Sifting through the rubble of the Giants’ devastating 21-20 loss to San Diego yesterday, one statistic jumps out big: the Giants — playing at home — had nine penalties for 104 yards to the Chargers’ three for just 20. Moreover, the Giants had nearly 100 yards in gains negated by those penalties. This kind of sloppiness signals a return to the old Coughlin Giants, the pre-Super Bowl champs, and is a particularly bad stat in a game they called their “Super Bowl” — a game they knew they absolutely had to win.
The truly shocking element of the Giants’ flub was how clearly they had dominated the game for nearly 59 minutes only to lose it in the last 60 seconds.
Prior to the Chargers’ last possession, the Giants had out gained San Diego 304 yards to 146 and a whopping time of possession of 37:47 to 21:13. They had stuffed LaDainian Tomlinson, 22 yards on 12 carries, and completely stopped Philip Rivers, holding him to a mere 129 yards on 33 passes. In other words, San Diego had practically no offense at all and had scored 14 points mostly by virtue of the field position the Giants gave them through penalties.
Yes, the Giants should not have played for the field goal on their last possession of the game — though if they had made up their minds sooner to play for three and had run the ball on first down instead of throwing an incomplete pass, they might have come close to running the clock out. Or here’s another possibility: instead of playing for the field goal, if they had simply run the ball four consecutive times with Manning taking a knee on the final play, San Diego would have gotten the ball at about their own five-six yard line with perhaps time for one play. Just about any scenario would have been good EXCEPT THE ONE COUGHLIN CHOSE. We were reminded of that scene in A History of Violence where William Hurt looks down at the dead hood on the floor who was supposed to kill Viggo Mortensen, shakes his head and asks, “How do you fuck that up?”
The Giants aren’t out of the playoff race yet, but after this week’s bye, they face a brutal four-game set — the Falcons, the Broncos at Denver, the Cowboys and the Eagles — in which they must win three out of four just to stay in the postseason picture. And there isn’t much of a chance they’re going to beat the Broncos in Denver.