The New York Giants, winless in their three previous games, fumbled the football on their first offensive play of Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. They did not have a first down in the first quarter, when they fell behind by 10 points, a development that had a sellout crowd at MetLife Stadium booing early and often.
Then, in the second quarter, the Giants’ chief offensive weapon, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., jogged to the locker room with an injury.
But if the dispiriting opening sequences of Sunday’s contest were all too familiar to Giants fans, who have endured four successive seasons without a playoff appearance, the rest of the game revealed a new Giants resilience.
Led by two of the players who had been most maligned during the recent losing streak — quarterback Eli Manning and Beckham, who returned to the game — the Giants (3-3) stormed back twice to stun the Ravens (3-3) and earn a 27-23 victory.
The winning score came on a 66-yard pass from Manning to Beckham on a fourth-and-1 with 1 minute 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Entering the game’s final minutes, the Giants held a
one-point lead until a controversial, 30-yard pass-interference penalty on Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Baltimore’s Terrance West. That gave the Ravens a 23-20 lead with a little more than 2 minutes remaining.
The penalty on Rodgers-Cromartie came on a long third-down pass intended for Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
Rodgers-Cromartie went stride for stride with Perriman and had his head turned toward the ball, which he batted down without having come in contact with Perriman, who was running behind him. When the penalty flag was thrown, the home crowd did not react, since it appeared the most likely result would be an offensive pass interference call on Perriman.
When the penalty went against Rodgers-Cromartie, the grandstand erupted in jeers.
The catcalls subsided several plays later when Manning waited in the pocket and threw to Beckham, who caught the football just inside the Giants’ 40-yard line and then eluded a host of Baltimore defenders as he ran untouched to the end zone.
A roughing-the-passer penalty on Giants defensive lineman Owa Odighizuwa gave the Ravens a chance at a winning touchdown in the game’s final seconds, but the Baltimore drive ended at the Giants’ 29-yard line.
Trailing by 3 points at halftime, the Giants tied the score on a short field goal with their first possession of the second half. The score was a culmination of a 15-play drive that saw Manning throw passes to Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz.
On the next Giants series, Manning lofted a pass for Shepard, a rookie wide receiver. Although it appeared that Ravens cornerback Tavon Young had pushed Shepard toward the ground as the pass was arriving, there was no penalty called and Young leapt over the fallen Shepard to make a diving interception.
The turnover led to a 39-yard field goal by Justin Tucker, which gave the Ravens a 13-10 lead with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
But the Giants answered quickly. On the next play from scrimmage, Manning faked a pass to his right, drawing both Ravens safeties to that side of the field, which left Beckham in one-on-one coverage with Will Davis, Baltimore’s reserve cornerback.
Beckham deked to the sideline then burst upfield, where Manning hit him stride just past midfield. Beckham outran the Baltimore defenders from there for a 75-yard touchdown and a 17-13 Giants lead.
When Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco responded with a 70-yard sideline pass to wide receiver Mike Wallace, it appeared the Ravens were going to regain the lead.
But the Giants defense repulsed three running plays from their own 1-yard line, the final one coming on a brilliant fourth-down sideline tackle at the 2-yard line by Jonathan Casillas, who is having a sterling season.
It did not take the Ravens long to return to Giants territory. A 42-yard pass-interference penalty on Giants defensive back Trevin Wade set up a 35-yard field goal by Tucker that cut the Giants’ lead to 17-16 with a little more than 9 minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
A 31-yard Josh Brown field goal extended the Giants’ lead to 20-16.
The Giants opened the game with their worst quarter of football this season, offensively and defensively. Baltimore gained 127 yards in the quarter, most of it on the ground, while the Giants had 16 yards of total offense.
The Giants’ poor play began almost immediately. The Ravens marched 70 yards down the field on their first possession, and the Giants were lucky to hold Baltimore to a short field goal.
On their first offensive play of the game, Beckham fumbled after a reception, handing the ball to the Ravens at the Giants’ 30-yard line.
Flacco completed three straight passes, and West dove over the pile in the middle of the line of scrimmage for a 1-yard touchdown that put the Ravens ahead, 10-0.
Things did not immediately improve for the Giants. Cruz dropped a pass, the rushing game was going nowhere (26 yards on eight carries in the first half), and key penalties extended Baltimore drives.
Booing filled MetLife Stadium several times when the Giants offense went to the sideline.
The lone first-half highlight for the Giants came on a 13-play drive in the second quarter. The series began with a scary moment for the Giants when Beckham was injured after falling awkwardly to the turf on a failed catch. Beckham remained prone for a few minutes before jogging off gingerly. He returned for one play, then went directly to the locker room with what the team called a hip pointer injury.
Beckham returned late in the first half.
On the play after Beckham’s injury, Manning connected with tight end Larry Donnell for an 8-yard reception. When Cruz caught a 4-yard pass two plays later, it produced the Giants’ initial first down of the game. There were about 6 minutes left in the second quarter.
The Giants then ran nine successive plays from the shotgun, with Manning completing three of six passes to move the Giants into Ravens territory. On a third down-and-4, Giants rookie wide receiver Roger Lewis Jr. caught a well-placed pass from Manning in the corner of the Ravens end zone for the Giants’ first score of the game.
On the play, Manning became just the eighth quarterback in NFL history to throw 300 touchdown passes.
Baltimore held its 10-7 lead until intermission, as a final first-half Giants drive stalled at the Ravens’ 45-yard line.