The New York Giants are in trouble. If they have any chance to repeat as division champions, they are going to need to make an abrupt about-face. Now.
They have now lost three straight games after giving away Sunday’s game to a team that’s too Young (as in Vince) for its own good. No matter. The Giants let the Tennessee Titans creep back into the ball game.
The G-men held a commanding 21-0 lead five minutes into the fourth quarter. If Tiki Barber was still complaining about getting the ball, surely he’d have an opportunity to shine in a run-out-the-clock situation.
Barber’s fourth quarter line: six carries for 13 yards, and don’t call me Shirley!
The defense the Giants faced in the fourth quarter seemed like they’d been flown in from Baltimore. New York’s four fourth-quarter drives ended with an interception, punt, punt and interception. They ran a grand total of 16 plays in the final period. The Titans essentially averaged a three-and-out.
The Giants offense – as bad as it was – did not give the game away alone (although Eli Manning was trying). Their defense simply let the Vince Young and the Titans out of their grasp. Literally.
On fourth-and-10 with 2:44 left in the game, Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka wrapped his arms around Young. The game was very much in Kiwanuka’s hands – or arms. In that play, Kiwanuka became a microcosm for the Giants game: he let Young, and the Titans, go free. He let him go. Vince Young did not perform one of his burnt-orange Houdini routines. Kiwanuka just let him go.
And go Young went, for 19 yards, the first down, and eventually the game-tying touchdown.
“Thank God for letting me loose,” Young told reporters after the game about the play.
In that moment, the Titans were let loose, and on they went to beat the Giants on a 49-yard field goal with six seconds in the game.
And while the win is priceless for the Titans, I wouldn’t have paid a dollar to watch a football team as sloppy as the Giants were in the closing stages of Sunday’s game. Heck, the difference between the New York Giants and a dollar bill: you can still get four quarters out of a dollar.
The same cannot be said for Tom Coughlin’s team. As for Coughlin, he’s about to blow a gasket. Play-makers have been critical of him and the play-calling. Any veteran leadership is nowhere to be found. His big-name quarterback is making terrible decisions. If his last name wasn’t Manning, he’d be thrown under a bus – and knowing the New York media, he might be.
The Giants are now 6-5, second in the NFC East to rival Dallas, whose three-game winning streak are not nearly as scary as the difference in attitude. The Cowboys are full of life after a Thanksgiving Day route of Tampa Bay, 38-10, and quarterback Tony Romo is making a legitimate Pro Bowl bid.
If New York loses next week’s all-important division game to Dallas at the Meadowlands, they can kiss good-bye any dreams of repeating as division champs.
The Giants down-trodden locker room won’t be aided by players and coaches lashing out at the media about one another. Last week Barber complained he wasn’t being utilized enough. After this collapse, it was Coughlin ripping his quarterback for throwing a late interception. Quite a contrast to their division leader.
The Cowboys’ only concern – albeit a big one – is if Bill Parcells can count on his kicker. Dallas has demonstrated an attitude shift under Romo’s guidance erasing any memory of Terrell Owens preseason antics and end zone naps.
While the Giants remaind tightly wound, the Cowboys are just as loose as Vince Young on fourth-and-10.
When New York finishes the season third in the division behind the Cowboys and McNabb-less Eagles, just remember, the Giants’ season did not slip away. They let it go.