EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** One week ago, the Giants failed to stop the Seattle Seahawks from scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns and lost.
On Sunday, they were unable to reach the end zone themselves on four tries from the four-yard line and suffered another dispiriting defeat, this one by a 16-10 score to the San Francisco 49ers in MetLife Stadium.
"We've had a defensive fiasco; we've had an offensive fiasco," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Perhaps maybe now we'll be able to go and put something together."
They will have an opportunity to do that next Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. But first they must salve the wounds from their fifth consecutive defeat, one that left them with a 3-7 record.
Though just as disappointing as the others, this loss was different. The defense, much-maligned after allowing 38 points and 510 yards, including 350 on the ground, last week, held the 49ers to 16, 333 and 148. That ended at four the Giants' streak of games in which their opponents gained at least 423 yards and scored 27 points. The Niners were limited to Colin Kaepernick's 48-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree (who caught the ball at the 35 and outraced several Giants defenders to the end zone) and three Phil Dawson field goals.
"The defense obviously had listened to enough and they played with good physical play," Coughlin said. "They made plays out there today and got a lot of stops."
But while the defense regained its footing, the offense spent most of the game slipping and falling. After Eli Manning and Larry Donnell hooked up for the Giants' first opening-possession touchdown in 21 games, the Giants never again found the end zone. Their final 11 offensive series yielded only a 43-yard Josh Brown field goal.
Along the way, Manning tied his career high by throwing five interceptions – after tossing six in the first nine games. He also threw five picks on Dec. 15, 2013 against Seattle, also at home.
"You're not going to win a game turning the ball over five times – I can guarantee you that," Coughlin said.
"I didn't expect it," Manning said. "I've got to do better. I've got to make better decisions, better throws. They're all on me, it's nobody else's fault. I've got to protect the ball and can't afford to turn it over, especially a couple times in field goal range."
Three of the picks were by linebackers – two by rookie Chris Borland and one by Michael Wilhoite. Safety Eric Reid and cornerback Chris Culliver had the others.
Despite all the turnovers, the Giants had a chance to win the game after Beckham's 25-yard punt return put them at their own 35 with 6:18 to play. On third-and-12, Manning found Rueben Randle, who made a terrific catch for a 26-yard gain to the San Francisco 41. For the game, Randle gained a career-high 112 yards on seven catches.
Two plays later, Beckham (six catches for 93 yards) made an even better catch, out-jumping Perrish Cox and somehow staying inbounds for a 37-yard gain to the four. The play survived a replay challenge by San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh.
"I knew I was on the sideline," Beckham said. "I was trying to get my feet down before my butt hit, but thankfully my butt hit first."
The Giants were four yards away from taking a late fourth-quarter lead. But they never reached the end zone, as four Manning passes fell incomplete.
"Four shots from the four-yard line - it's inexcusable that we didn't score," said Coughlin, who moments later added, "In hindsight, we should've run the ball."
Manning often says each interception has its own story. So did each play in the deciding sequence.
On first down, Manning threw to the right side for Beckham, but the ball fell incomplete.
"They had a loaded box," Manning said. "I tried to hit him, the safety ended up running down underneath and the corner kind of backed off a little soft, so it was going to be a tough throw. I didn't want to force it or risk anything right there on the throw, they had it covered pretty well. I knew we had three more downs after that."
On the second one, Manning threw a fade to the left, but Randle couldn't come up with the ball.
Asked if he should have caught it, Randle said, "Most definitely. Even though he (Culliver) had a good jump, I still could have made that play. … (We) just didn't make those plays at the point in time that we needed. I don't think it's ever going to be something that they do. It's all upon us to go out there and make those plays."
Manning's third-down pass was another fade to the left side, this one for Donnell. But Reid broke it up.
"Both of them had good looks to hit them," Manning said. "I could have probably put it a little further out on that fade to Larry. We were close on both of them, the one to Larry and the one to Rueben. Close to converting them, could have been better throws."
That left the Giants with one last chance from the end zone doorstep. But Manning's pass to Preston Parker was tipped and picked off by Borland.
"I tried to move around," Manning said. "Everybody was going to be in the end zone, we had five guys getting out. They dropped eight guys, it wasn't going to be a clean picture throw, but I tried to fit it to Parker. Maybe I could have scrambled a little bit more and hit Rueben on the outside, but they did a good job. They had things covered up pretty well. I could have run maybe or tried something else."
Whatever they tried didn't work. The Giants did get the ball back one more time, on their own 15 with 1:09 remaining and no timeouts. But Manning's fourth down pass to Beckham fell incomplete, prompting the young receiver to slam his helmet to the ground.
But the Giants had already wasted their best chance to win the game.
"You have four downs from the (four)-yard line, you expect to be able to score in that scenario," Manning said. "Disappointed, disappointed in myself. I could have thrown some better passes, some better balls. We could have made a play and gotten the lead right there."
"I could be standing here 17-16," Coughlin said, "but instead, we're standing here with a loss."
It's been that kind of season.
View the best photos from the game vs. the 49ers