As the sting of a second straight loss to a division opponent starts to fade, one obvious question comes to mind: Who can we blame?
Most people have rightly been pointing to Ramses Barden’s offensive pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter as the play that cost the Giants the game. Putting aside the terrible result, let’s try and examine whether throwing the ball was the right decision in the first place. After being given great field position by a David Wilson kick return, the Giants moved the ball through the air to the Eagles’ 26-yard line with 25 seconds to play and no timeouts. On second down, the Giants had three options: run, pass or kick the field goal.
Run: If they run (which they did on the previous play for a 1-yard gain), the Giants would kill more time off the clock and have to spike on third down to set up a field goal try. Neither Ahmad Bradshaw nor Andre Brown had had much success on the ground to that point, averaging 3 and 2.8 yards per carry, respectively. It would also carry the possibility of losing yardage or fumbling.
Pass: To that point on the drive, the Giants had attempted 7 passing plays and had positive results (a completion or a defensive pass-interference penalty) on 3 of them. One of those incompletions came after Eli threw a botched snap out of bounds and another when Victor Cruz slipped on a hook pattern. Passing also had the benefit of providing the opportunity to pick up a chunk of yards for an easier field goal attempt, while stopping the clock on an incompletion or leaving plenty of time for a spike if a receiver was tackled in bounds.
Kick: From the 26-yard line, a field goal would have been 43-yards. Since 2010, Lawrence Tynes has made 8 of 11 field goals of between 40 and 49-yards. He also converted 3 of 6 from 50+ yards during that span. The kick would have been within Tynes’ range, but it was far from a chip shot. Also, with about 20 seconds remaining, the Giants would have had to kick the ball back to the Eagles. While a kick return touchdown would have been an unlikely way to end the game after a converted field goal, we know from past experience that it’s not impossible.
The sad truth is that there is no perfect answer, but I think the Giants made the right call. Eli had been throwing very well in the second half (aside from the terrible endzone interception) and it made the most sense in light of the time remaining.
These Giants are Eli Manning’s team. He made a terrible throw that forced Barden to take a penalty rather than have the ball be intercepted, but those things are going to happen when you consistently put the game on his shoulders. Giants fans had to feel good about the team’s chances when they took over at the 35 needing only to get into field goal range, and that’s because of Eli’s past success in those situations. If they are put in the same situation next week against the Browns, I will feel just as comfortable. It stands to reason that if you have the best clutch quarterback in the league, you would want to put the outcome of the game in his hands rather than on the foot of a kicker. It didn’t work out this time, but letting Eli decide the game was the right call.