It’s hard to find solace in losses, especially in the emergency room schedule of the NFL. Especially to an old-world coach like Tom Coughlin.
But the Giants can say with certainty that they were nose to nose with the best team in the sport. And we can say with equal certainty that they should have defeated the defending Super Bowl champions.
And I can say that I called it all last Friday. As someone who made his bones as a boxing writer, I invoke the cliche that styles make fights, and the Giants are Joe Frazier to New England’s Muhammad Ali.
I said the Giants should get to Tom Brady, and they did. I said the return of the diminished Jason Pierre-Paul would matter, and it did. I said the seven points New England was giving was a lot. And it was. I said Bill Belichick would have epic issues solving Odell Beckham Jr. And he did.
No matter the precise personnel over the years, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning (361 yards, 2 TDs) have some power over the Pats. Sometimes you see a super team and burn under the bright lights, while others burn to win.
The Giants moved the ball with impunity. They stopped the pyrotechnic Patriots on many crucial occasions. They got the notoriously cool QB to anxiously hop around the pocket, short-arm throws, and fold under the limbs of the rabid Giants pass rush. They sacked the iconic QB three times, forced two fumbles and picked him off once. They Giants even had the game salted away… until they didn’t.
There were about five ways the Giants lost to the New England Patriots. Some point to the obvious, dropped interception by Landon Collins in the final minute that would have sealed the game. Some point to a “dropped” touchdown pass by Beckham, further inflaming the debate about when a catch is a catch. (Looked good to yours truly. Why anyone would have to establish himself as a runner when he’s already in the end zone is a mystery to me.)
Some point to clock management, the accidental misfortune of that dropped TD by Beckham only taking five seconds instead of six. But if the refs get it right, then the game is over, anyway.
The play that will haunt the G-Men was the sprawling punt return by Danny Amendola. Trailing 20-10, and with ace wideout Julian Edelman sidelined for the second half, Amendola plucked a punt barely beyond his own goal line and galloped 82 yards. Though he ducked and twisted and darted past every Giant on the field, Amendola was tripped at the five-yard-line by his own teammate.
The damage, though, was done, and it was bloody. LeGarrette Blount scored a few seconds later, and the game was now 20-17, with more than a quarter to play. Sure, the Giants had even more chances to drop the lid on the Pats, take an eraser to that goose egg on their record. But the Amendola play, while beautiful to the point of balletic, was gut-wrenching for Big Blue.
If you’re a Patriots fan (and who isn’t, in our front-running culture?), this is just more proof that your team and season are charmed beyond logic. You win games you should lose. Your quarterback was supposed to miss the first four games, and now he’s steamrolling toward another Super Bowl appearance. Your coach somehow makes his hobo chic wardrobe and monosyllabic pressers work every week. And you’re undefeated.
If you’re a Giants fan — and no, I am not, despite living so close to MetLife Stadium I can smell the stale beer on the floor — there is reason to smile.
You went to the wire with a team people are comparing to their 2007 iteration, when they ran the regular-season table. You were the better team for 59 minutes. Under Eli Manning and his ornery coach Coughlin, the Giants are never too scared to play anyone. Too inept, at times, but never scared.
The rest of the NFC East is an insult to pro football. The Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team (allegedly), is in Kardashian dysfunction, all but assured a seat on the couch in January. The Eagles gagged a game they had essentially won against the Dolphins. And the Redskins, while way better than most of us expected, are still 4-5, and still start Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Leaving Big Blue (5-5) in first place, as surreal as that sounds.
The last time the Giants went toe to toe with the Patriots at the Meadowlands, they met again later in the season. And a lot of 19-0 t-shirts ended up being donated.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.