Giants defense blames itself for collapse

Justin Tuck walks off the field looking dejected

Justin Tuck walks off the field looking dejected after losing to the Eagles 38-31. (Dec. 19, 2010) (Credit: Joe Rogate)

Score: Giants 31, Eagles 10. Time left: 8:17.

Final score: Eagles 38, Giants 31.

What in the wide world of sports happened Sunday to a defense that contained Michael Vick and the Eagles for 31/2 quarters? The glib answer is the Giants got "Vick-timized."

After the Giants took their 31-10 lead, over the next 7:01 on the game clock, Vick completed 6 of 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns and rushed five times for 91 yards and one touchdown. That's 212 yards of total offense and three TDs.

The winning 65-yard punt return by DeSean Jackson as time expired bordered on anticlimactic after Vick deconstructed what had been a dominant Giants defense.

"Honestly, I just felt like it was part of a dream," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. "I don't know what was taking place out there."

Could one man who had been battered for three quarters suddenly turn the Giants' defensive design on its head?

"You know, he's not Superman," Rolle said. "You can't contain a guy for 31/2 quarters, and all of a sudden, he's magical. He's a very elite athlete, but we made it easy for him."

The Giants' locker room was littered with disbelieving stares. The closest anyone came to putting a name to what happened was defensive end Justin Tuck.

"We kind of got into a prevent defense early in the fourth quarter, a kind of 'bend but don't break,' " Tuck said. "He didn't have anyone to throw the ball to on a couple of those plays, and the athlete he is, he made something out of it."

Before Vick ran wild, the first strike was a 65-yard touchdown pass down the middle to tight end Brent Celek that cut the deficit to 31-17. Instead of rushing, Tuck dropped into coverage under Celek. Safety Kenny Phillips had deep responsibility and whiffed the tackle.

"[Celek] bobbled the ball, and Kenny Phillips went for it," Rolle said. "He should have broken up the play. Nine times out of 10, he would have made that play."

After the Eagles recovered an onside kick, Vick ducked blitzing safety Deon Grant and scooted 35 yards to the Giants' 9 while the secondary was retreating. Although Grant faulted the defense for not holding their rushing lanes, that play was all Vick.

"I thought he was about to release the ball, so I tried to hit his arm," Grant said. "He was just ducking a sack and saw that he had the field and kept running."

On third down, Vick ran left for a 4-yard TD inside of Rolle, who had outside responsibility but no help coming from inside. That made it 31-24.

The tying TD drive began at the Eagles' 12, and on third-and-10, Giants cornerback Aaron Ross blitzed and got tangled with the tackle. Linebacker Michael Boley took an inside route that let Vick go left for 33 yards. Did Boley goof?

"Well," Ross said, "[Vick] shouldn't have got outside."

Three plays later, Vick scrambled 22 yards up the middle to the Giants' 20, making defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul miss. Defensive tackle Barry Cofield said: "If [Vick] runs scot-free on the outside, somebody didn't do what they were supposed to do. If he runs up the middle ducking and dodging, that's him beating guys man on man."

Vick then hit Jeremy Maclin with a 13-yard TD pass to tie the score at 31. Thanks to Jackson's punt return, the Giants' defense never got another shot.

"We had it," Rolle said. "We had them on a clothes rack, and we were ready to put them in the closet. And we missed."

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