But with all the crazy rules these days designed to protect the QB, Kiwanuka basically said he was scared to bring him down and risk a penalty that would have extended Tennessee’s drive.
“Unfortunately I made a bad decision,” Kiwanuka said. “I thought it would be a 15-yard penalty if I drove him to the ground. I made a mistake that cost us the game.”
“He thought the ball was thrown,” coach Tom Coughlin added. “The ball wasn’t thrown and he’s afraid he’s going to get called.”
As it was, Young took off and gained 19 yards before being brought down, the key play in the Titans’ miraculous comeback – and the Giants’ tremendous choke.
“Thank you for letting me loose,” Young said. “He is a physical guy and I thought he was going to bring me down, but at the same time I’m trying to fight out of it and he just let me go.”
While Kiwanuka had Young and the entire Titans team dead to rights, he was unable to finish the job, just as New York was unable to seal the deal in Nashville.
“It’s a fraction of a second that you have to make a decision,” he said.
That quickly an entire season can be lost.
For as good as Eli Manning was through the game’s first three quarters, he was that much worse in the final period. Manning led New York’s opportunistic offense to three first-half TDs. But in the fourth quarter when really only another big play or two would have been enough to wrap up the victory, Manning was unable to provide the play – or the win. Instead his fourth quarter started with a fourth-down pass being batted away. However, what followed was even worse.
His first INT – on a deep ball to Plaxico Burress – clearly woke the Titans up.
“That wasn’t intended for that,” Coughlin tried to explain. “There was a blitz. He went over on that side because there was pressure. It looked like Plaxico pulled off the play and the ball was overthrown but (Pacman) Jones intercepted the ball.
Burress took the blame, saying that once he realized he couldn’t get to the pass he should have done whatever necessary to ensure it wasn’t picked off.
“Maybe I should have just tackled him and take a 15-yard penalty,” Burress said.
Manning took the blame on his shoulders.
“I think if I had a better throw we would have had a completion, but I just didn’t get enough on it,” said.
Likewise, on his second INT.
The Titans had just tied the game and New York got the ball back with 40 seconds to play. On second down – and with less than 30 seconds to go – Manning uncorked an awful pass down the right sideline intended for David Tyree, of all receivers.
Jones picked off the underthrown pass once again – you sensing a trend here? The Titans started just on New York’s side of the 50, and needed only two more plays before banging through the game-winning field goal, a 49-yarder from Rob Bironas with six seconds to play.
“I should have tried to get the ball out of bounds and not turn the ball over,” Manning explained. “I should have thrown it away. If worse comes to worse we take it into overtime and try to win in there. It was a bad decision on my part. If you’re going to miss you have to miss high and away rather than short.”
TE Jeremy Shockey dislocated his left ring finger in pregame warm-ups but suited up and played through the pain. Shockey said that he was catching passes from Manning before the game (insert your own Eli joke here) and had a pass hit his right hand and kind of ricochet into his left ring finger. Despite seeing the bone through the skin, Shockey said he never even considered sitting out against Tennessee.
“I wanted to play,” he said. “I told them ‘cut it off, whatever, but I’m playing.’ ”
Shockey caught a team-high five passes for 39 yards, all basically with one hand.
“My whole left hand was numb and it still is,” he said afterward.
To a man, the Giants were extremely impressed with the play of rookie QB Vince Young. The former Texas star, who completed 24-of-35 passes for 249 yards and two TDs, certainly got better as the game went along.
“Vince Young did a great job for the Titans,” LB Antonio Pierce said. “You could feel the confidence building in number 10. To me I think it was just him. I don’t know who else to talk about other than number 10.”
The energetic Young was pleased with his ability to pull out the victory.
“It’s a sneak peek of what’s going to happen, not just with me, but with this team in general,” he said.
“You can see what he did,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher added. “He used his legs and he used his arm. That’s why we drafted him. He took a big step. I think the whole team did.”
Webster can’t toe line
Starting LCB Corey Webster was unable to play due to his injured toe, joining countless other Giants defensive starters in the sideline. In Webster’s place, Frank Walker got the start. R.W. McQuarters was already in the starting lineup for Sam Madison (hamstring). Michael Strahan (foot) and Osi Umenyiora (hip) remained out and were replaced by William Joseph and Mathias Kiwanuka, respectively. Also, Brandon Short was unable to start at WLB with Gerris Wilkinson getting the nod. LT Luke Petitgout (leg) was inactive, as was rookie receiver Sinorice Moss (quad). Tim Hasselbeck, the club’s third quarterback, remained the only healthy member of New York’s inactive list.