Matt Dodge (6) of the New York Giants punts the ball to the Philadelphia Eagles during their game on December 19 2010 at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
This is a terrible, devastating, how do you manage to drag yourself out of bed, go to work and face the day kind of morning for New York Giants fans. I haven't felt this awful since the Trey Junkin game in 2003. The only thing that makes that worse than this loss is that it ended the season.
Forget about the NFC East title at this point. At 9-5 and game behind the Eagles with two losses to Philly, that isn't happening. The Giants are still in position for a wild-card, but having to travel to Green Bay Sunday to face their chief competition for that spot the Giants are in a very precarious position right now. With an absolutely horrific eight minutes of football the Giants went from controlling the NFC East and probably being the No. 2 seed to being in serious danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
Rookie punter Matt Dodge is, of course, the guy at whom most of the venom is being directed. We will talk more about him later, but for now let's just say there is plenty of blame to go around. Like Junkin back in 2003, who the Giants hauled out of retirement to snap in that playoff game, Dodge should never have been in that situation. A complete meltdown in all aspects of the game, defense, special teams and offense put him there.
Dodge screwed up, in about as a big a way as you possibly can and as it turned out in a way no punter in NFL history ever had, but I can't look at him and say this loss is his fault. It was a meltdown of epic proportions by an entire roster ... and by the coaching staff. Let's go through the 'Kudos & Wet Willies,' which will look a little different today.
Kudos to ...
Quarterback Eli Manning is the only Giant I can bring myself to give 'Kudos' to this morning. What we saw Sunday was the Eli we think we should see more often. A 23-of-39 performance for 289 yards and four touchdowns. There was one interception on a ball batted at the line, which you can't kill him for. There was one ill-advised back-foot throw. Otherwise, a whole lot of brilliance. And some emotion. Eli did everything he could do. I wish he played like that more consistently.
It hurts to do this, but have to toss out some 'Kudos' to the Eagles. DeSean Jackson for taking advantage of the stupidity of kicking the ball to him and returning it for a touchdown, the first time that had ever happened on the final play of an NFL game. Michael Vick, who can simply do things no other quarterback can do. David Akers for an absolutely perfect onside kick. Eagles special teams coach Bobby April for taking advantage of the sleeping Giants with the onside-kick call.
Now, on to the 'Wet Willies.'
Wet Willies to ...
I am going to make this simple. Everyone else wearing a Giants uniform, and several coaches, get 'Wet Willies' this morning. After a disaster like that one, that's how it has to be. For every player you can point out who did good things, I can point out bad ones that by that same player. So, 'Willies' for everybody other than Eli today. When you basically throw away your season that's how it has to be.
Dodge, of course, deserves a 'Wet Willie.' He knew what he was supposed to do, saying after the game "everyone on that sideline" told him to kick the ball out of bounds. "It wasn't rocket science not to kick it to him with 12 seconds left," Dodge said. But, that's what he did. The rest is history, really bad history for the Giants.
Not doing what they were supposed to do, had been coached to do, had practiced doing and had been told to do was a constant theme for the Giants in the final eight minutes. The Giants are, quite simply, not a disciplined football team. That is something you never thought you would conclude about a Tom Coughlin team, but we have watched unfathomable and unnecessary mistakes for two seasons now. Peter King wondered this morning about TC's job status if they fall apart now and miss the playoffs. In handing TC his 'Wet Willie' this morning I will say this. If the Giants lose their last two games and miss the playoffs again whether or not he deserves to stay on will be a fair question.
Want more examples of lack of discipline?
Mario Manningham's inexcusable fumble with the Giants leading 24-3. He wiped out what had been a great two-touchdown day for him by showing what Coughlin calls "careless disregard for the football," simply dropping it inside Giants territory and breathing life back into an Eagles team that was dead, buried and admittedly knew it was not going to win.
Duke Calhoun and Gerris Wilkinson peeling off early despite warnings to be aware of the onside kick possibility, which of course is exactly what David Akers did. Let's give the Eagles a little credit on this one for kicking the ball right at Calhoun, the one Giant who I still maintain has absolutely no business being on an NFL roster.
Aaron Ross blowing contain by foolishly jumping inside on a blitz, allowing Vick a wide-open field he took advantage of for a 33-yard run.
Kenny Phillips somehow going for an interception on a 65-yard touchdown pass to Brent Celek when he didn't get within 10 yards of having a shot at the ball and whiffing on a tackle that not only allowed the Eagles to score, but let them do it quickly.
There are other examples, but that's enough.
Performance-wise, the offensive line was terrible. I give Shaun O'Hara credit for trying, but he wasn't ready to play. He spent most of the day whiffing on blocks and getting pushed into the backfield. Manning has not been pressured like that all season.
As for the coaching staff, I have already talked about Coughlin. There are others who need to be called on the carpet, though.
Special teams coach Tom Quinn, of course. I don't care if he warned his team to look for the onside kick, they were not prepared for it. Besides which, there really is no excuse for not putting your "hands" team in there and taking the onside option away from the Eagles. If you put the hands team in and Philly kicks it deep to D.J. Ware you still get the football. The mess Dodge made was exceeded only by the complete lack of discipline on the punt coverage. They ran down there and looked like they had never done it before.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell looked a whole lot more like Bill Sheridan the final eight minutes than a guy who could be an NFL head coach one day. What the heck was he doing having Tuck try to cover Celek one-on-one all the way down the field? That was not isolated, either. On the previous play, Osi Umenyiora was in coverage and wound up matched up with Jackson. Fortunately, he made the stop. The whole zone coverage thing with dropping linemen into coverage is popular in the NFL (I watched 350-pound New England lineman Vince Wolfork try to cover a Green Bay running back Sunday night), but it is utterly stupid. Fewell and the Giants paid big-time for his getting too cute. Let the pass rushers rush the passer and the guys paid to cover do the covering. Is it really that difficult to figure out?
Fewell also has to take a hit for the complete coverage breakdown on Philly's first touchdown by Jeremy Maclin, and for the defense's total meltdown in the final few minutes.
I could probably go on here, but that's about all I can stand to write. I think it's plenty.