In all five of the fourth-quarter meltdowns by the New York Giants this season, the team's defense has given up long scoring drives late in games that either tied the score, put the Giants behind, or lost a game entirely. Head coach Tom Coughlin more or less admitted that some of the debatable late-game decisions he has made this season have been to try and take the heat off his less-than-stellar defense.
Coughlin said Monday he has tried "openly, honestly to remove that situation from our defense having to deal with that at the end of the game. It didn't work out [Sunday against the New York Jets] the way I wanted it to, but that's been something that I've tried to aggressively take care of over the course of the season."
Sunday, of course, Coughlin disdained a field goal with slightly less than nine minutes remaining that would have forced the Jets to score two touchdowns to win. He went, instead, for a touchdown that would have given the Giants a three-score lead.
After the game, Coughlin said "I stand by it. I thought that was the right play." Seventy-eight percent (1,493) of the 1,926 people who voted in our poll disagreed with the coach. And with me, since I backed the decision.
Coughlin was asked point blank on Monday if he has confidence his team's defense, 31st in the league in yards allowed per game and 29th in yards allowed per play, could get a stop when it had to have one. His answer was telling.
"We haven't been able to do it," Coughlin said. "I believe we can and I hope the heck we will, and it better happen fast. But that's the situation that I've been telling you that I've tried to avoid putting our defense in that situation."
That approach, actually, is how the Dallas Cowboys went 12-4 and won the NFC East a season ago. They used their offense to score points, milk the clock and protect a defense that wasn't really all that good. The Giants have tried to mimic that, but without a running game and with an ineffective four-minute offense it hasn't worked.
"Quite frankly, you can all disagree, but we're trying to win games the best way we can. To be honest with you nobody knows my team better than I know my team," Coughlin said. "So when you sit in judgment of what goes on it's all been thought out, whether you like it or not, whether it's right or wrong. Had some of these things been things we would of accomplished it would be a little bit different story.
"The majority of what we've done, and you well know it, is to try to put ourselves in position where that last drive is not going to put us in the situation we've been in four or five times and obviously it hasn't happened. We've tried for touchdowns instead of field goals, and it hasn't happened."
There it is. Like it or not, agree or disagree that's your explanation for some of the aggressive decisions Coughlin has made. The effort is to put the game in the hands of the offense and take the pressure off the defense. It simply hasn't worked.