It's still very early and the New York Giants have little reason to panic, but for the second time in four games, Eli Manning and the offense have failed to execute down the stretch against a division rival. As a result, the G-Men will be tied in last in the NFC East through one month.
Manning is one of the most clutch quarterbacks in NFL history, but after falling flat against the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener, Manning wasn't able to lead the Giants to victory in a close battle with the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night.
Of course, it's not all on Manning, who can't be expected to carry the team on his shoulders every fourth quarter. He made the biggest mistake of the game on a baffling red-zone interception to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the final period, but there were other issues at play against the Eagles.
It's hard to argue, for instance, that Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride approached the game's final drive tactfully. A fourth-down pass interference penalty gave the Giants a first down at the Philly 35-yard line with 63 seconds on the clock. Only needing a field goal, it should have been a walk in the park from there.
What followed? Three straight Manning dropbacks, despite the fact the box was far from crowded. I realize they didn't have any timeouts left, but time was barely a factor anymore, and yet Manning and the offense played into the hands of Philly's very good secondary.
Bailed out by a questionable pass interference call on third down. New life, instead of having to attempt a 53-yard field goal with 49 seconds on the clock. They come to their senses and give it to Ahmad Bradshaw, setting up a 44-yard field goal.
But then why go deep to the inexperienced Ramses Barden working against a seasoned pro like Nnamdi Asomugha? Offensive pass interference on a low-percentage play and they're suddenly back on the outskirts of field-goal range.
Then another low-percentage, roll-out passing play setting up second down. Fifteen seconds left, and instead of running one more safe play to the sidelines, Coughlin sends kicker Lawrence Tynes out there.
Now, in my mind, Coughlin's the best head coach in the game. But in this case, he became far too conservative right after being far too aggressive. On the entire last series, the offense failed to properly gauge what the defense was giving it and failed to get into a flow. The Eagles bailed them out with penalties, but even that wasn't enough.
Coughlin has to trust his two-time Super Bowl MVP to make a smart throw on third down with 15 seconds on the clock. He has to know that such a "gamble" is worth giving Tynes more space, especially when you consider that the nine-year veteran had never made a field goal of that length in his career.
So when I say the Giants failed to execute, I'm referring to Manning's terrible end-zone interception to Rodgers-Cromartie and his five incomplete passes (on only six attempts) on that final series, but I'm also pointing a finger at Coughlin and his staff for the plays they called on that disaster of a drive.
The entire thing was very un-Giants-like.
But as I said right off the bat, it's still very early. This team was 3-2 five games into both of their recent Super Bowl seasons, and they merely have to take care of the 0-4 Cleveland Browns in Week 5 to hit that mark again. Coughlin and Eli will hopefully learn from that botched final effort, and the Giants might be better off in the long run.
It's a concern that they're 0-2 in the division, but they'll get the Eagles at home later this year. In addition to having to win the turnover battle in that meeting, they'll have to do a better job managing their opportunities against a team that probably has more talent but less focus than they do.
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