The first stage for the Giants after watching a 21-point lead with 8:17 to play turn into a 38-31 loss to the Eagles was just shock. The scoreboard confirmed the reality of what happened, but it took a while for their minds to process what had just happened Sunday afternoon.
After controlling Philadelphia quarterback Michale Vick for more than three quarters, he generated 212 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in the final eight minutes before the Eagles won on DeSean Jackson's game-ending 65-yard punt return.
In terms of worst losses any of the Giants ever had experienced, well, they'd be hard-pressed to top this one. "It's a matter of fact that it happened and we lost the game," safety Antrel Rolle said. "I put this game on the defense. You're up by that much with eight minutes to go in the game? We're a better defense than that. We contained him for three and a half quarters. What's another eight minutes? You've got to be a man about it."
There was a whole catalogue of things that went wrong. The defense let the Eagles score quickly on a 65-yard touchdown pass from Vick to tight end Brent Celek, and it later lost containment on Vick and let him scramble outside for long gains on several occasions. After the Eagles cut the deficit to 31-17, the Giants weren't prepared for the successful onsides kick that ensued. The Eagles tied the game at 31 and held the Giants' offense, but then, rookie punter Matt Dodge kicked to the dangerous Jackson against the coaching staff's orders.
"The game is never over until it's over," Rolle said. "We had to find out the hard way today. Did I think it would end up the way it did? No, you couldn't have told me that in a million years that the outcome was going to be this. But we lost this game.
"You can't put the blame on one person. We lost this game as a team. When it came to where we had to step up and close out the game, no one did it. So, it's not about the Celek play; it's not about Vick's scrambling; it's not about Dodge's punt. It's about the team. We lost this game as a team."
Vick's brilliance was part of it. Defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Justin Tuck (No. 91 pictured sacking Vick) both said he's playing at MVP level. But when they review the game film on Monday, the members of the defense will find no shortage of mistakes and misplays.
" I don't know what happened exactly," Cofield said. "There's a lot of questions, and we're going to try and get a lot of answers over the next couple days."
As tough as it might be to shake the specter of such a crushing defeat, it will be necessary to do that by midweek before traveling to Green Bay for a game the day after Christmas. "What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we’re not dead," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "We’ve got two more to go and we’ve still got a great opportunity to make the playoffs.
"I’m not as mad about this game as people might think, just because I’m looking forward to the next one. That’s what you have to do. You can’t allow yourself to get caught up in the emotions of this one and not be ready for Green Bay. We’ve got another tough place to play next week."