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Vacchiano: Giants defense lets team down once again

Ralph Vacchiano


Sunday, December 6, 2015, 7:22 PM

During the commercial break before each fourth quarter begins, the Giants’ defense gathers together on the sideline. They pull in tight, shout words of encouragement, and then they all raise one finger up in the air.

“That just means ‘Hey, let’s take it up another notch,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara. “We’re vowing to each other, ‘Hey, I’m going to take it up another level.”

And then, in almost every single game this season, they run out onto the field … and don’t.

So put all the blame you want on Tom Coughlin’s hard-to-defend decision to pass up the easy field goal and go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 2 with 8:50 remaining. Throw plenty of blame at Eli Manning and Rueben Randle for whatever happened on the interception on that play, too. But the bottom line is that the Giants were still up 20-10 with 8:42 to go and the Jets were pinned deep in their own end.

It’s the defense that let the Giants down in the fourth quarter – just as it has all season long.


NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiRobert Sabo/New York Daily News

Brandon Marshall is no match for Prince Amukamara as he hauls in the game-tying touchdown.

“We had a 10 point lead and we just couldn’t get off the field,” said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. “We couldn’t the stops we needed.”

No they couldn’t, and they rarely do which is why this defense isn’t just bad, it’s historically bad and ranks dead last in the NFL both against the pass and overall. It’s been particularly putrid in the fourth quarter, too, and the later it gets in the game, the worse it becomes. It was hardly unusual that the Giants blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, or that they lost even though they still led with less than a minute remaining. In fact, the Giants have tied an NFL record by blowing five leads in the final two minutes of games this year.

So it’s no wonder that late in the game on Sunday, at least a few Giants admitted to thinking “Here we go again …”


“I’m going to be really honest, it did come across my mind,” Amukamara said. “There’s times in the game where it looks like ‘Oh never mind, it’s not going to end like that.’ Then gosh, it does end like that. You want to think positive, but you’re a realist at the same time and it’s in the back of your head, like you’re crossing your fingers and cringing.”

“You’re not necessarily worrying about it but you’re saying, “OK, this is where we have to get over this hump. This is where we have to finish. This is where we have to close it out,'” Jenkins added. “And we come in and we say it to each other at halftime, talk about it on the sidelines, ‘Let’s go out and finish. Let’s go out and do this.’

“And we don’t.”


Ryan Fitzpatrick dissects the Giants defense en route to a 23-20 overtime win.Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

Ryan Fitzpatrick dissects the Giants defense en route to a 23-20 overtime win.

No they don’t. Almost ever. They certainly didn’t do it on Opening Night when the Cowboys got the ball back with 1:29 remaining and dashed 72 yards for a game-winning touchdown with seven seconds to play. They didn’t the next week either, when the Falcons went 70 yards in 1:58 for the touchdown that put them up 24-20 with 1:14 remaining. They didn’t do it in Week 8 in New Orleans where the Saints scored to tie the game with 36 seconds remaining in a game they’d win 52-49 on a field goal 36 seconds later. And they didn’t in Week 10 when the Patriots went 44 yards in 1:47 to set up the game-winning field goal with one second left.

That was the back-drop of the most recent disaster, when the Jets first marched 80 yards in 12 plays for a field goal that pulled them within 20-13, which was followed by 71 yards on 10 plays to tie the game on their next drive. Then in overtime they went 61 yards on 13 plays for the game-winning field goal.

Three drives beginning with 8:42 left in the game, 212 yards, four third-down conversions, one fourth-down conversion and 13 points surrounded. That’s as embarrassing as it gets.


“I just think we keep sitting there saying, ‘Let’s make a play. Let’s make a play. Let’s make a play,'” Coughlin said.

“I feel like in here and in here it’s happening,” Amukamara said, pointing to his head and to his heart. “But the end result is it doesn’t look like it is happening.”

And that affects absolutely everything, including some of Coughlin’s strange coaching decisions this year – like his one on Sunday to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the 2, in the hopes of extending the Giants’ lead to an insurmountable 17 points. One of his explanations for that was that “I have made a decision to be very aggressive at the end of games.… We try to take some of the pressure off of everybody.”

The translation of that sure seems to be that he doesn’t trust his defense – and it’s easily to see why.


Marshall brushes off Amukamara as the Jets receiver finishes with 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.Al Bello/Getty Images

Marshall brushes off Amukamara as the Jets receiver finishes with 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

What’s not easy to figure is why this defense keeps failing. Sure, the overall talent is questionable. But there are still plenty of games where it plays well for three quarters, plus.

“Why we’re not finishing in the second half?” Amukamara said. “I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think we ever question our ability. I know each guy has the utmost confidence in themselves. But confidence doesn’t mean nothing if you don’t do it out there.”

“It’s got to be something that we get solved. It can’t be something that we try to fix,” Jenkins added. “It’s something that you either fix or you go home.”

eli manning ,
tom coughlin ,
prince amukamara ,
new york giants ,
new york jets ,

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