The New York Giants' season has been defined by late-game collapses. For once, they were able to seal away a game painlessly. With a 3-yard gain on third-and-3, the Giants were able to run out the clock on the Miami Dolphins and secure a 31-24 win on Monday, keeping their flickering playoff hopes alive in the process.
The two teams traded leads five times in what was primarily an offensive game. Neither defense could stop big plays. The Dolphins scored touchdowns on 14- and 38-yard Lamar Miller runs and Odell Beckham had a 45-yard reception to help set up his own 6-yard score, then later added an 84-yard touchdown that gave the Giants a 31-24 lead in the fourth quarter.
All told, there were 792 combined yards of offense between the two teams, with the Giants running up tempo and the Dolphins mixing deep passing with the read option. The Dolphins blinked first.
The Giants had several chances to ice the game midway through the fourth. After taking a seven-point lead on Beckham's long touchdown catch, they forced a punt after an eight-play Dolphins drive. Pinned at their own 2-yard line, they promptly went three-and-out to give the ball back to the Dolphins deep in Giants territory.
The Giants defense then forced a fourth straight Dolphins punt to get the ball back with under 4:30 remaining. Instead of running the ball on third-and-3 -- and making sure that the Dolphins would lose a lot of time with no timeouts left -- Tom Coughlin and the Giants dialed a pass to Beckham, who had to dive but secured the ball to seal the game.
The win gave the Giants life in the NFC East race. After Washington and Philadelphia won Sunday, Monday's game was a must-win. They improved to 6-7 on the season to keep themselves in the three-way tie atop the division standings. They have a tough road ahead, with the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings on deck before what could be a clinching game against the Eagles in Philly. Monday night was a big a step forward for the Giants in a shaky season.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, were eliminated from the playoffs.
Three things we learned
1) The Dolphins should have kept giving Lamar Miller the ball
One of the reasons former Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was fired was his frustratingly soft commitment to the running game. Lamar Miller was expected to be a big beneficiary of Zac Taylor's promotion to OC. He had a great game against the Giants.
Miller finished with 89 yards rushing on 12 carries. He was a big play threat every time he touched the ball. His second touchdown was a testament to his vision and acceleration (as well as the Giants' shaky tackling).
But for some reason, Miller stopped getting the ball in the second half. He had four carries on the Dolphins' opening touchdown drive after intermission, then touched the ball just twice more as Miami's offense kicked punt after punt. He had a season high 20 carries last week and for a half he was on his way to a massive outing.
Then Miami just stopped giving him the ball. And they lost.
2) The Dolphins' defense should be better than this by now
Granted, the unit was facing a talented Giants outfit, but New York scored 34 total points in its last two games. They scored 31 against a Dolphins team that has tried to make defense its calling card the last several offseasons.
Ndamukong Suh was quiet again as the Giants racked up 429 total yards and gained some momentum on the ground in the second half after upping the tempo. They rushed for long first downs twice on their first touchdown drive in the second half and were able to dictate the line of scrimmage on the game-sealing drive.
Worse were silly penalties. The unit was flagged three times for personal fouls, two of which extended Giants touchdown drives.
The Dolphins have struggled in a lot of ways this season. On Monday, the blame fell mostly on the defense.
3) Odell Beckham's footwork is almost as good as his hands
Referees ruled this third quarter end zone pass to Odell Beckham incomplete. In real time, it's hard to blame them.
But after review, they correctly reversed the call. Pylon cam caught Beckham just scraping his left toe to make the catch in bounds.
Beckham had another excellent outing with seven catches, 166 yards and two touchdowns.