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Giants Q&A: Potential winning drive fades away

Eli Manning of the New York Giants reacts

Eli Manning of the New York Giants reacts after throwing his fourth interception of a game against the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Nov. 16, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Three straight fades?

Yeah. It wasn't exactly the pinnacle of play-calling for the Giants after they reached the 49ers' 4-yard line down by six with 5:04 left Sunday.

"In hindsight, we should have run the ball," Tom Coughlin said of the decision to put the ball in the air four straight times, the last of which resulted in an interception.

A run might have at least given the 49ers' pass rush pause. Perhaps it would have inched the ball closer to the goal line and opened a whole new package of plays to draw from. "Four shots from the 4," Coughlin said, "it's inexcusable that we didn't score."

Seriously, three straight fades?

"That's how we've scored a bunch of times," Coughlin said of touchdowns earlier this year.

The Giants tried Odell Beckham Jr. on the right, Rueben Randle on the left and Larry Donnell on the left again. Donnell came the closest, getting two hands on the ball, but he was unable to secure it as he hit the turf shoulder-first. "We've hit that ball to Larry any number of times," Coughlin said.

Any thoughts of a field goal there?

Coughlin said they were all in, wanting to take the lead rather than cut the deficit to 16-13 with a little less than five minutes remaining and hoping to get the ball back.

"Score while we're there,'' he said. "Here we are. Four shots . . . We were going to try to score a touchdown right there.''

Besides, any thoughts of kicking the field goal probably evaporated when the Giants had to call their second timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty before the third-down snap. That would have given them just one and the two-minute warning to stop the clock for the rest of the game.

OK, so they threw three straight fades. How about the fourth-and-an-inch? Couldn't they have run a quarterback sneak there?

They could have. If they had one. Maybe you haven't noticed, but the Giants never put the ball in the hands of Eli Manning in those situations.

"I don't run the quarterback sneak,'' Coughlin declared after the game. Instead, they handed the ball to Rashad Jennings for a 1-yard loss and turned it over on downs.

What happened to Justin Pugh?

The right tackle left the game after the opening drive (the only productive one of the game, mind you) with a strained left quadriceps. The injury actually occurred last week in Seattle, but Pugh was not on the injury report this week, and Coughlin seemed baffled that it became an issue in the game.

"That was a shocker,'' Coughlin said. "The kid worked his tail off in practice. I don't think he ever missed a snap . . . Had we some idea it was that big of an issue, we would have been able to control the [practice] snaps.''

So who played in place of Pugh?

Charles Brown, who was inactive for all but two other games this season. And he did not play well, allowing plenty of pressures and missing several run blocks. In other words, he fit right in.

"The mistakes I made were my fault,'' Brown said. "I need to get a little bit more used to my hands.'' He did say, though, that he got reps during the week. "I was prepared.''

How did Jennings make it through the game?

He wasn't as effective as when he last played in early October, managing only 59 yards on 18 carries. It was his fewest yards per carry (3.3) since Week 1 against the Lions. But after missing four games with a sprained MCL, he appeared to finish the game healthy. "I'll be all right,'' he said.

New York Sports