Jonathan Casillas was on the sideline rallying the defense. It looked as if it would take the field and need to force a takeaway for the Giants, trailing by three points, to have even a slim chance to win.
The offense was facing a fourth-and-1 at its 34-yard line with 1:36 remaining on a bleak afternoon in which the Giants and the officials had been booed lustily — both with good reason — and the Giants seemed to be on the verge of a disheartening defeat.
“I was saying: ‘Come on, guys, we’re about to go back out there, we have to win it,’ ” the linebacker and defensive captain said of his sideline spiel. “Then I was like: ‘Man, just give it to 13 and let him end the game for us. Please.’ ”
It was almost as if Eli Manning heard him on the field. The quarterback saw one-on-one coverage, changed the play to target Odell Beckham Jr. on a slant, and hit the receiver in stride while two defenders collided for a 66-yard touchdown that gave the Giants a 27-23 win over the Ravens at MetLife Stadium.
The defense still had to stop the Ravens in the final 1:24, and that was an arduous endeavor that came down to a pass into the end zone as time expired. But it was Beckham whose two touchdowns and career-high 222 receiving yards led the Giants to victory. He also caught a 75-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter that gave the Giants their first lead.
“The kid is an amazing player, and I expect plays like that from him,” Casillas said. “He’s that type of player and he shows it week in and week out. He’s unbelievable.”
The final touchdown came after the Giants coughed up a lead thanks to a controversial pass-interference call against Dom inique Rodgers-Cromartie at the 8. It set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Terrance West that gave the Ravens a 23-20 lead with 2:04 remaining.
“I knew that we had to put a drive together,” Victor Cruz said of the predicament. “I didn’t anticipate Odell being Odell in that specific moment, but we knew that we had to get together and get things going on the right track to get this win.”
Manning completed 32 of 46 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns in his 200th consecutive start for the Giants (including postseason). It was his 100th regular-season win, and he moved past John Elway (300) into seventh on the all-time touchdown list (302). It also was the 700th win for the Giants, who joined the Packers and Bears as the only teams to reach that milestone.
None of that calculated into the drama of Sunday’s game, which was about as close to a must-win as the Giants (3-3) could face without the possibility of elimination. It ended a three-game skid, brought them back to .500 and came against a Ravens team that was without seven key starters because of injury by the time the game ended.
“It’s huge,” Cruz said. “These wins in general are ones we need to continue to mount up to stay in the conversation and continue to compete not only for our division but against the entire league.”
The Giants trailed 13-10 late in the third quarter when Manning hit Beckham deep down the right sideline over cornerback Will Davis, who was covering Beckham in place of Jimmy Smith (concussion). That gave the Giants a 17-13 lead. The Ravens responded with a 70-yard completion and face-mask penalty on the next offensive snap and had first-and-goal at the 3, but the Giants held them without a point, with Casillas making the fourth-down tackle at the 2 to get the ball back on downs.
The Giants spotted the Ravens (3-3) an early 10-0 lead on a field goal and a TD run that was set up by Beckham’s fumble on their first offensive snap. With Beckham not on the field for most of a drive late in the second quarter because of a hip injury, Manning hit Cruz for 10 yards on fourth-and-5 and found Beckham replacement Roger Lewis Jr. in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. It was the first career reception for Lewis.
After the Giants tied the score at 10 on the first drive of the third quarter, the Ravens converted Manning’s second interception into a field goal to make it 13-10. The Giants responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Beckham on first down.
“You have to believe,” Manning said. “There’s going to be lulls when you’re not playing great. But you just have to believe you can do it every time and make the plays you need to make to win the game.”
Having Beckham on their side makes it a lot easier to keep that faith.
Eli Manning is the eighth QB in the 300-TD passes club:
1. Peyton Manning539
2. Brett Favre508
3. Drew Brees442
4. Tom Brady434
5. Dan Marino420
6. Fran Tarkenton342
7. Eli Manning 302
8. John Elway300