After witnessing winning performances from the New York Giants offense led by Odell Beckham Jr., I went to a wine bar around the corner from my house. They have T.V.’s but only play Turner Classic Movies—the main appeal when I’m in need of rescue. Today’s feature was Casablanca. I happened to saunter in just as one of the film’s final and most famous scenes was occurring.
Ingrid Bergman looks to her lover, “But what about us?” Humphrey Bogart stares deep into her eyes, resolved, and assures that “We will always have Paris.”
Some Giants fans may compare this classic cinematic moment to their relationship with their team. This season has been loaded with disappointment, and while true fans will never abandon their team, the fondest memories we have of good old Big Blue date back to 2016—our most recent sight of playoffs.
We will always have Paris, but on Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, we finally saw the structure and morale of a team we can believe in. We may not have racked up that W on paper, but we should have, and in the fashion of last year’s loss against the Philadelphia Eagles, we experienced bad luck against a clock and officials that weren’t in our favor. The division isn’t ours yet, but stellar performances today are proof that the Giants aren’t quitting, and our season isn’t over quite yet.
In a Devastating Loss, the Giants Played Hard and Showed Their Capability as a Rebuilt Team
Creative and Clutch Offense
The Giants’ sole win against the Houston Texans was luminous but still didn’t tell us much about the team that the Giants worked so notoriously hard in offseason to build. In the other three losses, the team’s offense was highly criticized due to the line, which was barely productive in protecting Eli Manning. Manning himself was checked for his struggles in the pocket and inability to run the ball. There has been significant debate over whether the struggles in East Rutherford can be blamed on Manning. Those questions will not cease any time soon.
With that in mind, in Charlotte, we saw an offense that was more in-sync than in any other performance this season thus far. Manning and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton each threw two interceptions, contributing to the most exciting third quarter the league has seen yet this season. Manning also kickstarted the most notorious play of the game—a backward pass to Beckham, who subsequently exercised his own quarterbacking skills and threw over a very confused Carolina defense to Saquon Barkley who ran for the first Giants touchdown of the game.
Big Boy Beckham
After commenting to the press about the size of his role on his team earlier this week, Beckham finally made his official return to leadership today. His landmark pass to Barkley and subsequent receiving touchdown reaffirmed his worth on the field. His sportsmanship showed us far more.
Beckham, known for his antics and attitude, displayed more maturity than anyone expected in this tragic defeat. One of the day’s landmark playmakers Sterling Shepard was shown on the sidelines letting off some steam after a frustrating drive. Losing his cool on the bench in a very vintage Beckham-like tantrum, who was there to calm him down but Beckham himself, controlling morale in what was shaping up to be a very tight football game.
In a post-game meeting with the press in the locker room, Beckham exhibited visible disappointment and underlying pride in the work that was done on the field. “I’m proud of my team, and this is the team that we’re gonna be for the rest of the season,” he said. “I’m trying to be a leader. It’s a position that I’ve never been in. I’m trying to grow. I’m learning on the way.”
A “Blame Game” Game
Rarely in a Giants game these past few seasons has there been a place to put the blame on a loss that is outside of the constructs of the team or coaching. Captain Landon Collins spoke with frustration after the game about problematic officiating in the league. His irritation likely stemmed from a call in which, on an excellent defensive play by the G-Men, a flag was thrown for helmet-to-helmet contact between Collins and the intended Panthers receiver Devin Funchess, with whom he did not actually make any interaction.
Additionally, in the final drive of the game, Newton gave the ball to Christian McCaffrey on a third and one play which was never reviewed. The NFL rulebook states that “A team may not challenge a reviewable play after the two-minute warning of each half,” wherein it was. That said, McCaffrey was granted a first down that he did not deserve, and in the following play, Newton spiked the ball, allowing for a field goal attempt. Graham Gano set his career record with an accurate 63-yard kick, giving the Panthers their win. The lack of review by the officials on the McCaffrey play gave the Big Blue sensible reason to be frustrated.
More awake than ever, the Giants entered this game as the least penalized team in the league, and ended it with a far more tarnished record; at one point even racking up three consecutive penalties on Kareem Martin, Janoris Jenkins, and B.W. Webb. While it would be immature to argue that any of those three calls were improper, it’s clear that the New York Giants didn’t sit well with the officiating as the game progressed, which most likely resulted in the bullying that went down between the referees and the team.
The Best Is Yet to Come
And babe, won’t it be fine. Later in the evening, the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboys, tarnishing their record to 2-3, tied with the Philadelphia Eagles. Considering the NFC East as a whole has looked pretty abysmal against the rest of the league, a division win isn’t TOTALLY out of the question if the Giants keep their groove. The Wild Card is still always up for grabs, and after the crew’s display in Charlotte, it’s clear that our cards are still far from hitting the table in surrender. In his postgame press conference, Pat Shurmur stood stronger than we have ever seen him. The traditionally docile head coach had a fire burning after seeing the team he described earlier in the week as lacking heart put on such a show against a club that has always been a challenging matchup. “I’ve got no issues with the way they play,” he asserted to the press before taking questions. On his alleged distaste with Beckham’s outspokenness, he suggested that the room speaks with the receiver directly. Having much to say about the strengths of his men, Shurmur quoted William Shakespeare. “I’m not gonna give the public a pound of flesh on this. That would make me small, not strong.” When Beckham was addressed, he spoke with pride in his locker room. “I haven’t felt any more closer (to the team) than I have in the last 24-hours.”
Despite medical examination after the should-have-been game-winning touchdown of the game, Barkley is said to be healthy (that touchdown, by the way, broke the team’s streak of 37 straight games of failing to put up 30 points or higher). Beckham’s attitude adjustment and ball-throwing abilities are promising. The offensive line appears to be finally syncing up. Sure, morale is low for faithful fans after this loss, but that disparagement is bigger than this Big Blue Wrecking Crew, and we’ll see them again on Thursday at home against the greasy-limbed birds.