By Matthew Ajaj
Two double-digit fourth quarter leads resulting in two losses is not a good way to start a season. In fact, never before had an NFL team accomplished such a miserable feat until just a few weeks ago when the New York Giants imploded for a double dosage of defeats. In Week One, the Giants held a 23-20 lead with the ball on the Dallas Cowboys’ four-yard line with under two minutes to play — they lost. In Week Two, the Giants held a 20-10 lead late in the third quarter with the ball in the Atlanta Falcons’ red zone — they lost. Mismanaged clocks, leaky late-game defense, questionable quarterbacking and crucial dropped passes were the story of both collapses.
Facing a media firestorm, the Giants came into Week Three facing a must-win situation in a Thursday night tilt against the Washington Redskins on Sept. 24. Fortunately for the Giants, the Redskins couldn’t play their way out of a wet paper bag that night as they gave away the ball three times. The Giants coasted through the game until — that’s right — the fourth quarter, where they let up two touchdowns, one via a 101-yard kickoff return. And yet again, the Giants mishandled the clock as they attempted to pass the ball with under two minutes left while holding an 11-point lead. Nevertheless, the Giants walked away with a 32-21 win and now stand at, 1-2.
Believe it or not, these lowly Giants still have high hopes. The boys in blue can confidently say that they have outplayed their opponents in all three contests, even though they only have one win to show for it. The Giants will also welcome the return of slot receiver and fan favorite Victor Cruz for Week Four after he suffered a torn patellar tendon last season. Along with sophomore stud Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants have a dynamic duo at the receiver position that may prove to be the best tandem in the league. Big Blue fans can also take solace in the fact that notorious pass-dropper Preston Parker is off the team and is unlikely to resurface to public life unless it’s for a mascot gig with Butterfinger.
What really sweetens the deal for the Giants, however, is how sour the rest of the division is looking. The Dallas Cowboys are without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant — the two players most integral to the Cowboys’ success — for a significant stretch of the season, due to their respective injuries. The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a nosedive as coach Chip Kelly’s new additions have yet to earn their wings. And the Washington Redskins, well, they’re the Washington Redskins. The poignantly-named NFC “Least” is looking as pathetic as ever, but someone has to win this division.
For the past 11 years, coach Tom Coughlin and franchise quarterback Eli Manning have kept the Giants’ ship steady. Both of them made critical mistakes in the season’s opening weeks that cost the team two crucial wins. Nevertheless, these blunders are but an anomaly on their respective résumés. Coughlin, unfazed by Father Time, is still the red-faced, motivating force capable of invigorating any batch of players into a winning squad. Manning can still throw with the best of them, and historically, his best features are his short memory and his ability to come up big in the clutch. Their 0-2 start is water under the bridge as the Coughlin-Manning combo will keep the New York Giants afloat amidst the muddy mess of the NFC East. Don’t jump ship just yet, Giants fans: Big Blue is poised for a division title.