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Giants Q&A: Why did Steve Spagnuolo choose to punt?

The interim head coach took a very conservative approach in his debut.

Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the Giants

Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the Giants looks on in the first half against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

How did Steve Spagnuolo handle his first game as interim head coach?

He said the mechanics of the day went well despite a 30-10 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.

“I didn’t feel uncomfortable,” he said.

There certainly were a few dubious decisions that seemed to escape him while the game was going on, though.

Twice inside Cowboys territory — once in the second quarter, once in the fourth — he chose to punt on fourth down rather than go for it (which would seem to be an appropriate gamble for a two-win team at this point in the season).

Why did he punt?

The first time was with the score tied at 3. On third-and-9, Eli Manning ran a quick-snap play and hit Roger Lewis for 6 yards to get to the 37, leaving a fourth-and-3. The tempo of the play and throwing the pass short of the sticks seemed to indicate four-down territory for the Giants, but they chose to punt. Even the Cowboys were surprised by that; they called a timeout to get their defense off the field.

“It felt like it was going to be a field-position game,” Spag nuolo said. He said he figured it was a bad call “when I heard the reaction.” The punt, to add to the sting of the call, was a touchback.

And the second one?

The Giants trailed 17-10 with 4:46 left, and Manning’s third-and-8 pass for Evan Engram from the 46 was short. The Giants were begging for a defensive penalty but didn’t get a flag. “We talked about it,” Spagnuolo said. “When it ended up fourth-and-8 and not fourth-and-3 or fourth-and-2, that was why we didn’t go for it.”

Three plays after that punt, the Cowboys iced the game with an 81-yard touchdown.

What happened to Landon Collins?

He left the locker room with a protective boot on his left ankle after suffering a sprain while tackling Cole Beasley at the end of Beasley’s 54-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter. He sprained the same ankle earlier this season, an injury he fought through. Collins said he will have an MRI on Monday.

Any other injuries?

Wide receiver Darius Powe fractured his foot in the first half of his NFL debut but played through it. He left the locker room on crutches. He had two catches for 13 yards on four targets. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison left the game early with a finger injury but returned in the second half.

What’s up with Eli Apple?

The second-year cornerback missed a fourth straight game, this one after his practices were limited during the week because of a hip injury. “He just didn’t get enough reps during the week,” Spagnuolo said. “I talked with him. He’ll be ready to go next week.”

The second-year cornerback missed a fourth straight game, this one after his practices were limited during the week because of a hip injury. “He just didn’t get enough reps during the week,” Spagnuolo said. “I talked with him. He’ll be ready to go next week.”

Apple did have an unusual role in the game: He retweeted a highlight of Rod Smith’s 81-yard touchdown catch-and-run against the Giants, drawing raised eyebrows from Giants fans and likely some discipline from the league for posting on social media from the sideline of a game. Smith and Apple were teammates at Ohio State.

New York Sports