Let's review the carnage of Sunday's unfathomable 27-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in our traditional "Kudos & Wet Willies" style. I will get right to the point here -- head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning headline the list of "Wet Willies" for the incredible way in which the Giants mishandled the end of a game they should have won.
The way the Giants botched the end of the game doesn't quite rise to the level of "The Fumble," Joe Pisarcik and Larry Csonka botching a handoff and losing a game when taking a knee would suffice, but it was devastating, dumb and indefensible in its own right.
Coughlin, Manning take -- and deserve -- blame
The Giants should have won Sunday night, and the fault for the fact they did not lies with the team's two most important men.
Think what you want of the play call with 1:43 left, the Giants leading by three, facing third-and-goal at the 1-yard line and Dallas out of timeouts. Should the Giants have passed the ball? Give offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo a "Wet Willie" for taking the risk if you want. I wont argue. But the blame lies at the feet of Coughlin and Manning.
Coughlin didn't make the play call, but he knew what the call was. He has the authority to overrule it, but he did not. Even if he is OK with the call, he has the authority to call timeout and remind Manning to take a sack and keep the clock running rather than throw the ball away and stop the clock should his receiver be covered. He did not. Instead, he watched helplessly as his quarterback opened the door for late-game heroics by Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
You can also fault Coughlin for kicking the field goal if you want. He said after the game he wanted the points and didn't want to leave Dallas with the ability to tie the game on a field goal. What good did the field goal do the Giants, though? A touchdown was still going to beat them. A field goal was only going to create overtime, and even failing to score would have left Dallas at their own 1-yard line with less than 1:30 to play. Why not go for the jugular there?
Now, about Manning. What the heck was he doing? He's a 12-year veteran with two Super Bowl rings who just signed a four-year, $84 million contract extension. Yet, he handled the end of the game like a rookie third-stringer who had never been in a game-clinching situation before.
Manning's mistakes go beyond throwing the ball away when all he had to do was go down, take the sack, let about 40 seconds run off the clock and make sure the Cowboys got the ball back with less than a minute to play.
Manning admitted he didn't know how many timeouts Dallas had. Well, how about turning to the official and asking? There was at least one occasion on that final drive where Manning, with the clock running and the lead, had the ball snapped with about 20 seconds left on the play clock rather than running it all the way down. Awful.
A coach and quarterback as accomplished as Coughlin and Manning should be expected to do better at the end of a game. The rest of the Giants deserved to win this game, one no one gave them much of a chance it.
It is just one loss with 15 games to play, but as Coughlin admitted after the game you don't get these back. It was a victory the Giants had in their hands, and desperately could have used to get their season started on a positive note. Instead, you have to hope the coach and quarterback didn't already throw the Giants' season away.
Now, for the rest of the "Kudos & Wet Willies."
Kudos to ...
Giants' cornerbacks -- I am lumping them together because for most of the night Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride were brilliant.
Rodgers-Cromartie was victimized by a phantom pass interference call in the end zone that ended up costing the Giants four points and had a huge impact on the outcome. He was, however, terrific. He returned a fumble 57 yards for a score, had a pass defensed (should have been two) and even came up with six tackles, a lot for a guy known for not really wanting to hit people.
Amukamara, simply, is one of the league's best tackling corners. He is excellent in run support and rarely misses tackles in the open field. Amukamara had eight tackles Sunday night.
McBride forced the fumbled that Rodgers-Cromartie recovered. He also intercepted a deflected pass and a returned it to the Dallas 1-yard line, setting up a touchdown that gave the Giants a 23-13 lead with 8:01 to play and should have sealed the deal.
Brad Wing -- Pretty impressive debut for the Giants' new punter. Four punts, all well outside the numbers, for a 44.8-yard average. Only one punt was returned, and that went for -3 yards, making Wing's net average 45.5 yards. Three punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. The guy did exactly what the Giants acquired him to do.
Josh Brown -- The 36-year-old placekicker just keeps on going. He was 4-for-4 Sunday, including a 50-yarder.
Brandon Meriweather -- When the decision to leave Cooper Taylor off the active roster was announced, it seemed like an odd one. Many figured Taylor would be starting. Meriweather started instead, and the veteran played well. His big -- and completely legal -- hit on Devin Street forced the McBride interception. Meriweather had five tackles, and he is probably staying in the lineup for a while after Sunday's performance.
Wet Willies to ...
Preston Parker -- There are dropped passes and then there are DROPPED PASSES. Parker had three DROPPED PASSES Sunday night, and they had as much to do with the Giants losing the game as anything else did. There was a third-and-8 from the Dallas 32 pass that Parker couldn't hold at the Dallas 15. The Giants kicked a field goal. There was a third-and-2 at the Dallas 12-yard in the third quarter that would have kept a drive alive. Another field goal. Worst of all, there was a third-and-12 go route from the Dallas 38 that Parker dropped inside the Cowboys' 20-yard line, killing a scoring chance and forcing a punt. You could say Parker's drops cost the Giants an opportunity to score at least 11 points, perhaps 15. Parker catches those passes and Coughlin and Manning aren't in a position to mess up the end of the game.
Parker did all this while James Jones, who was cut so the Giants could keep Parker, starred Sunday for the Green Bay Packers. And while another ex-Giant, Corey Washington, looked for a new employer.
Giants' pass rush -- What pass rush? Where was it? Was it in South Florida watching the game with a damaged hand? Was it inactive (Owamagbe Odighizuwa) with an apparent foot issue? The Giants, even when sending extra rushers, barely made Tony Romo move all night. The Giants registered no sacks and managed to hit Romo just once according to the NFL's official game stats.
Dwayne Harris -- What exactly did Harris think he was doing on his two punt returns, which generated a total of three yards? Harris ran sideways on both returns, losing yardage on one of them. Hey, Dwayne, up the field. North and south, please.
Kwillies to ...
Uani' Unga -- The rookie middle linebacker had a team-high 12 tackles, but he got exposed in pass coverage several times by Romo and the Cowboys. Dallas also attacked Unga relentlessly on the final drive, with the game-winning completion to Jason Witten coming right in front on Unga. The rookie has energy and ability, but his inexperience also cost the Giants on Sunday night.