The Giants are not good, and Sunday's loss to the Falcons may have been enough to push Tom Coughlin toward conceding that.
He didn't come out and bark about it, didn't demoralize his squad by outright admitting it, but he did make a comment that illustrates exactly what he thinks of his team and its chances: It has to be flawless to find victory.
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"Look, we can't make mistakes,'' he said. "We can't make mistakes and so we have to count on the other guy [to make them].''
That's not a good position for a team two weeks into the NFL season, counting on perfection and handouts. But then again, no one had ever started the year with this kind of anguish. The Giants are the first team in the history of the NFL to open with two straight losses in which it blew a lead of 10 or more points in the fourth quarter. A week after collapsing in Dallas, they lost, 24-20, at MetLife Stadium.
Devonta Freeman's 1-yard run capped a 70-yard drive in only 1:58 that gave Atlanta a 24-20 lead with 1:14 left. A 37-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones originally ruled a touchdown set up the winning score.
The Giants are 0-2 for the third consecutive season, a franchise record for false starts.
"It bit us in the [butt] again,'' offensive lineman Justin Pugh said of their inability to run out the clock, this time with an untimely three-and-out with 3:12 to play. "We gotta finish games. I feel sick that I'm saying the same thing. I feel like a [----] robot right now.''
Perhaps the most disheartening part of the losses has been their main culprit. Eli Manning made a major mistake that again contributed mightily to costing the team a win, fumbling after being sacked from behind with the Giants poised to put the game away late in the third.
They had just scored 17 straight points to go ahead 20-10, including an electrifying 67-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. and a 10-yarder to a diving Larry Donnell. But as Manning scrambled to his left on third-and-2 from the 8, Kroy Biermann stripped the ball and Atlanta's Paul Soliai recovered.
"I was about to throw it to Rueben Randle on the left side of the end zone . . . and that's when I got hit,'' Manning said. "Just can't afford turnovers down there in the red zone.''
The Falcons (2-0) drove 91 yards to close to 20-17 with 12:39 left when Ryan hit Leonard Hankerson over a leaping Trumaine McBride for a 10-yard touchdown.
Even with that, the Giants had a chance to seal it. They had the ball at their 36 with 4:24 left but punted it back 1:12 later after a delay-of-game penalty on third-and-7 doomed the drive. Ryan hit Jones on the deep pass down the left sideline against Prince Amukamara. When the review put the ball at the 1, it served only to waste more time for the Giants' last-gasp offensive efforts, which were futile anyway.
On their final drive, the Giants gained 30 yards on a pass-interference penalty drawn by Beckham, who had 146 receiving yards but was targeted only twice in the second half. Then Manning threw four straight incompletions to end the game.
And the season? Perhaps. The Giants couldn't overcome disappointing starts the last few years, and there has been little to suggest this team can turn it around. Coughlin seems to recognize that, given his profound admission of what it will take to win.
They played better than last week, he said. They have played well enough to take double-digit leads into the fourth quarter, which is something. The division isn't pulling away from them, either, because the Cowboys' two costly wins robbed them of Dez Bryant (foot) and Tony Romo (collarbone).
But eventually the Giants will have to help themselves in a key situation, not hurt themselves.
"I just asked them to search down inside,'' Coughlin said of his postgame address to the team. "We talk every week about finishing. That wasn't a finish for me. We talk about don't keep score. I'll keep score, I'll let you know when the game is over. But that's not what happened again today.''
For a team that can't afford to make mistakes, that's a big one.