Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell speaks to the media before...

Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell speaks to the media before a day of team training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. (Aug. 13, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Tom Coughlin won't hesitate to take the blame for his team's problems, and he has fallen on his sword plenty during the Giants' 3-8 season. But you will never see him publicly dress down any of his assistant coaches, even when there is sufficient cause.

So although Coughlin didn't mention anyone by name the day after the Giants' latest defeat -- a 31-28 loss to Dallas in which they gave up the winning touchdown with 1:01 left, capping an 80-yard drive that took only 1:59 -- it sure sounded as though he was second-guessing Perry Fewell.

The Giants led 28-24 after Dallas got the ball back with 3:00 left in regulation. Fewell's defense performed miserably, letting Tony Romo sit in the pocket and play pitch-and-catch with his receivers. Remember those schoolyard games in which you'd count one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi before going after the quarterback? The Giants looked as if they were giving Romo 10 Mississippis, and they still didn't come close to touching him.

It was as feeble a rush as we've seen in years from a team whose calling card has been getting after the quarterback. Romo went the distance in seven plays, completing the evisceration with a 13-yard TD pass to Dez Bryant after standing in the pocket for nearly 10 seconds.

Making matters worse: The Giants' best pass rusher, Robert Ayers, wasn't on the field during the series. Not only that, but Fewell didn't call a single blitz, rushing only four against a superior line. Count Coughlin among the second-guessers, even if he didn't point the finger directly at Fewell.

"Those things have been discussed long and hard in the meeting rooms today, and I think that you're right, hindsight is 20/20," Coughlin said Monday. "I can just tell you there were reasons why perhaps Robert wasn't in there. There was sound thinking behind that."

Coughlin pointed to a play early in the drive, when Mathias Kiwanuka jumped offsides, that might have changed the Giants' thinking.

"The play in which we jumped, there was a [blitz] pressure called there," he said. "I, quite frankly, think we scared ourselves out of that because of the penalty. We know Tony Romo very, very well. When allowed to stand back there and have no pressure on him and wait for people to run and get open, he's made a career out of that."

Coughlin then agreed with his inquisitor on a conference call.

"I hear you and, on paper, theoretically I agree with you," he said of the idea the Giants should have blitzed more on the drive. "We all feel there should have been more accomplished, perhaps even throughout the game but definitely in that last drive. We'd love to be able to do it over."

If he was indulging in a little Monday morning quarterbacking, he had every right. It was a brutal series for Fewell, again pointing up his shortcomings through most of the year.

Fewell earned a Super Bowl ring in 2011, when he did a creditable job with a much more talented group that included Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley and a much more effective Jason Pierre-Paul.

But with the talent level diminished this season, the Giants needed much more creativity from Fewell, and they haven't gotten it. Dallas' final drive underscored the issue dramatically, and Coughlin's woulda-shoulda-coulda answer politely addressed the obvious.

The Giants' defense has been woefully inept this season, in part because of injuries and lack of talent but also because of Fewell. The Giants need to go in another direction.

If Coughlin is part of their future, he'll have to look elsewhere to find the answer. Just as he did in 2007, when he discovered Steve Spagnuolo as the solution, he'll need to find someone else to resurrect a defense that has been at the epicenter of his underachieving team's problems.

After watching Romo extend the Giants' losing streak to six, even Coughlin couldn't disagree with the second-guessers.

Time to move on.


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