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Landon Collins’ big day gives Giants win over Rams in London

Landon Collins of the New York Giants scores

Landon Collins of the New York Giants scores a touchdown during an NFL game between the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Warren Little

LONDON — Landon Collins has been enjoying a tremendous second season with the Giants. He’s been flying around the field making big hits and important tackles, and he even entered Sunday’s game as the team’s leader in sacks. The one thing that had eluded the safety was the football. Collins had several chances to make an interception in the previous few weeks but never seemed able to handle it.

That changed Sunday.

Collins’ two interceptions led to both of the Giants’ touchdowns — one directly, the other indirectly — in a 17-10 win over the Rams in front of 74,121 at Twickenham Stadium. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie added two end-zone picks in the fourth quarter to halt the Rams’ two most threatening long drives of the game and seal the win. The last one came with 42 seconds remaining.

For a team and a player that had struggled all season to create takeaways, the Rams provided a virtual flood of opportunities, and the Giants took advantage of them.

“Definitely we were due,” Collins said. “My biggest problem was not running to the ball when it was in the air. I made it a thing to run to the ball. With tipped balls, you never know what’s going to happen, and it happened today.”

Landon loved London, and so did the rest of the Giants. They left this International Series game feeling on top of the world, winners of two straight with a 4-3 record entering the bye week. The Rams had to take the long flight back to Los Angeles with a 3-4 record; they left there more than a week ago at 3-2 and have lost to the Lions and Giants since being home.

In a game that many hoped would showcase offensive stars Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning and Victor Cruz on an international stage, it was the Giants’ defense that stood as tall as Big Ben. The Giants did not allow a scoring drive of more than 35 yards in grinding out the victory and kept quarterback Case Keenum under duress.

No play was bigger than Collins’ 44-yard pick-6. After the ball glanced off the hands of Rams receiver Tavon Austin and Collins caught it, he started going to his right, cut back to the left, ran for the goal line, put his head down and pushed through would-be tacklers for the final 5 yards. It was his first career touchdown, and it impressed his teammates.

“He looked like a running back,” rookie running back Paul Perkins said. “He killed it. I gotta take a couple of those moves.”

“He looked like a cornerback,” Rodgers-Cromartie said, jokingly enlarging the sibling rivalry between corners and safeties.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was more direct. “He kinda looked like me,” he said. “Nice moves. He got loose with the ball.”

All kidding aside, Collins’ change-of-direction return changed the direction of the contest.

“That was the biggest play of the game,” Jenkins said. “That’s what he’s back there for, to make plays like that and take it to the house.”

It also came at a time when it did not seem as if any Giants offensive players were going to be able to reach the end zone.

“Obviously, offensively, we hadn’t done a whole lot,” Manning said. “Landon getting the interception and then also putting it in the end zone, going ahead and scoring right there, was a huge play to tie it up.”

For the second game in a row, the Giants spotted an opponent 10 points thanks to an early turnover. This time it was tight end Larry Donnell who fumbled on the second snap. That gave the Rams the ball at the Giants’ 35 and set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Keenum to Austin against rookie safety Andrew Adams. The Rams’ next possession resulted in a field goal that made it 10-0 just 9:47 into the game.

Newly signed Robbie Gould connected on his first Giants field goal, a 29-yarder, to cut it to 10-3 in the second quarter, and then Collins tied it with his first interception.

It remained tied until shortly after Collins’ second interception, off a pass tipped by linebacker Keenan Robinson. Collins returned it 18 yards to the Rams’ 35.

On third-and-3, Manning hit Beckham on a jump ball in double coverage for 22 yards to the Rams’ 6. Then Rashad Jennings ran it three times in a row, going in from the 1 for a go-ahead touchdown with 9:23 remaining.

The win sends the Giants to the bye on a high, but still looking up at the rest of the NFC East. They also won’t be leaving New Jersey much for the next few weeks after this extended trip. When they return to action, they have three straight home games against the Eagles, Bengals and Bears. Their next road game isn’t until Thanksgiving weekend in Cleveland.

“We have a chance to get healthy [with the bye] and have a good stretch run at home coming up and get ready for the second half of the season,” coach Ben McAdoo said.

Said Beckham: “We’re moving in the right direction. We need to make more plays, we all need to make more plays. But it’s a step forward.”

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