JACKSONVILLE – It's safe to say Tom Coughlin is not happy that he coached in the two greatest comeback victories in Jacksonville Jaguars history.
On Nov. 24, 1996, Coughlin was on the Jacksonville sideline when the Jaguars overcame a 15-point second-half deficit to win in overtime in Baltimore, 28-25.
On Sunday, Coughlin coached the Giants in his former home, EverBank Field, and watched in disgust as they blew leads of 21-0 in the second quarter, 21-3 at halftime, and five- and two-point advantages in the fourth quarter and fell to the Jaguars, 25-24. Jacksonville, which returned two Giants fumbles for touchdowns, scored the winning points on Josh Scobee's 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining.
The Giants lost their seventh consecutive game to fall to 3-9. Jacksonville is 2-10.
"It's very discouraging, disappointing and all of the above," Coughlin said. "We came down here feeling like we could win. I thought we prepared well, but nothing happened on game day. It's a long game, 60 minutes, and that's why we have to play four quarters. We are playing two (quarters), maybe three, sometimes. The other guy figures out what we're trying to do and we have trouble responding to that. Again, a disappointing, disappointing loss."
The second half was again the Giants' undoing. In the last two weeks, they've blown halftime leads of 11 points to Dallas and 18 to Jacksonville. After scoring touchdowns on three consecutive second-quarter drives, their final nine offensive possessions ended with four punts, three lost fumbles, a missed field goal and a field goal.
"This was somewhat similar to the Dallas game, where the first half we played really well," said quarterback Eli Manning, who did not throw an interception, but lost two fumbles. "Second half, for whatever reason, didn't come out with the same fire."
"We could have kneeled on the ball in the second half and had a better chance to win," Coughlin said.
Josh Brown's 33-yard three-pointer gave the Giants a 24-22 lead with 3:26 remaining in the game. But for the second week in a row, the Giants jumped ahead in the final minutes only to have their opponent drive down the field and score the final points in the waning moments. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles completed four passes for 39 yards and ran twice around left end for 31 more yards to set up Scobee's game-deciding field goal.
"A rookie quarterback moves it the length of the field at the end of the game to what amounted to a two-minute drive," Coughlin said. "…We have a guy eyeing the quarterback and he didn't get out and the quarterback got the outside to hit a big gain to make it easier for the field goal."
The Giants got the ball back at their own 20, but on the first play, Manning was sacked by Sen'Derrick Marks and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Chris Clemons with 20 seconds left.
In the first half, it was hard to imagine that kind of ending. After a scoreless first quarter, the Giants jumped out to a 21-0 lead as Rashad Jennings scored touchdowns on runs of two and 17 yards and Manning threw a three-yard score to Preston Parker. Though Scobee kicked a 28-yard field goal late in the second quarter, it hardly seemed to portend a Jaguars' comeback.
But it did. The Giants forced a Jacksonville punt on the first possession of the second half. On their second offensive play, from the 15-yard line, Manning was sacked by Geno Hayes. After a scramble during which both Daniel Fells and Jennings had a chance to fall on the ball, J.T. Thomas III secured it in the end zone for a touchdown.
"I was pulling it toward me," Jennings said. "It hit (Thomas') leg. I couldn't cup it, so I tried to pick it up. I got my hand caught on his leg at first, so when I first tried to squeeze it, it got caught on his leg so I tried to pick it up and the guy came in and made the play. If I could go back again, I probably would have just laid there and tried to fight for it."
Before the quarter ended, Bortles threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to another rookie, Marqise Lee, who got a step on cornerback Zack Bowman. The two-point conversion failed, but the Jaguars had pulled to within 21-16.
The momentum swing continued on the fourth play of the fourth quarter. The Giants faced a third-and-15 from their own 43 when Manning threw a pass to the right to tight end Larry Donnell. After a three-yard gain, Donnell was hit by cornerback Dwayne Gratz and fumbled. Aaron Colvin scooped up the ball and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown. Jacksonville again tried for two and came up short, but they had the lead at 22-21.
The Jaguars became the first opponents to score touchdowns on two Giants fumbles in a game since Oct. 25, 1964, when the Cleveland Browns did it.
"I have to take care of the ball and do my job," Donnell said. "That's all I can really think about right now. I have to figure it out. It's something I must eliminate, because it's critical to this team. I have to find a way to hold on to the football and that hurt us right there."
"This was one where he just got his legs cut out from under him and he instinctively did what people do, he put his hands out," Coughlin said. "When you do that, he just dropped the ball. He dropped the ball on the ground."
After going three-and-out on their next two possessions, the Giants regrouped and drove 54 yards to the Jaguars' 14-yard line, where they had a first down. But they couldn't gain another yard in three tries and Brown, who earlier had missed a 43-yard field goal attempt, kicked the 33-yarder to give the Giants a 24-22 lead.
For the second week in a row, the defense was asked to hold a late lead to secure a victory. Once again, it couldn't get the job done. Bortles, playing his 10th professional game, led his young team down the field and to victory.
"It's a loss that we feel we should have won," Coughlin said. "We've done this too many times. We just helped somebody beat us. Instead of forcing them to beat us, we helped them. Talk until you're blue in the face. This team was 0-4 when they lost the turnover battle. It was 100 percent, so we come in here and turn it over three times, twice for a touchdown, and get nothing. I mean, it just doesn't make any sense."
At this point, neither does the entire season.
View the best photos from the game vs. the Jaguars