EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are 0-2 when the could, and probably should, be 2-0. Most discouraging for the Giants is that it has been the offense they were counting on to carry them that has let them down late in each of their first two games.
The offense turned a winnable season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys into an abominable loss with a comedy of late-game clock management blunders.
There were plenty of blunders during the second half of Sunday's 24-30 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. None individually that rise to the level of the third-and-goal mistake against Dallas a week ago, but in totality a calamity of mistakes and missed opportunities that leave the Giants 0-2 when that clearly should not be the case.
Let's go through the litany of miscues by the offense on Sunday.
Leading 20-10 and having driven from their own 34-yard line midway through the third quarter the Giants faced third-and-two from the Atlanta 8-yard line. Quarterback Eli Manning took a snap, drifted to his left and fumbled when hit from behind by defensive end Kroy Biermann. Atlanta's Paul Soliai recovered at the 9-yard line. Atlanta then marched 91 yards to move within 20-17, vastly changing the mood in what had been a ready-to-rock MetLife Stadium.
"Again we didn't executive when we needed to (on offense)," Pugh said. "We've gotta make plays. We're about to take the air out of the game, 11-yard line, we're coming in, we're going for the score, we've gotta get points there and just keep deflating them. I felt like if we would have scored there it would have been game over."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was disappointed with what happened after that.
"The most disappointing thing for me was from that point on I didn't see the offense," Coughlin said.
The Giants started their next possession at their own 20, overcoming a drop by Rueben Randle and another Manning fumble (recovered fortunately by Larry Donnell for a first down) to face a third-and-two at the Atlanta 39-yard line. The tried to run up the middle with Rashad Jennings and failed, having to punt.
"As an offensive line we have to be able to get two yards in that situation no matter what," offensive guard Geoff Schwartz said. "They called our number third-and-two and we have to be able to execute. We need to be able to run the ball on third down, you can't just pass it every third down."
"We had a run play and we didn't get it, we got stopped right there. So that was a costly third down; one and a half, two yards. We got to convert right there," Manning said. "I thought we were pretty good on third down most of the day but then right there we were in their territory, had an opportunity to run some more clock and get a score and get us a nice lead."
A brilliant punt by Brad Wing that was downed by Dwayne Harris at the 2-yard line, a defensive stand, a 29-yard Harris punt return and an Atlanta 10-yard penalty later, the Giants had a first down at their own 44-yard line with 4:24 left and yet another chance to salt the game away.
Facing third-and-seven an inexcusable delay of game on Manning pushed the Giants back to third-and-12. A short pass to Geremy Davis did not get the first down, and the Giants punted to Atlanta with 3:12 left.
"We were trying to draw 'em offsides, steal some yardage there," said offensive lineman Justin Pugh. "I guess we ran out (of time). We've gotta get a first down on that drive.
"We know what we can do. We moved the ball all day on these guys. Those last two drives we just can't become ghosts."
Coughlin certainly was miffed by the costly penalty.
"There's really no reason for that," Coughlin said. "There was plenty of time when we were out over the ball, plenty of time."
Manning took the blame for the delay of game.
"Third-and-seven, was trying to get to a play that had a good coverage on," Manning said. "I thought I got the ball snapped, so that's on me. Can't afford a penalty there."
The Giants got the ball back one final time, trailing now, 24-20, with 1:14 remaining. The Giants and their $84 million quarterback had one final chance to erase their misdeeds. Again, they misfired.
A 30-yard pass interference call on Atlanta's Robert Alford gave the Giants first down at midfield with 1:02 to play.
Four consecutive incompletions, including a ball just off the fingertips of Donnell on first down, a pass well behind an open Jerome Cunningham and a fourth-down pass Parker couldn't catch off his shoe tops and the Giants were 0-2.
The pass to Donnell was a ball Donnell leaped for, but couldn't pull in.
"Gotta catch it. Just gotta catch it, no matter what, have a chance to win the game," Donnell said after the game. "No matter how high or how low it was, he threw it to me. The great ones make those. Gotta find a way to come down with it and give the team a chance."
Neither the Donnell nor Parker throws were perfect, both were difficult catches. Either one would have put the Giants inside the 30-yard line with a first down and a chance. You have to make them to win games, though, and right now the Giants' offense is not making the plays it needs to make at the critical times.
This is two weeks in a row that the Giants, a team with obvious defensive shortcomings, has managed to do just enough on defense and special teams to give the offense -- which is supposed to be the team's strength -- an opportunity to win a football game. And two weeks in a row that group, with the franchise quarterback at the center of the missteps -- has failed to get the job done.
Against Dallas, the Giants got three turnovers from their underwhelming defense and couldn't take advantage of them, doing the unheard of in the NFL -- losing a game when they had a 3-0 advantage in turnovers. Against the Falcons they got just enough from their defense, got brilliant work from Odell Beckham (seven catches, 146 yards, one TD) and Shane Vereen (eight catches, 76 yards), excellent special teams work -- especially from Harris and punter Brad Wing. And still couldn't win.
"I feel as though we beat ourselves," said Odell Beckham Jr. "This game, last game, I don't compare them so I'm never going to believe that we didn't beat ourselves and there [are] things that we need to correct - dropped balls, fumbles, whatever the case may be, we just need to clean it up and find a way to get it done."
Coughlin seemed to acknowledge after the game that this is an imperfect Giants' team, saying "We can't make mistakes."
Unfortunately, the group they depended on to carry them through some of the difficulties they knew they would face on defense, is the group that has been making the biggest mistakes. Consequently, the Giants are 0-2 and staring into the abyss of another season that could quickly become a lost cause.