Football Scientist: Fundamental errors costing Giants

During Sunday's Giants-Packers chat on ESPNNewYork.com, we received an interesting comment from Ryan in New Jersey, who wrote, "What about this game was a consequence of poor coaching? The fumbles? The idiocy of Eli Manning? Oh, I got it, the fact that Jennings and Driver catch EVERYTHING?"

He is certainly correct in stating that not all of the blame for the Giants collapse should fall on the coaches, but it also intimates that coaches aren't responsible for player mistakes. If they put their charges into the correct places on the field and they don't make plays, then the coach should be absolved because he did his job, right?

The problem with that line of thinking is it assumes playcalling is the only responsibility of the coach, but it really isn't. Coaches are also just as responsible when their players make fundamental errors. This was the focal point of the four-part series breaking down each of the comeback touchdowns in the Eagles game (the first of which can be found here), and it happened again multiple times against the Packers.

Take the 80-yard touchdown pass Aaron Rodgers threw to Jordy Nelson midway through the first quarter. Nelson lined up in a slot left position and Antrel Rolle was responsible for covering him. Rodgers did a play action fake and Rolle was looking in the backfield instead of watching his receiver. The play was 1.1 seconds old before Rolle even turned his head around to look at Nelson and by then the Packers wideout was nearly up to full speed.

Now it certainly might be that Rolle was reading some kind of a key that made him think the play was a run, but even if he had an inclination along that line, he should have taken into account that it was a shotgun formation play where Rodgers had two running backs to his right.

The shotgun limits the number of run types a team can use and since Rolle was on the quarterback's left side, the only run type he should have been anticipating would be a inside running play that would go between the tackles. Since Rolle was far to the inside of Nelson and just on the edge of defensive box, he was already in a good position to stuff any call of that nature. He also far enough away from Nelson that there is almost no way the wideout could have gotten over to block him in time.

What this means is Rolle could have played the pass first, watched if Nelson was going to attempt for a block and then reacted accordingly. Instead he took took his eyes off of the receiver at the snap and quickly found himself in chase mode because of it.

This is the kind of basic error that has haunted New York all year long and they frankly should not happen at the NFL level. That, and not the fact that the Giants have almost lost what looked at one point to be a Super Bowl-caliber season, is why Tom Coughlin's job could be in jeopardy.