Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Eli Manning has succeeded in this situation so many times, you expect him to do what he almost always does and pull out a close game in the fourth quarter, even when the Giants are trailing.
There have been 23 such comebacks in Manning's career, including 21 in the regular season, and this game looked as if it would end with yet another.
Down 19-17 with less than two minutes to play and no timeouts left, Manning drove the Giants toward what could have been -- really, what should have been -- the game-winning score. A couple of pass-interference penalties got the Giants to the Eagles' 26 and in good position for a game-winning field goal as the clock ticked down. One more pass would do it, and Manning chose Ramses Barden as his target down the right sideline.
Barden had single coverage with Nnamdi Asomugha and had a step on him as the ball approached. But Manning's pass wasn't where he wanted it to be, and Barden wound up grabbing Asomugha.
Bad play by the young receiver? Not really; in fact, he might have prevented an interception because of where the ball was thrown.
"That's a bad throw by me," Manning acknowledged. "Ramses is in a bad position. [Asomugha] could have intercepted it, so it's probably a smart move by [Barden].''
But the resulting penalty for offensive pass interference pushed the Giants back to the Eagles' 36, and Lawrence Tynes missed from 54 yards out. Twice, actually. Just before his first attempt sailed wide left, Eagles coach Andy Reid called timeout. Tynes' next attempt was straight but fell short, preserving the Eagles' 19-17 win and dropping the Giants to an 0-2 start in the division for the first time in the Tom Coughlin era.
"I guess that's what you've come to expect in these games : to come down to the fourth quarter, and a play or two makes the difference in the game," Manning said. "You'd like to have the opportunity at the end with the ball with a chance to go win it. We had that opportunity, and we did some good things, got in position, but obviously, just didn't make enough plays to win the game."
Manning's reputation has largely been defined by his comebacks. There have been two colossal ones in his two Super Bowl MVP performances and so many others along the way. But sometimes he wishes it didn't always come down to this, that the Giants somehow could make it easier on themselves.
Sorry. Not this time.
"It's one of those things that obviously, something can go wrong, which is why you don't always want to be in that situation," he said. "If we're in it, we're prepared for it. It's fun to be in those situations to win games. And we feel like we're very good in those circumstances. But you never know when you're going to get a funny bounce or a bad break and you're not going to get enough time to fix it. That was the case today. We got close, get a penalty, it knocks us out of range, and there you go. You don't have an opportunity to fix it."
Monday morning quarterbacks might point to the notion that the Giants should have run another play with 15 seconds left instead of having Tynes try a field goal from the outer limits of his range. But Manning and coach Tom Coughlin said it would have been too risky to try it.
Consider: The Giants were facing a third-and-19 from the Eagles' 36. Had they attempted to get closer, they would have had to throw a pass near the sideline so the receiver could get out of bounds and stop the clock. If the Eagles kept the ball in bounds, especially if the Giants didn't get a first down, time would have expired. And even if they had gotten a first down and the ball stayed in bounds, they likely wouldn't have had time to spike the ball and stop the clock.
"Fifteen seconds, you're right there on the edge," Manning said. "It's one thing if you're trying to get four or five yards down the field, you could maybe get away with it. But if the ball goes 15 yards down the field, it would probably be tough."
And so it goes for a Giants team that is a game behind the Eagles (3-1) and tied with the Redskins (2-2), with the Cowboys (2-1) set to play Chicago on Monday night. There's still a lot of football left in a regular season the Giants believe will finish with them in the playoffs, but their 0-2 division record certainly is a cause for concern.
"We still have [four] divisional games left," Manning said. "We have Cleveland next week, and we have to worry about that. We have to worry about winning each week and worry about getting better, improving on things, and the divisional race will work itself out as you get later in the season."