*Three Giants writers debate the defining play from this season: *
In a season with 10 games decided by a touchdown or less, there were many twists and turns to the Giants' journey to 11 wins. But what was the defining moment?
With Big Blue preparing for its Wild Card matchup in Green Bay, our Giants.com crew weighed in on the topic. Here is what they had to say:
BECKHAM BREAKS FREE VS. RAVENS
By John Schmeelk
This is a very easy one for me to answer. The Giants were 2-3 and in the midst of a three-game losing streak when they hosted the Ravens on October 16th. The following week, the Giants were to play the Rams in London before taking a week off. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was just returning from injury and Eli Apple was still out, leaving the defense at less than full strength.
The Giants' offense took a 17-13 lead on the Ravens at the end of the third quarter after an Odell Beckham Jr. stop-and-go for a 75-yard touchdown. After a couple of field goals, the Giants held the lead at 20-16. The Ravens then went on a 75-yard drive, ending in a Terrance West two-yard touchdown run to give them a 23-20 lead. The Giants' offense, down three, would have two minutes and four seconds to try to tie or win the game.
The Giants' offense has not been as explosive as it has been in years past, and for the most part it has been the defense that has closed out games this year. That was not the case against the Ravens. After an incomplete pass and a couple of catches by Larry Donnell, the game was on the line when it was fourth-and-1 at the Giants 34.
The Giants ran a little rub route with Donnell and Beckham, forcing two Ravens to run into each other, resulting in Beckham's 66-yard touchdown on a simple in-route. The win not only broke a three-game losing streak, but it also started a six-game winning streak and gave the Giants a win against a good team. It was also a victory with the defense was not 100 percent healthy, something the team couldn't do against the Packers and Vikings the two weeks prior. It was the start of everything that put the Giants where they are today, in the playoffs.
CASILLAS HOLDS THE LINE
By Dan Salomone
One play has stayed with me this entire season. It's from the Ravens game, but not the one Schmeelk talked about. On the first play of the fourth quarter, linebacker Jonathan Casillas strung out running back Terrance West on a run to the left side on fourth-and-goal at the 1 for a loss of a yard. The play didn't win the game – in fact, Baltimore took the lead later on in the quarter – but it epitomized what the defense wanted to become and what it did become this season: a bully.
That was the type of play the Giants missed over three consecutive losing seasons. So "building the bully" became a mantra, and the Giants rolled with it. The Ravens game set the stage for a true breakout performance by Landon Collins – and the secondary -- the following week in London, and the pieces were in place for the Giants to crank out six consecutive wins while putting themselves in the driver's seat for their first playoff berth since 2011. When it was all said and done, the Giants allowed just 25 offensive touchdowns this season, the fewest in the NFL. They also boast the No. 1 defense in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 39.5 percent of opponents' trips inside the 20. That's how you win championships.
LANDON IN LONDON
By Lance Medow
This season, the Giants' identity has been defense and there's no better play that has showcased this facet than Landon Collins' pick-six against the Rams in London in Week 7. It also defined Collins' stellar sophomore campaign and launched him into the Pro Bowl conversation, one that resulted ultimately in an invite to Orlando. When Collins picked off Case Keenum in the second quarter and returned the interception 44 yards for a touchdown, it was a huge game-changing play and is arguably the best defensive play by any player in the league in 2016. Collins avoided numerous tackles and bounced off a number of Rams like a pinball before finally finding the end zone. That touchdown tied the game at 10-10 and was key given the offense had struggled to put points on the board until that point. While Collins' pick-six was the standout play, he also had another interception in the fourth quarter that set up Rashad Jennings' go-ahead score and helped the Giants move back over .500 heading into the bye week.
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Collins' performance in Week 7 against the Rams was the turning point of his season, as well as that of the team. Starting with the London game, Collins put together a stretch of four straight games with at least one interception, and after the Giants managed just three takeaways in the first six games combined, they had at least one takeaway in each of the last ten contests. The defense became opportunistic and one of the stingiest units in the NFL.