Tom Coughlin was beside himself after his team blew a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost to the Eagles 38-31 Sunday.
How else could he be. Given the magnitude of the game, this may well go down as the biggest collapse in Giants’ history. And remember, this is a series that saw “The Fumble” in 1978. But the Giants weren’t leading that one by 21 points in the fourth quarter.
“I’ve never been around anything like this in my life,” he told the media. “It’s about as empty as you get to feel in this business, right there.”
Empty is right. The 9-5 Giants appeared well on their way to winning their fourth straight game and giving themselves an almost sure chance to win the NFC East. Now, they have to win their last two against Green Bay and Washington if they expect to make the postseason, as even a 10-win season may not be good enough to make the playoffs.
They can ponder for a week now how in the world they let up three tying touchdowns in a span of 6:14 of the fourth quarter after leading 31-10. And rookie punter Matt Dodge, who seemed to have come off the hot seat in recent weeks, can now ponder why in the world he didn’t just kick his final punt out of bounds instead of lining it to the ever-dangerous DeSean Jackson, who returned it 65 yards for the winning score.
“There was no explanation,” Coughlin said. “It’s a team game. There isn’t any one guy – it should have never come down to that.
“Without a doubt it should have never come down to that, but it did and at that point in time with 14 seconds, you’re going to punt the ball out of bounds. You’re going to get one play and you defend the one play and you go into overtime. It didn’t have to end the way it did either.”
Here’s the good and the bad. Only, in commemoration of this embarrassment, we’ll start with the nasty stuff.
Matt Dodge: So plenty of damage has been done already in allowing the Eagles to tie things up at 31. You’re 14 seconds from overtime, and you’re punting to one of the most dangerous returners in the league. Kick it out of bounds, right? But NOOOOOOO!!!!! Dodge lines it straight down the middle, no hang time whatsoever, where Jackson promptly fumbles the bouncing ball. Now it’s on the punt coverage team. Can they make a tackle? NOOOOOOO!!!!! Jackson gathers the ball in, heads up the field, gets a block, and he’s off for the 65-yard game-winning return. Wouldn’t be surprised if Coughlin announces at Monday’s press conference that he cut Dodge right on the field. Don’t know if the kid can recover mentally from something like this.
Kickoff Coverage: Coughlin said the regular kickoff coverage unit was warned to look out for an onside kick after the Eagles made it 31-17. Guess they didn’t believe special teams coach Tom Quinn, because everybody was falling back as David Akers popped it in the air. The Eagles recovered, and Vick marched his team down the field to make it a seven-point game.
Pass Rush: They battered Michael Vick all day, until he decided to take matters into his own hands. His fourth-quarter scrambles were instrumental in setting up two touchdowns, including the tying one on which he went for 33 and 22 yards. And don’t forget his touchdown-scoring quarterback draw that brought the Eagles back to 31-24. Vick wound up with a team-high 130 yards rushing, 90 of which came in the fourth quarter.
The Offense: After Eli Manning found Kevin Boss for a touchdown and a 31-10 lead, the offense mustered just two first downs the rest of the game. The ground game really never got going, as the 100 yards Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for was deceptively benign. But Manning was unable to complete a pass in the last 1:10 when a single first down would have allowed the Giants to run out the clock.
Perry Fewell: Almost hate to do this to him because for three quarters, he had a great gameplan. But you have to question the blitz he used that had Justin Tuck falling back on tight end Brent Celek on Celek’s 65-yard touchdown catch that started the Eagles’ comeback. He wasn’t within five yards of the tight end.
Eli Manning: Again, for three quarters, he did great. He did throw his 20th interception, tying his career high. But he also tossed his career-high 28th touchdown pass to Kevin Boss, his fourth of the game. You go 23-of-39 for 289 yards with four TDs and an interception, you’ve had a pretty nice day. But when the game was tied, he couldn’t hit a key pass. Wonder if things would have been different had Steve Smith been available.
Mario Manningham: Eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half when the Giants sprinted out to a 24-3 lead. He did a nice job at the No. 1 receiver spot, making several sideline catches when the going was good.
Justin Tuck: The defensive end was a harrying presence in the backfield for most of the game and came away with 1 1/2 of the Giants’ three sacks. Give some credit to rookie Jason Pierre-Paul, too, for batting down two passes.
The Secondary: With Fewell blitzing much of the game, Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster were left alone on Jeremy Maclin and Jackson, respectively, and they did a good job. Webster even picked off a pass headed Jackson’s way, and Thomas closed nicely to knock away a sure touchdown pass to Maclin before the wheels fell off.