New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford was crestfallen after Sunday's 25-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. After fighting all week to be ready to play despite suffering torn ligaments in his left ankle, Weatherford was in the middle of the disaster that led to the Giants' defeat.
After Victor Cruz dropped a pass that would have given the Giants a first down with 10:28 to play and the Giants trying desperately to protect a 14-13 lead, Weatherford was called on to punt. He delivered his worst effort of the day, a low, wobbly, 45-yard punt right down the center of the field.
As soon as you saw the punt, you had to have a sinking feeling something bad was about to happen. And it did. Arizona's Ted Ginn fielded the ball at his own 29-yard line. Zack Bowman, a veteran cornerback signed by the Giants largely for his prowess on special teams, was right there with a chance to make the play. Bowman hit Ginn almost immediately, knocking him backward. Somehow, though, Ginn spun out of Bowman's grasp. Ginn eluded a diving Zak DeOssie, flashed past several other would-be tacklers and zipped past a helpless Weatherford for a game-changing 71-yard touchdown.
The play put the Giants behind, 19-14, and they never recovered.
"At that point in the game I would have liked to hit a better punt than that, better hang time. The guys did a great time getting down there but I would have liked to see some better hang time on that one for sure," an obviously upset Weatherford said after the game.
"We did have a man right there to make the tackle and he bounced off," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "You can't punt the ball down the middle of the field for short distances. The ball's going right back at you and it did today."
Weatherford refused to use his ankle as an excuse.
"At that point in the game I would have liked to hit a better punt than that, better hang time. The guys did a great time getting down there but I would have liked to see some better hang time on that one for sure," Weatherford said. "If I tell the coaches I am healthy and ready to play the game, I expect myself to play at a high level and they expect me to play at a high level. That particular punt was not my best."
No doubt it was not Weatherford's best punt. It should not, however, have ended with Ginn in the end zone. Bowman, and several other Giants, should have made the play.
This, however, is what happens to a football team when things are going bad. Things go wrong, even when it looks like they shouldn't. Unfortunately for Weatherford he was in the middle of one of those things on Sunday.