Yeah, what he did on the game's last play was stupid, unbelievable and frankly astounding, but Dodge didn't cost the Giants another loss to Philadelphia. The defense did, and if you don't believe me you weren't watching the final 7 minutes and twenty-seven seconds when Big Blue turned a 31-10 laugher into a 38-31 meltdown.
|Tom Coughlin and the Giants are left stunned by the turn of events that lead to defeat. (AP)|
I can see why. The Giants had this game signed and sealed. They just couldn't deliver, which makes you wonder what chances they have of surviving the next two weeks. I mean, they should be up a game on Philadelphia in the NFC East by now, but they're not. Instead, they're down a game plus the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to two losses against the Eagles.
For the Eagles to walk off with the division, all they must do is win one of their next two starts. They not only are against opponents with losing records (Minnesota and Dallas), but both are home. The Giants must win out at Green Bay and at Washington to guarantee a spot -- any spot -- in the postseason, and if there's one thing we learned from Sunday's debacle it's that nothing is guaranteed with these guys.
"We have to force this pill down our throats," said center Shaun O'Hara. "It's a tough one to swallow."
Actually, there was no swallowing involved here. This was more like a gag. The team that for three-and-a-half quarters held down Philadelphia and star quarterback Michael Vick collapsed, hemorrhaging big plays, touchdowns and, in the end, a game it should have won.
I don't know how it happened and I don't think the Giants do, either. All I know is that in their first 12 drives the Eagles had one series of more than 31 yards, with their only touchdown the product of a Giants fumble. But in their next three, well, that's when the Giants' defense unraveled, or Vick woke up -- take your pick.
In any case, it took Philadelphia 15 plays to produce 215 yards and three TDs -- with Vick producing the 11 o'clock highlights. He had a 35-yard scramble up the middle. He had a 33-yard scramble around left end. He ran another for another 22 up the middle. He threw two touchdown passes, including a 65-yarder to tight end Brent Celek, and ran for a third score.
"They were huge chunks," said Coughlin. "We weren't stopping them."
|More on Eagles-Giants|
"What was the difference?" someone asked.
"They ran the quarterback up and down the field," he said. "That's what they did differently."
OK, I get it. But these are the New York Freakin' Giants we're talking about, not the Houston Texans. When they assume leads, they expect to protect them with their running game, their defense or both. But they failed and they failed miserably, allowing Vick and the Eagles to escape when logic said they could not and would not. But they did, and shame on New York.
Don't get me wrong. Give Vick and the Eagles credit. What they accomplished here was marvelous, but it never should have happened. All the Giants had to do was close out a 21-point advantage then move on to Green Bay. But they couldn't, and they couldn't because they ran the gamut of stupid plays down the stretch -- failing to respond to an onside kick, failing to adjust to blitz-coverage, taking a false-start penalty, fumbling away the ball on the sideline and, of course, doing the unimaginable.
Kicking to DeSean Jackson.
"Actually, it's a blessing," said Jackson. "It's a dream come true. I'm just sitting back there and thinking to myself like, 'They're not really going to kick it to me.' I was thinking that he was going to kick it out of bounds or do something out of the ordinary."
Well, he was half right. Dodge didn't punt the ball out of bounds, but he did do something extraordinary. Coughlin's instructions to him were to kick it out of bounds. But then Dodge fielded a high snap, panicked and, well, the rest you know.
|Philadelphia played a flawless fourth quarter, but they wouldn’t have been pressed into a memorable comeback victory had coach Andy Reid used his challenges effectively. QB Michael Vick and WR/PR DeSean Jackson ultimately proved to be too fast for the Giants.|
|New York Giants|
|The Giants dominated for three quarters, but spent the fourth quarter making some of the same silly mistakes they made against the Titans in their Week 3 loss. QB Eli Manning threw for four TDs, but the defense and special teams ultimately succumbed to the speed of the Eagles.|
|By Alex Raskin|
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"Oh, my God," said Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. "That was crazy, wasn't it? I don't know what's going to happen to him, but I'm sure Tom Coughlin is pretty upset."
That's one way of putting it. After Jackson breezed by the Giants' sideline and headed for home, a disgusted Coughlin threw his clipboard to the ground and pushed his headset back before walking on the field to confront his punter.
"We all learned the hard way again," said Coughlin. "At that point in the game, with [Jackson] back there, you don't punt into that."
OK, so you don't. But you also don't blow a 21-point lead or allow Michael Vick to run for 94 yards in the final 7:27. Yeah, Matt Dodge will take his lumps for what he did -- and he should -- but how about the defense that was supposed to be the backbone of this team? When it had to make a play, it couldn't. Instead, it was Michael Vick making plays.
"This is disastrous," said linebacker Chase Blackburn.
"There isn't a way to describe it," said O'Hara.
"I'm in disbelief right now," said tight end Kevin Boss.
"No words, no explanation," said defensive lineman Barry Cofield.
"You just kind of wish you had a shot," said quarterback Eli Manning. "You had a chance to get it into overtime."
But they did. And they blew it. But while Dodge will be criticized and vilified, he has plenty of company in the dunce's corner. The Giants didn't lose this game because of their punter; they lost this game because of themselves. Because no one -- especially that vaunted defense -- could do what was necessary when it was necessary, and when they look back at what might have been this season they can start there.
Then they can work their way through to what Dodge did and why he did it.
"There was no explanation," Coughlin said. "It's a team game. There isn't any one guy. It should have never come down to that."