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Patriots 27, Giants 26: What did we learn on Sunday? The Giants still can't finish

Will inability to finish games end up finishing another Big Blue season early?

Landon Collins breaks up a pass in the third quarter
Landon Collins breaks up a pass in the third quarter
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Normally after New York Giants' games, this space is used to list a number of things that we learn during the game. There is only one truly important thing we learned during Sunday's 27-26 loss to the New England Patriots, though, so we have to focus solely on that.

What is that one thing? The Giants simply cannot finish games. The 5-5 Giants have lost four times this season when they led in the fourth quarter. They have lost two games by one point, a game by three points and one by four points. That's four losses by nine points, with all four losses coming in the final two minutes.

The Giants handed Dallas a victory in Week 1 with poor clock management and odd decision-making by Eli Manning. They blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, becoming the first team in NFL history to open a season by blowing back-to-back double-digit fourth-quarter leads. They lost to the New Orleans Saints when they couldn't properly cover a punt with the score tied in the closing seconds. Now this, a game in which they had a 10-point second-half lead and a number of chances to put the Patriots away that they failed to capitalize on.

"Finish the game. Just get the game over with," said exasperated Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "We had the ball in the end zone that's knocked out of the hands. We have to kick a field goal, which makes you right away worried because they have an outstanding kicker who might kick it from 58 to 60 yards, he's done that before. You have a chance to intercept the ball in the middle of the field and it's just thrown up and we don't catch the ball.

"I thought there were times in the second half we weren't able, obviously, to sustain any kind of drives, and that was frustrating in itself. They did put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We're up 10 and then we give up a punt return, which you know, jeez, here we go."

Yep. Here we go. Again. Another game the Giants had in their control. In their hands, literally, this time. Another game the Giants let get away. This script is getting to be all too familiar. You can argue that the Giants played over their heads on Sunday. They aren't as good as the Patriots are, yet they had this game within their grasp. They just couldn't hold onto it.

The NFC East is a division that is begging for someone to step up and actually try to win it. The defending champion Dallas Cowboys have lost seven in a row without quarterback Tony Romo. The Philadelphia Eagles are as unpredictable and as hard to figure out, as well, as the Giants. They lost a game at home to the Miami Dolphins Sunday, 20-19, and lost quarterback Sam Bradford to an AC joint sprain. The 4-5 Washington Redskins, amazingly, might be playing the best of any team in the division after pounding the New Orleans Saints, 47-14, on Sunday.

The Giants are still, unbelievably and despite their best efforts not to be, in first place as they head to their bye week. Finish even two of those four excruciating losses with victories and the Giants could be comfortably ahead in the division right now instead of having the Eagles and Redskins breathing down their necks.

After the bye the Giants face a six-game sprint to the finish. That sprint begins in the nation's capital with a game against the surprisingly competitive Redskins, who could be tied for the division lead when the game is played. It ends with a Week 17 game at MetLife Stadium against the Eagles that both teams hope will mean something. The Giants could have made this soooooo much easier on themselves. But, then again, when have the Coughlin era Giants ever done anything the easy way?

"There's a lot of season left to be played. There's still chances to get to where we need to be," said Odell Beckham Jr. after the game.

"We're still in the lead in the division, so if anything, we've still got a great opportunity to finish the season strong," said quarterback Eli Manning. "we've got a bye week right now, which is late in the season so guys will be able to get healed up, to get healthy and we've got to come back and our season's going to depend on these last six games and that's the way we look at it. We've got six games to go, if we handle our business and play well, play the way we need to play and win some games, make the playoffs, and we'll be happy."

Thing is, if this Giants season -- like the three before it -- finishes without a playoff berth the Giants will have only themselves to blame. Their inability to finish games they could have, and should have, won might be what finishes them this season.