CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The latest New York Giants loss certainly didn’t lack drama. From the pregame Odell Beckham Jr. comments to a stunning game-winning kick in the final seconds it was, at the very least, an entertaining and often frustrating 33-31 defeat to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
The plays that best defined the latest loss for the Giants (1-4):
1. Where’s the tackling?
It all started quite poorly for the Giants. In fact, it looked as if it was going to be one of those days when Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel made the Giants look silly in scoring the first touchdown of his career. Alec Ogletree, Janoris Jenkins, B.W. Webb and Landon Collins each missed opportunities to tackle Samuel on the play. Four missed tackles. It was an ugly moment for the Giants and put them in a 7-3 hole. But it got uglier.
2. The punt-return bungle
With the Giants' return game a mess most of this season, coach Pat Shurmur decided to have Beckham return punts full-time against the Panthers. But the explosive Beckham only added to their problems early in the second quarter. He went to block Carolina’s gunner on a punt that was destined to land at the Giants’ 2-yard line. Except the punt hit off Beckham’s foot and made it a fumble. Jenkins corralled it temporarily, but tried to run. It was almost immediately knocked loose. It then looked as if Eli Apple would get it in the end zone, but he dove and was hit by a Carolina player and it was recovered in the end zone by Colin Jones for a Panthers touchdown. The Giants looked like a bumbling mess. It was the kind of play that bad teams make. After the game, Beckham said he didn’t think the ball hit him. It clearly did. Shurmur said Beckham was trying to get out of the way, not blocking. Really? Were they all just trying to erase this play completely from their memory? Probably a good idea.
3. Beckham's throwing TD
Saquon Barkley’s first career touchdown catch came on a pass from Beckham. Didn’t see that coming. With the Giants trailing 17-3 in the second quarter, they desperately needed to make a play. They did by having Beckham catch a backward pass behind the line of scrimmage on the left side and throw back across the field to a wide-open Barkley. It went for a 57-yard touchdown that put the Giants back in the game. “All I wanted to do was not overthrow him,” said Beckham, whose arm talent is hardly a secret. “I could’ve probably thrown it out the back of the end zone, but I just wanted to get it to a playmaker who was going to make a play. He did just that.” Barkley said after the game that the Giants had called that play earlier, but had to check out of it because of the Panthers' defense. When they did run the Beckham-to-Barkley pass, it worked. Beckham became the first Giants wide receiver to complete a pass since the NFL merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He also became the first Giants player to catch and throw for a touchdown in the same game since Frank Gifford in 1959. It was a huge play in the game when it looked as if the Giants were going to get blown out.
4. Kickoff out of bounds
Immediately after the Beckham-to-Barkley touchdown, Aldrick Rosas booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Oy! Carolina got the ball at the 40-yard line, made a few plays and turned it into a Graham Gano 47-yard field goal. Free points in large part because of the botched kickoff. Not Rosas’ finest moment, although he did bounce back to hit a 53-yard field goal on the ensuing possession to make it a one-touchdown game right before halftime. That was Rosas’ career long and he’s now 11-for-11 on field goals this season.
5. The inexplicable offside
This one might fall under the radar given the way the game ended, but it could have been the most egregious because it was a mental and not physical error. Kareem Martin had a neutral-zone infraction when the Panthers appeared set to punt on fourth-and-8 late in the third quarter. This allowed Carolina to go for it on fourth down, when they converted thanks to a defensive holding on Webb that was compounded by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Three penalties in a span of six seconds. Yep, it happened to the Giants and they survived. It ultimately didn’t cost them points -- Cam Newton threw an interception two plays later -- but it was indicative of the kind of mistakes they made most of the afternoon, and the kind of miscues that have contributed to them being a 1-4 team.
6. Landon Collins penalty on almost-INT
This is the play that had just about everyone in the Giants locker room confused and frustrated after the game. Collins almost intercepted a pass intended for Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess early in the fourth quarter with the Giants trailing 20-16. The ball hit Collins’ hands and there was a simultaneous collision between Collins and Funchess, with safety Michael Thomas involved in some secondary contact (mostly with Collins) and Jenkins was in the vicinity as well. The referee officially called for an unnecessary-roughness penalty on Collins for hitting a defenseless receiver. Afterward, there was thought that maybe they called the penalty on Thomas. But even that didn’t make much sense. Regardless, the Giants were irate. “I saw a guy going for the ball, making an effort. I think he touched the ball, if I’m not mistaken,” Shurmur said. “I saw that with my own eyes. So a guy is making a play on the ball with no attempt to target the receiver. So that’s how I saw it.” It was a critical call. The penalty came on third down and instead of punting from their own 41-yard line, the Panthers scored a touchdown five plays later. Seven points instead of zero. “We need better referees,” Jenkins said repeatedly after the game. “And we need better penalty calls.” As Collins told Dan Duggan of The Athletic after the game: “It’s bogus calls being called out there."
7. The questionable spot
The Giants had the lead in the final minute when the Panthers were faced with a third-and-1 after calling their final timeout. Carolina went with a Christian McCaffrey run up the middle, but it appeared he was stopped short of the first-down marker. It was, at the very least, close. But rather than measure, the officials instantly awarded the Panthers a first down, which allowed Newton to spike the ball and stop the clock with 12 seconds remaining. “From where I was, I don’t think it was a first down. It was short,” said defensive lineman Damon Harrison, who also tweeted afterward that the Giants had the game stolen from them and that the NFL has some explaining to do. It likely wouldn’t have changed the result if the officials had measured. There were approximately 20 seconds remaining and the Panthers wouldn’t have had trouble setting up for the winning field goal (from the same distance) and getting it off before time expired. But this just added to the Giants’ frustration and the questionable officiating in the second half.
8. The 63-yard game-winner
The Giants lost on a Gano 63-yard field goal. It was the longest field goal ever against the Giants. “Carolina hit a 63-yard field goal. I don’t know what else to say about that,” a mystified Barkley explained after the game. It was a heartbreaker, much in the same way it was when Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott hit a 61-yard kick as time expired in Week 3 last season. What a way to lose for the second straight year. “That was madness,” Gano said. Or maddening for the Giants.