It won't lessen the pain of losing two Super Bowls, but the New England Patriots exacted some revenge on the New York Giants on Sunday, winning 27-26 at MetLife Stadium. Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 54-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the Pats the victory.
As ESPN's Adam Schefter noted before the game, the Patriots had beaten every team in the NFL since January 2008 except one: the Giants. New York prevailed in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI and beat New England in a regular-season matchup Nov. 6, 2011.
In both of those Super Bowl victories, Eli Manning led the Giants on a scoring drive late in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
History almost repeated itself Sunday as Manning engineered an 86-yard drive over four minutes, 14 seconds to set up the go-ahead score. Josh Brown split the uprights on a 29-yard field goal with 1:47 left in the game to make it a 26-24 game.
Odell Beckham Jr. saw his five-yard touchdown reception on the drive erased following an official review, and the decision to overturn the catch will undoubtedly be talked about in the days to come. Some NFL fans were again left questioning the league's labyrinthine rules regarding what is and isn't a catch.
MLB offered to help make the distinction:
Substituting at least six points for three turned out to have major implications on the final result. It allowed New England to win the game on a field goal after Tom Brady did just enough to get Gostkowski into position.
With the game-winner, Gostkowski passed Adam Vinatieri as the Patriots' all-time leader in made field goals (264), per the team's Twitter account.
Brady finished 26-of-42 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Manning outplayed him from a numbers perspective, throwing for 361 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-44, but that will be forgotten following the Patriots' comeback.
Jason Pierre-Paul gave the Giants reason to be optimistic after he replaced the club on his right hand with a modified glove, per ESPN.com's Dan Graziano:
However, the switch didn't last long, as he went back to the club early in the game. He finished with one pass defended and one quarterback hit.
Playing into his decision might have been the fact that the Patriots opened the scoring on a one-yard touchdown reception by Scott Chandler on the first drive of the game.
New England's advantage was short-lived after Beckham burned Malcolm Butler and tied the game with an 87-yard TD catch with 5:49 left in the first quarter, per the NFL:
Beckham's development continues to amaze ESPN's Bomani Jones:
Aside from that touchdown, however, Beckham had little impact on the game. Butler held him in check the rest of the way. The reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year finished with four receptions for 104 yards and the touchdown.
Although Beckham was largely a non-factor for three-fourths of the clash, the Giants offense rarely ended a drive without putting points on the board. Credit Manning for not turning the ball over and trusting his secondary targets.
Graziano noted how well Manning distributed the ball through the air:
Considering New York had no ground game Sunday, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was as important as ever to his team's success.
A 31-yard field goal from Gostkowski two minutes into the second quarter put the Patriots ahead, 10-7, but the Giants closed the first half with 10 unanswered points to take a 17-10 lead into the locker room.
Brown tied the game with a little less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter, and a one-yard touchdown reception by Dwayne Harris put the home team ahead in the final minute.
Harris did a great job of hauling in the pass and ensuring he had both of his feet in before his momentum took him out of bounds, per the NFL:
Former Giants offensive lineman and current NFL analyst Shaun O'Hara saw shades of a former teammate on the catch:
After a second field goal by Brown made it 20-10 at the 9:32 mark of the third quarter, LeGarrette Blount helped close the deficit to three points with a one-yard touchdown run.
Brown created more breathing room for New York with his third field goal of the game, but the three points offered only momentary relief for the Giants.
Rob Gronkowski caught a deep pass from Brady and scored on a 76-yard reception to give the Patriots their first lead since the start of the second quarter, per the NFL:
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Brady had previously missed on 18 straight throws of 20 yards or more downfield against New York.
Giants safety Craig Dahl didn't cover himself in glory on the play. Not only did he whiff in his attempt to bring down Gronkowski, but he also wiped teammate Brandon Meriweather out of the play. Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com wondered whether the league's rule changes impacted Dahl's thought process on the play:
The Patriots looked to have the game in the bag earlier in the fourth with a 1st-and-goal at the Giants' 6-yard line and a 24-23 lead. But Giants cornerback Trumaine McBride intercepted a pass intended for Brandon LaFell at the 1-yard line.
ESPN's Skip Bayless noticed how similar it was to a play from last year's Super Bowl:
But Brady quickly shook off the mistake as he led New England on the game-winning drive.
The Patriots remain unbeaten (9-0) on the season and still look like the strongest team in the league. Julian Edelman missed most of the game after suffering a foot injury, but New England found a way to win despite his absence.
Any talk of a perfect season is premature, but the Pats' remaining schedule is manageable. The matchup with the Denver Broncos is looking less intimidating, while the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins—the Patriots' toughest opponents left—all have serious flaws.
Meanwhile, the defeat comes at a bad time for the Giants, who have only a half-game lead on the Eagles and Washington Redskins in the NFC East. That lead would evaporate if either team wins next week with the Giants idle.
The Giants had a great chance to build some momentum going into the bye week while also maintaining a comfortable edge on their division rivals. Instead, they let the opportunity slip through their fingers.
Gostkowski knew he was mere feet away from being the goat in Sunday’s game.
"You're one kick away from being public enemy No. 1," he said after the game, per Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com.
When it comes to the interception at the goal line that nearly cost New England the game, neither Brady nor LaFell wanted to point the finger for the turnover, per Ben Volin of the Boston Globe:
Similarly, Beckham only blamed himself for the incompletion late in the fourth quarter that was first ruled a touchdown, per Kevin Armstrong of the New York Daily News:
Head coach Tom Coughlin echoed a similar feeling of discontent
"Extremely disappointing loss. Frustrating," he said, per Kimberly Jones of NFL Network. "Finish the game. Get the game over with. Extremely frustrating."