Tom Coughlin second-guesses his late-game strategy
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Ahmad Bradshaw questioned the Giants' play-calling in the final 30 seconds of Sunday night's game, suggesting Monday it would have been wise to run the ball once to get inside Lawrence Tynes' range rather than gamble for extra yardage on a pass to Ramses Barden that wound up drawing a 10-yard penalty and pushing the team back beyond Tynes' limits.
"There were just a couple of different instances where we could have run and avoided the penalty at the end, got closer to the end zone to waste a little time and kicked the field goal," Bradshaw said.
Insubordination? No, actually. Because though there were plenty of people inside and outside the Giants' facility wishing the Giants had handled the final stages of the loss to the Eagles differently, whether it be in play-calling or clock management, their ringleader seemed to be the guy who made the calls to begin with: Tom Coughlin. So in a strange way, Bradshaw was backing his coach by . . . questioning his coach.
Coughlin was first in line for the second-guessing Monday morning, opening his meeting with the players by talking about the fateful decisions. The final score was 19-17 but Coughlin's hindsight was 20-20.
"I take full responsibility for that," he said, "and as I told the players: 'I'll start the meeting off by talking about my sins and that's one that I'll confess to.' "
There were two plays where strategy could legitimately be questioned. The first was when the Giants tried to hit Barden down the right sideline and he was flagged for offensive pass interference. That was on second-and-9 from the Eagles' 26, and it ended with 21 seconds left.
"Would we change? Sure. Today we would. Today it's easy," Coughlin said. "You've got the ball at the , you run it once to the 26. You run it again, put it in the middle of the field."
The second second-guess was whether the Giants, on third down, should have taken another shot at yardage to shorten the field-goal attempt, which was a yard beyond where Coughlin thought the Giants needed to be.
"If I were to do it over myself, would I be as conservative with 15 seconds?" Coughlin asked. "Not this morning. This morning, I throw it to the sideline, something of that nature . . . Would I be that conservative? Not today. Last night, I chose to do that."
One of the reasons he was aggressive on the first decision was because of Eli Manning. The quarterback has led 21 regular-season fourth-quarter comeback wins and seemed ripe for a 22nd as he drove the Giants to field-goal range trailing by two points.
"If you can score a touchdown, you try to score a touchdown," Manning said. "That's the mentality we have. You see a lot of teams get to the 30, then all of a sudden get conservative and then you've got to kick a 48-yarder. Those aren't guaranteed. So you want to get as close as possible to try to ensure the win."
It didn't work. The Giants lost when Tynes' 54-yard try fell about a yard short. Coughlin spent the night struggling with those decisions, he said, having them pop into his head whenever he tried to close his eyes. Ultimately, though, the Giants still had a chance at a field goal after all of the errors -- perceived or otherwise -- in execution, decision-making and judgment.
"The fact of the matter is we had an opportunity to win the game," Coughlin said, "and we did not."