EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – If the Giants' performance last night was in a feature film, that movie would surely falter at the box office.
"It's a bad game, it's a bad production," coach Tom Coughlin said today.
He'll get no argument from the masses.
After taking an early seven-point lead, the Giants did a long, slow fade and fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field, 27-7. The Giants had little offensive output (a season-low 247 yards, just 167 after their opening scoring drive), handed the Eagles 21 points with a toxic combination of turnovers and penalties, and couldn't make a big stop when one might have given them new life.
Instead, their opening 80-yard touchdown drive was one of the very few positives to enjoy after the Eagles took charge midway through the first quarter and never let up. Philadelphia scored 27 unanswered points while controlling all phases of the game.
"We've got to be able to handle the big games," Coughlin said. "The games where things don't go our way, we've got to handle them better. You've got to handle those situations better."
Their next chance to do that will come Sunday, when they host defending NFC East champion Dallas. The Cowboys defeated the Giants on opening night, 27-26, by erasing a 10-point second-half deficit.
The players were off today, but Coughlin sifted through the wreckage that was the Philadelphia game. Coughlin used the word "frustration" three times in the opening statement of his conference call – initially to describe his feelings regarding the first quarter, then the team's inability to score a point after any of its four takeaways, and finally to sum up his reaction to the Giants' season-high 12 penalties.
And that's just a partial list of the transgressions that doomed the team last night.
The turnaround began on the Giants' second possession, when they had a chance to take a commanding 14-0 lead. But Larry Donnell got out-muscled for an Eli Manning pass by linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who intercepted the ball. The Eagles, aided by Damontre Moore's roughing the passer penalty on Sam Bradford, soon scored on a 32-yard pass to Riley Cooper. The sequence encapsulated Coughlin's frustration.
"We take the first drive and go 80 yards in eight plays and score," Coughlin said. "They go three-and-out, we get the ball back, we take it the length of the field, we get down in there. They call it an interception, it's really nothing but a strip of the ball that we've got two hands on. They've got one hand on it, they strip the ball out, rip it away. Then they start their drive from the minus-22, they get a third-and-10. We get a roughing the passer, which is no question a good call on the officials' part, which gives them the continuation of a drive that they still have to go 60 yards, but they do.
"At the conclusion of the drive, they have a 32-yard pass for a touchdown which we've got a player (Jayron Hosley) in a half-field coverage right there for the ball and just doesn't play the ball. The safety from the other side of the field (Brandon Meriweather) comes over and almost gets a hand on it, but the person who's back in that deep-half does not defend the ball in the air. It probably should have been intercepted, to be honest with you."
Coughlin admitted that Moore must be better aware of situations. He was asked if the third-year pro can be trusted to avoid the kinds of penalties he committed last night.
"I can't honestly really say that," Coughlin said. "He's obviously of a high-energy, he does give outstanding effort, there's no question about it. But with regard to that, there's absolutely no excuse for anyone for the unnecessary roughness penalty that he committed last night. Not knowing and being aware of the fact with what the down and distance was, and I realize he may not have known what's going on behind him, but clearly, clearly to understand the way in which the quarterback is protected and rightfully so, and what can and can't be done from a standpoint of his position. There's no excuse for that. You used the word trust, I don't know. That's a good word."
In response to a question regarding if he will sit down and talk to Moore, Coughlin said, "There's been a lot sitting down and talking. I certainly will do more of it and he is very good about listening, etcetera. But we've got to see whether it can hold true on the field."
On their next possession, the Giants had an opportunity to regain control when Rashad Jennings' nine-yard run set up a second-and-one on the Eagles' 41-yard line. But after a Manning pass to Donnell fell incomplete, Jennings was stopped for no gain on third down, and lost two yards on fourth down.
Photos from Monday night's matchup against Philadelphia Eagles
"Had we been able to put the ball out there on the second-and-one just a little bit further, the ball was a little bit underthrown, I think that ball would have been caught," Coughlin said. "And then to have a third-and-one and fourth-and-one and not make the necessary yardage when you know that north-south is the answer to it. Let's get ourselves in position where it couldn't have been more than three or four inches; that was the difference. And I thought we had an opportunity with regard to both times to get it, to pick it up, but it didn't happen."
Less than three minutes later, Manning's pass to the left sideline for Dwayne Harris was intercepted by Nolan Carroll, who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, Philadelphia had a 14-7 lead, and the rout was on.
Hence, the word "frustration" became a regular entry on Coughlin's postmortem conference call.
"The number of things that occurred in the game just weren't anything that we had been doing," Coughlin said. "We hadn't done that, we hadn't just carelessly given the ball away. We hadn't really had an outbreak of the kind of penalties that took place. We played hard, as I mentioned last night. We didn't play balanced, we didn't help each other at all. We didn't do the things necessary in order to complement each other on offense, defense and special teams. We put ourselves in a bad position, didn't accomplish what we needed to, didn't take advantage of the opportunities that were there for us - all those things which I really felt we were on our way, we were growing into the type of team that can handle those things and those situations in very important games. It was a disappointment to me, no doubt."
And for everyone on the Giants team. But they have an opportunity to redeem themselves at the end of a short week when they host the Cowboys.
"The players will be remorseful because of the opportunity that we had," Coughlin said. "But let's not forget there's a long way to go. We are 3-3."
And even after what happened last night, tied for first place. With 10 games left, the Giants have plenty of opportunities to make this a memorable production.
*The Giants did get some good news today. Tight end Daniel Fells was released today from Hackensack University Medical Center, where he has been treated since Oct. 2 for a MRSA (staph) infection.
*The Giants today waived safety Cooper Taylor, a third-year pro who played in three games this season, including last night. He did not have a tackle vs. the Eagles and had a special teams assist this season. Taylor, a 2013 fifth-round draft choice, spent the entire 2014 season in injured reserve with a foot injury.
Statistical leftovers from the Philadelphia game:
*The Giants scored an opening-possession touchdown and never scored again, the first time that happened since Dec. 24, 2006 vs. New Orleans.
*The Giants have not rushed for at least 100 yards in any of their first six games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time the Giants have rushed for fewer than 100 yards in six consecutive games. They are the only NFL team without a 100-yard rushing game this season.