EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The story of this New York Giants season may well be that they couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead. That story repeated itself at the worst possible time Sunday, as the Giants blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost 23-20 in overtime to the New York Jets.
The whole thing started falling apart when, at the end of a second-half drive that took 11:21 off the clock, the Giants elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Jets’ 4-yard line instead of kicking a field goal that would have put them up 23-10. Eli Manning threw an interception on that play, and the Jets cut the lead to seven points with a field goal and tied the game with a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brandon Marshall with 27 seconds left in regulation.
A lot went wrong, including the defense’s inability to get a fourth-quarter stop and the offense’s inability to run the ball and kill the clock with under three minutes to go. But Tom Coughlin’s decision not to take three easy points at the end of a monster drive will be the one that gets the most scrutiny.
The end came after the Jets scored a field goal in overtime and the Giants couldn’t respond. Odell Beckham Jr. made up for a bad third-down penalty with a huge fourth-down catch, but Josh Brown's first missed field goal of the season -- a 48-yard attempt -- went wide left.
What it means: Big trouble for the Giants, who at 5-7 are a game and a half behind first-place Washington (which plays on Monday Night Football) in the NFC East with four games to go. The Giants have a Monday night game in Miami next week, then finish against Carolina, Minnesota and the Eagles.
What were they thinking? The Giants bled 11:21 off the clock with a ponderous second-half drive that got them to the Jets' 4-yard line with just under nine minutes left in the game. But instead of being happy with an easy field goal that would have put them up 23-10, the Giants went for it on fourth-and-2, and Manning was intercepted.
One reason to get excited: How about the way the defensive line played? With Jason Pierre-Paul lined up at left defensive end (instead of right) and therefore able to play with his left hand on the ground and improve his quickness at the snap, the Giants' front four had its most disruptive game of the season, pressuring and rattling Fitzpatrick throughout the first half. If the defensive line can play like that going forward, things have a chance to improve.
One reason to panic: While center Weston Richburg and left guard Justin Pugh returned from their injuries for this game, right tackle Marshall Newhouse was inactive thanks to a back injury and left tackle Ereck Flowers sprained his ankle in the third quarter. The Giants' offensive line is having a hard time holding together at a critical point in the season.
Fantasy watch: Beckham Jr.'s fantasy day was made with that 72-yard touchdown catch in the first half. He finished with six catches for 149 yards -- his fifth game in a row over 100 yards receiving.
Ouch: Flowers sprained his ankle in the third quarter and did not return to the game, moving Pugh to left tackle and Dallas Reynolds to left guard and leaving Pugh and Richburg (both of whom missed last week's game due to injuries) as the only healthy starting offensive linemen. Beckham was checked for a concussion at halftime after taking a hard hit in the end zone near the end of the first half, but the Giants said he did not have concussion symptoms.