According to ESPN last night, Tom Coughlin’s first word to his team after the Giants’ baffling and humiliating 17-10 loss to the Eagles on Sunday Night Football was, “Why?” I translate that as “Man, you’d think somebody could do something about this, don’t you?”
The reasons why can be seen in the NFL’s game highlights, though each big play begs another question. For instance, it’s been a whole year since the incredible fourth quarter collapse against the Eagles last year, capped by DeSean Jackson’s incredible game-winning punt return, and the Giants have had all this time to think about how they intended to deal with Jackson. And what did Coughlin and his staff come up with? Jackson’s 51-yard punt return with 2:26 left to play in the half set up a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Vince Young to former Giant Steve Smith. NBC’s Chris Collingworth, the best at his job on national TV, asked the rhetorical question that Coughlin should have asked himself in earnest while preparing for the game: “Why kick it to Jackson?!” Indeed. Was this some kind of macho thing where the Giants simply intended to challenge the Eagles at just about the only thing they do well and still show them that they can win? What other explanation makes sense?
That’s one reason why you lost, Tom. Another is that ten games into the season, you didn’t know how to get your team mentally prepared for a big game — on offense, on defense, on special teams. Playing at home in what was supposed to be their revenge game, the Giants offensive line could neither pass nor run block, totaling a stupefying 29 yards rushing and allowing Eli Manning to be sacked three times and knocked down four more times. On defense, they couldn’t put pressure on Young, a second team QB who looked rustier than the nail he drove into the Giants’ coffin.
The special teams? Well, we already talked about Jackson’s punt return. What hasn’t been explained is why the Giants gave him a chance to return the ball at all –and for the second consecutive year.
Mike Lupica wrote on Sunday, “Tonight at MetLife, the Giants get the chance to beat the Eagles twice this season, get the chance to put them down for good. This doesn’t square the books on DeSean Jackson. You don’t ever square the books on a loss like that. The Giants still owe them one.”
No, they don’t owe the Eagles anything at all. They owe themselves. They’ve – meaning both the players and coaches — created this mess. Sunday night the Giants had everything set up their way: a game at home, one in which they had momentum after an inspiring win over New England against an Eagles team supposedly demoralized after losing six of their first nine games and having their quarterback, Michael Vick, out with broken ribs. And they blew it.
Taking nothing away form the Eagles, who once again played a gutsy game against New York with their back to the wall, the Giants, with all sails pointed forward, blew it. And now they must come up with the three biggest games of the season. They have to beat the Saints, leaders of the NFC South, on the road. The following Sunday they must beat the Packers, the best team in the league, and then the Dallas Cowboys, the team they’re tied with now in the NFC East in Dallas.
When, oh when, are Giants fans and the New York sports press going to understand that what happened at the end of the 2007 season was a fluke, that Tom Coughlin is the most disorganized coach in pro football, and that Eli Manning is never going to be great?