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5 plays that propelled Giants to the playoffs

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Five turning point plays the propelled the Giants to the 2017 playoffs:

Good or bad, coaches often say that a season boils down to a handful of plays.


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These turning points can make or break postseason dreams, especially for a team like the Giants, who played in 10 games decided by seven points or fewer this year. But this time around, the Giants made the plays and are heading to Green Bay for their first playoff appearance since winning it all in 2011.

"I like this football team," Ben McAdoo said after finishing 11-5 in his first season as head coach. "I think we have talented men of integrity in the locker room. That's where it starts and where it ends."

With that in mind, Giants.com takes a look at the turning points that brought the team to where it is today:

THE SALSA RETURNS IN DALLAS

Date: Sept. 11, 2016 (Week 1)
Location: AT&T Stadium
Situation: Third-and-goal at Cowboys 3, 6:19 left in fourth quarter

After a 700-day layoff from football due to injuries, Cruz made his triumphant return and caught what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Eli Manning. The Giants faithful in AT&T Stadium let out "Cruuuuuuuz" chants as he did his patented salsa touchdown celebration. "Doing the dance, it's in the blood," Cruz said. "So it doesn't go anywhere. It's just like riding a bike."

The Giants went on to claim a 20-19 victory in McAdoo's first game as the 17th head coach in franchise history. It also ended a five-year stretch of season-opening losses for the Giants, including three to Dallas. The Cowboys wouldn't lose again until Dec. 11 – also to the Giants.

CASILLAS MAKES GOAL-LINE STAND VS. RAVENS

Date: Oct. 16, 2016 (Week 6)
Location: MetLife Stadium
Situation: Fourth-and-goal at Giants 1, start of fourth quarter

Holding onto a four-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, the Giants needed a stop as the Ravens decided to go for it on fourth down at the 1. Terrance West rushed wide left and was met by linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, who stopped him for a loss of a yard. This marked the beginning of what would become the NFL's No. 1 red zone defense for the entire season. The Giants went on to avoid a 2-4 start and instead climbed back to .500, marking the beginning of a six-game winning streak. "It is huge; 3-3 sounds a lot better than 2-4 and dropping two at home -- that would have been really tough," Casillas said at the time.

ODELL DOES IT AGAIN VS. BALTIMORE

Date: Oct. 16, 2016 (Week 6)
Location: MetLife Stadium
Situation: Fourth-and-1 at Giants 34, 1:36 left in fourth quarter

Trailing by three points and staring at a possible 2-4 record with a long flight to London next on the schedule, the Giants needed to make something happen. Like he has so many times before, Odell Beckham Jr. did just that. The three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver took a short pass from Eli Manning and turned it into a 66-yard, go-ahead touchdown in front of a rowdy home crowd.

>> ANATOMY OF A PLAY: TURNING POINT OF THE YEAR

"I caught the slant and didn't know how close the defender was," Beckham said. "First of all, Eli changed the play. He had a play on and saw some different coverages that you can't mess with. He changed the play and put me in a perfect position to run a slant. I catch it and see one safety angling to the right. I know that for someone to be able to open their hips and run at the same time to run me down, they're going to be very fast. I went left and it all worked out."

COLLINS BREAKS OUT IN LONDON VS. RAMS

Date: Oct. 23, 2016 (Week 7)
Location: Twickenham Stadium (England)
Situation: Second-and-5 at Rams 30, 7:10 left in second quarter

This play will be shown for years and years when promoting the International Series. Safety Landon Collins sparked the Giants – and his career -- midway through the second quarter with a 44-yard interception return for the ages. The former high school running back zigzagged his way from the middle of the field where he caught the ball to the right sideline and then to the left side, spinning and plowing his way into the end zone. "[I feel] fantastic," Collins said. "I mean, my first career touchdown in the NFL. Fantastic. A memory I never want to forget. Definitely a game-changing moment for the team. Got the ball back and changed momentum." Collins, who had two interceptions in the game, launched his Pro Bowl campaign with that performance. He went on to finish the season with 125 tackles, five interceptions and four sacks.

ODELL HITS ANOTHER GEAR VS. DALLAS

Date: Dec. 11, 2016 (Week 14)
Location: MetLife Stadium
Situation: Second-and-10 at Giants 39, 1:18 left in third quarter

After their six-game winning streak came to an end in Pittsburgh the week before, the Giants were looking to make a statement against the hottest team in the NFL. It was tough early on as the offense was shut out in the first half for the second week in a row and the first nine drives yielded six punts, two lost fumbles, and a field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

Enter Beckham, who took a short slant pass from Manning and won a foot race against cornerback Brandon Carr for a 61-yard touchdown. "I was running as fast as ever," Beckham said. "I felt someone chasing me. I had to hit another gear." The play helped end the Cowboys' 11-game winning streak as the Giants went on to knock off the Lions, another division leader at the time, the following week.

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