This time — this one time — Ingrid Bergman didn’t get on the plane, and decided to go home with Bogie instead. This time — this one time — Tin Cup McAvoy coaxed his ball over the water, and to within tap-in range of the cup. Buttermaker’s Bears beat the damned Yankees. Helen Hunt ran away with Tom Hanks after he finally made it home off the island.
This time — this one time — it was the Giants who made the plays in the second half. It was the Giants who forced three enormous turnovers. It was the Giants who enjoyed an unspeakable gaffe by the other guys. And it was the Giants who walked off the turf at MetLife Stadium winners, while the other guys trudged back to their locker room shaking their heads.
“I’m very proud of the way the team came out and responded, because that’s an awfully good team,” Giants coach Joe Judge said after the Giants held off the Las Vegas Raiders, 23-16, lifting their record to 3-6 on the season, a win that’ll feel extra good because they’ll be able to savor it for two weeks thanks to their coming bye.
“When we play like that,” Judge said, “we’re a good team, too.”
On Sunday, they absolutely were when they had to be, when the game was there for them, there to be won, the way so many others have these past two years. Too often they seem to invent late-game slapstick. Not this time. Not this game. The Raiders kept taunting them to take the game away from them. This time, the Giants did.
They kept it interesting, sure, because the Giants seem to do that even when they don’t burn the final page of their usual script. The Raiders looked to be riding an avalanche toward the end zone, toward a tying touchdown, and toward an overtime that not one soul inside MetLife believed the Giants would survive.
Then Vegas’ quarterback Derek Carr dropped back to throw, 44 seconds left in the game, second-and-10 from the Giants’ 13. The Giants’ defense swarmed Carr, and linebacker Quincy Roche got to Carr first. He stripped the ball. It was lineman Leonard Williams who fell on it. The throaty Raiders rooting section was silenced.
The Giants’ fans roared. It was a good, long, thunderous roar. It was a long time coming.
“They embraced this challenge,” Judge said of his team.
They did. It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t need to be. The Giants breezed down the field the first time they touched the ball, Daniel Jones connecting with Evan Engram on a 30-yard scoring play, but then the Raiders took over, and they took a 13-10 lead into the half, and they had the ball to extend the lead to start the third when Carr dropped back to pass.
MetLife Stadium has seen this drill before, and you could feel the Giants’ faction of the building hold its breath. Except suddenly, there was Xavier McKinney, beautifully jumping Hunter Renfrow’s route, grabbing the ball, sprinting the other way 41 yards for six.
What was 13-10, Raiders, was now 17-13, Giants.
And somehow, the Giants kept the lead for every bit of the remaining 26 minutes and 32 seconds of the game. McKinney would add another interception later. Remarkably, Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson — 8-for-8 on the season on kicks inside 40 yards — yanked a 25-yard field goal with 9:31 left in the game.
So instead of simply needing a field goal to win on that last drive, the Raiders knew they needed a touchdown to tie. For most of the game, the Raiders fans in the house had drowned out the locals, but not this time, even as Carr led the Raiders upfield without any timeouts, 62 yards in 136 seconds. The crowd coaxed, cajoled, buoyed the guys in the blue shirts.
And then the ball was on the ground. Soon enough, the scoreboard read 0:00. After a short week that kicked off with a gut-punch loss in Kansas City, a week littered with COVID craziness, the scoreboard read 0:00.
“It’s exciting,” Jones said. “Guys prepared, stayed focused on what we were doing and being ready to go. And we got done what we needed to get done.”
The Giants had won. They’d rewritten a tired old script. In the frost of late afternoon, they’d served as a major spoiler for the Raiders, and they sprinted into the bye week as winners. Streisand and Redford wound up living happily ever after this time. This one time.