the Giants were punting again, having wasted the interception.
With 8:28 left in the game, Hopkins scored a touchdown that was called back for a holding penalty, but two plays later, the Texans scored a touchdown that would stand to cut the Giants’ lead to 20-15. The two-point conversion failed. The once 20-6 halftime lead had dwindled to 20-15 and visions of the Vince Young Titans comeback started to appear as I stared blankly at the TV.
There was 7:37 remaining and the Giants were clinging to a five-point lead, having failed to add on to their 20 first-half points. They desperately needed to put points on the board. And now just 3. They needed 7. I envisioned them either not scoring or kicking a field goal only to have the Texans score a touchdown and tie the game on a two-point conversion. These are the thoughts that enter your mind when you’re a Giants fan.
Eli Manning found Sterling Shepard for 23 yards on the first play of the drive to put the ball on the Giants’ 46. Three plays later and the Giants were face with a third-and-2 at the Texans’ 27. I could already feel the handoff to Barkley getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage to bring out Aldrick Rosas, who would miss for the first time this season, giving the Texans great field position to go down the field to win the game. I had seen this game too many times before, and I knew what was going to happen before it happened.
The Giants didn’t run the ball though. Instead, Manning hit Barkley for 21 yards and a first down, putting the ball on the Texans’ 6 and forcing the Texans to use their second timeout. I felt a sense of relief, but not complete relief, for the red zone stall followed by a field goal followed by a Texans touchdown and two-point conversion were all still on the table.
On first-and-goal from the 6, the Giants lost two yards on a pass to Barkley. On second-and-goal from the 8, Barkley ran the ball one yard. Here it was, third-and-goal from the 7, a season-changing play. There would be no end-around to Beckham like there had been in Week 1. There would be no draw to Barkley. Manning connected with Shepard for the touchdown. 27-15, Giants. It was everything Manning and the Giants used to be. A clutch, game-winning (or game-sealing) drive. It’s weird how when given time, Manning is no longer old or washed up or unable to start in the league anymore.
The Texans had 2:08, two timeouts and the two-minute warning to score 12 points. I was cautiously optimistic about the Giants’ chances, but again, I’m not foolish enough to think any Giants game is over.
The Giants were going to exchange yards for clock, but it looked like it might not matter anyway after the Texans were suddenly faced with a third-and-20 from their own 15. But this is the Giants defense, and sure enough, after a 16-yard pass and 12-yard pass, the Texans had a first down.
The Texans did score a touchdown, but by the time they did, there was one second left in the game. The Giants had won and they have saved their season. It’s never good when you’re faced with a must-win game in Week 3 of the season, but for the second straight season, the Giants were, and this time they won. The win was overshadowed by my anger of wondering how many more wins the Giants could have had over the last few seasons if not for the presence of Flowers on the offensive line.
Nothing has ever come easy and nothing ever will for this team, not even when they hold a 20-6 lead at halftime, are getting the ball back, and win the turnover battle in the game. That magic record of 4-4 is still needed if this team is going to go on a run when their schedule softens after the bye and this win was just one of the four. It was finally a step in the right direction for a team that hasn’t taken a step in the right direction in almost two calendar years. But don’t get too excited yet. I’m not.