Justin Tuck said the Giants' deflating loss to the Eagles on Sunday was the kind of game that really stings.
"I think I'd rather get blown out than to think I have a chance of winning one and losing at the end,'' he said. "That's tough, man.''
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Oddly enough, that hasn't exactly been an either / or proposition for the Giants this season. Four of their five losses have come in games in which they either led or were within three points of the lead late in the third quarter. In even the outlier in that phenomenon, the trouncing by the Panthers, the Giants trailed 10-0 until the final seconds of the first half.
The main reason for the Giants' abysmal start is that they are unable to finish. That word, "finish,'' was a key to their Super Bowl run less than two years ago. Now it's a foreign term to this team. The Giants have been outscored 61-21 in the fourth quarters of their five losses, including 14-0 by the Eagles on Sunday.
"The game was going to be a very close game,'' Tom Coughlin said Monday. "You can sense it at that point in time [trailing 22-21 early in the fourth] and you know that that's the time for you to mount a drive and make something good happen, and that's the frustration. Nothing else. No other reason. They're close games at that point in time and then they become, because of the turnovers, non-close games.''
The pattern has become almost predictable. The Giants stay close, something happens to alter the momentum, and the next thing they know, they're on the wrong end of a lopsided score. The Giants lost to the Broncos by 18 points, to the Chiefs by 24 points and to the Eagles by 15 points. All were tight games deep into the third quarter.
It's to the point that the defensive players think they are playing well -- until they look up and realize that they are the first team in Giants history to allow at least 31 points in five straight games.
"In my gut feeling of how I play and how the defense plays,'' Spencer Paysinger said, "we look on the scoreboard and it's not how it seems to us.''
On Sunday, it took a span of 2:03 to go from a one-point game to the final score of 36-21, thanks to two of Eli Manning's three interceptions in the fourth quarter. Against the Chiefs, it was 10-7 when a punt return with 1:34 left in the third quarter sparked a 21-0 run to close the game. And against the Broncos, the class of the NFL this year, the Giants trailed 17-16 with two minutes left in the third quarter when they failed to recover a fumble. Peyton Manning then produced three touchdowns in a span of 5:12 to put the game out of reach.
"It's a little frustrating knowing that all of these games, all we had to do was finish strong, finish the way people are used to us finishing,'' Victor Cruz said. "We're not doing that. But we understand that one of these games has to turn for us, one of these games has to be the one where we minimize our turnovers and minimize our penalties and are able to break through to the other side.''
On Sunday, they were almost there.
"We scored twice in the third quarter, so we were coming out of whatever is going on there and it looked as if we were going to be in charge and have an opportunity,'' Coughlin said.
But it turned into another game in which the Giants came close before winding up far, far away.