New York Giants: Which Games Cost Big Blue a Chance at the Super Bowl Defense?
One year ago, the New York Giants were preparing to play an NFC Championship Game.
They traveled to San Francisco to knock off the 49ers 23-20 in overtime to advance to Super Bowl XLVI.
Fast forward one year later, the Giants are sitting at home, watching the playoffs from their couches as the Atlanta Falcons will play the same exact 49ers team.
The 2012 season for the Giants was filled with a lot of what-if's and playoff hopes that were shattered late in the season with an unfortunate collapse.
Looking back at the regular season, which games cost the Giants the most during the season and cost them a chance for a potential repeat of a Super Bowl title defense?
Week 4: 19-17 Loss at Philadelphia
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Week 4 was so close to being a win, and yet, it wasn't.
Lawrence Tynes missed a potential-game winning 54-yard field goal, but only before Andy Reid calling timeout in an attempt to ice Tynes.
Tynes' second attempt at the field goal was short, and the Eagles improved to 3-1 on the season.
Tynes would have had a shorter attempt to kick the game-winner, but Ramses Barden was called for offensive pass interference and moved the Giants back.
Who knew that the Eagles would go from a 3-1 start and finish 4-12, which included a 42-7 pounding from the Giants in Week 17.
The Eagles were very competitive and played the Giants tough, but the Giants should have had this game.
Week 9: 24-20 Loss vs. Pittsburgh
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The Giants were up 20-10 at the end of the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
All they had to do was stop Ben Roethlisberger and Co., but the Giants defense simply could not.
Roethlisberger connected on a pass to Mike Wallace, who took it 51 yards past the Giants secondary and cut the lead to 20-17.
Emmanuel Sanders then took a Giants punt and raced it to the 12-yard line, and it looked like the Steelers would take the lead, but the Giants stopped them from scoring on a fake field-goal attempt.
The Giants offense, however, couldn't capitalize on the Steelers sloppiness because they were even worse.
Isaac Redman scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:08 to go and put Pittsburgh up 24-20.
The Giants attempted to come back, but the Steelers defense held them and forced a punt.
Fourteen fourth-quarter points allowed in this game by the Giants defense against a sloppy Steelers team that finished 8-8.
If they had won this game, the Giants would have gone to 7-2 instead of 6-3. Another blown opportunity in the season.
Week 13: 17-16 Loss at Washington
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The Giants' record against NFC East opponents was not the best in 2012; 3-3.
One of their toughest divisional losses late in the season was their Monday night showdown with Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
I always look at the blown 43-yard field goal in the second quarter by Lawrence Tynes as a huge opportunity the Giants missed.
Sure, it would have only made the score 7-6 Washington, but the Giants scored on the next drive, which made it 10-7 Giants, and that could have made it 13-7.
In fact, the Eli Manning-to-Martellus Bennett touchdown was the only score the Giants converted, as Tynes had to kick three field goals, all drives the Giants failed to get seven points on.
Throw in the inability of the Giants to score when in Washington territory along with Tynes' missed field goal that could have made the score 19-17, and the Giants really missed out on a chance to increase their lead in the NFC.
Instead, Washington held on to win 17-16, improved to 6-6, while dropping the Giants to 7-5 and allowed them to claw back in the divisional race.
If the Giants had won, it would have put them at 8-4 and pushed Washington to 5-7, which really would have done some serious damage to its chances of catching the Giants.
Week 16: 33-14 Loss at Baltimore
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I won't look at the 34-0 loss the Giants suffered the previous week against the Atlanta Falcons as a loss that killed the Giants' playoff hopes.
Why? Because truthfully, I never felt comfortable about that game, even at the beginning of the season.
However, at 8-6, the Giants still controlled their playoff destiny by winning, and the game against the Baltimore Ravens truly was a must-win game to control their fate.
Instead, the Giants laid one of the biggest eggs of the season by letting Baltimore smack them around from start to finish.
The Giants actually were in the game down only 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and maybe even at 17-7.
However, when Joe Flacco threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Ray Rice right before halftime, it seemed to have deflated the Giants' chances of getting back in the game.
The Giants defense allowed over 500 yards of total offense, which included over 200 yards rushing by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, and Baltimore won 33-14, which clinched the AFC North title.
The loss sank the Giants to 8-7 and took full control of their playoff destiny out of their hands instead of going to 9-6 and playing Week 17 for a chance to get the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
Of the four remaining teams playing for a chance at Super Bowl XLVII, three of them were playing football this time last season.
The Giants are the only ones who are not back, and it has to be tough on them, along with head coach Tom Coughlin, who I know wanted to make another run at a Super Bowl.
But in reality, the Giants have nobody to blame but themselves this season for the losses they suffered.
Now, I'm not saying the Giants should have won all of these games listed here, especially the final one against the Baltimore Ravens. The Giants absolutely deserved to lose in Week 16.
But two out of the three other games were certainly doable and could have been wins.
If Ramses Barden doesn't get get called for pass interference in Philly or Lawrence Tynes makes that second-quarter field goal in Washington or if the Giants defense doesn't allow 14 fourth-quarter points against Pittsburgh, the Giants' 2012 season drastically changes.
Maybe it's the Giants who make the playoffs and not the Redskins.
Maybe the Giants beat the Seattle Seahawks at home in the first round, then go on and knock off the Falcons on the road in a rematch, (something the Giants are known for doing in the past) and are set up with an NFC Championship with the 49ers on Sunday.
Instead, the Giants are stuck with an offseason filled with what-ifs on a few games that they let slip away.