By Paul Dottino
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At some point, the plethora of self-inflicted wounds will be too much to overcome. At least that’s what logic tells us.
The Giants (5-7) are not quite there … yet, thanks to the underwhelming NFC East.
But it’s only natural to wonder how they can continue to fight and battle after their latest heartbreaking loss, this one a 23-20 overtime setback against the Jets. The Giants will be seeking a Cowboys win over the Redskins on Monday Night Football to wake up tied with the Redskins and Eagles for first place in the division (with the Redskins owning the tiebreaker) with four games to play.
There’s one point to make here before moving on to our review.
Given how the season has gone, it’s completely understandable why coach Tom Coughlin bypassed a field goal with a 20-10 lead with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. He’s seen enough to know that SCORING POSSESSIONS have become more of a factor in his team’s losses than actual points because of the Giants’ inability to control the clock via the running game. Along those lines, a 10-point margin is virtually the same as a 13-point margin. You can still get beat with TWO scoring drives. However, even the Jets would admit that a 17-point deficit would have sealed the game because THREE scoring drives would have been too much to accomplish with the time remaining.
Debate the play selection if you’d like — the pass to a double-covered Rueben Randle was intercepted by Rontez Miles — because the Jets were in perfect alignment to defend it. But there was strong logic in the coach’s decision to go for the touchdown.
Offense: LG/LT Justin Pugh
You can’t say enough about how much of a throwback he is. Put him in any set of circumstances and he’s eager to go, giving maximum mental and physical effort to do whatever’s necessary to get the job done. In his return from the NFL’s concussion protocol, the versatile Pugh was forced to move from left guard to left tackle after Ereck Flowers suffered a sprained ankle that forced him out of the game early in the third quarter.
Defense: DE Robert Ayers
He had his finest output of the season, registering five tackles (two for losses), two sacks, three quarterback hits and a deflected pass. He is another gamer who leaves it all on the field. We’re not sure, but he may be the most battered of the team’s defensive lineman, yet he fights off injuries with gusto to stay on the field.
Special teams: WE Dwayne Harris
Wow, just wow. He juked tacklers on three instances during his 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Harris became the first Giant to have a KOR and PR for a TD in the same season since Jimmy Patton in 1955. And please don’t forget how Harris darted 43 yards on a kickoff return following the Jets’ overtime field goal, either.
Offense: The Line
Two snaps before the controversial decision to go for the field goal, LDE Muhammad Wilkerson looped around to the right side of the Jets’ defensive line. He avoided traffic — nobody picked him up — and sacked Eli Manning to leave the Giants with a third-and-18 from the Jets’ 20. An athletic 16-yard grab by Randle (reaching backwards) left the offense facing fourth down.
Defense: CB Prince Amukamara
This is totally unfair, but sometimes it just comes down to who makes the play in the most critical of times. Sure, the defense blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter again. But WR Brandon Marshall climbed the stairs over Amukamara to make a 9-yard catch in the left corner of the end zone on a perfect throw by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick that tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation.
Special Teams: PK Josh Brown
What else can you do? He admitted he didn’t have the right follow through on the 48-yard field goal that went wide left to end the game. And so, despite increasing his franchise record of consecutive field goals to 29, it was his 30th attempt that proved decisive.