Big Blue Throws Cleveland's Dawg Pound a Costly Bone. Browns 35, Giants 14

Tom SchecterCorrespondent IOctober 14, 2008

So...on Friday I made a big boastful prediction about the Giants impending smackdown of the Cleveland Browns.

I prophesied fifteen carries apiece for Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, and the Giants picking up 250 yards on the ground between the three of them.

I expressed relief that the Browns' trash talking had surely snapped the Giants out of any lull in their intensity, brought on by being fat and happy and undefeated this calendar year.

I look like a shmuck right now. Thanks, guys.

Give credit where credit is due: Cleveland's offensive line looked really impressive (0 sacks for the Giants last night. None. How long has it been since we've seen that happen?), Anderson obviously benefited from the extra time upright in the pocket, and the Browns defense was opportunistic. Crennel threw the kitchen sink at the Giants, pressure-wise, and forced Eli into some bad decisions. The Browns look like a long-shot to win the North, but they're certainly not done yet.

Now, onto the part of this conversation I want to focus on. What the hell happened to the Giants?

Jacobs? 14 carries, 67 yards. Ward? 10 carries, 101 yards. Just about right, total yards-wise, but the fact that the Giants were running for 7 freakin' yards a carry and still called so many ill-advised passes - not to mention that half of them were long, ridiculous shots down the field - is mind-blowing.

Two plays come to mind. First is the punt on first down at the beginning of the third quarter. (Wait, that wasn't a punt? Looked like a punt to me. A football sailing high into the air forty yards deep where only an opposing player is there waiting for it isn't a punt?) Why oh why does Coughlin call that play when it's a three point game? Why not run there? And, come to think of it, why had Jacobs, at that point, only carried the ball five times? (On those five carries? 29 yards and a score, so it wasn't like the run wasn't there.)

Then, in the fourth quarter, the Giants are down thirteen but driving, finally, with a few first downs in a row, and on 2nd and short from the 13 against a defensive front that finally looks gassed for the first time all night? Play action, five yard square out, Eli off his back foot under pressure, throws a newly-christened "Taint" (tm ESPN's Sports Guy, short for Touchdown After INT). Game over.

Now, this is just me talking here, but the Browns D is tired, we're running the ball for seven yards a carry for the game and we're only thirteen yards from paydirt. Why not call two more runs, make it a one-score game and get the Browns and their fans nervous?

(Because Eli is better than Peyton now. Didn't you read any newspapers this week? God, the ignorance!)

Coughlin and Gilbride fell asleep at the wheel right there. The Browns were pressuring Manning all night, he'd already made two mistakes - one under pressure, and one just, well, a punt - and at some point you have to remember that you've got the #1 ranked rushing attack in the NFL and they're in the bottom 10 in rushing defense. Hell, at some point, you've got to accept that it's just not Eli's night!

And the defense couldn't capitalize on any of Cleveland's mistakes. Andthere were plenty. The drive that put the Browns up 27-14 included official plays from scrimmage that started first and 15 twice, first and 20, and second and 15 due to horrendous game-management and sloppy pre-snap movements. Twelve or thirteen total penalties, four on that drive alone, and the Giants defense couldn't make the Browns pay.

The long and short of it is, the Giants pissed away a very winnable game. They'll probably still win the division, now that Romo's out for a month. They'll likely go home and beat up the 49ers pretty badly, and be right back on track. But games like these are the most frustrating type of games to lose. An inferior opponent played the game of their life, and the Giants would still have won if they'd only showed up.