- Ohm Youngmisuk, ESPN Staff Writer
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As the playoffs move into the conference championship weekend, we take a look at five games that cost the Giants an opportunity to defend their title in the postseason.
The Giants finished 9-7 this season but needed one more win to get back into the playoffs. Today, we examine the their 34-0 loss in Atlanta in Week 15.
What went wrong: What didn't go wrong?
On the second play of the game, Eli Manning was picked off by Asante Samuel, who returned it to the Giants’ 16. Four plays later, the Falcons scored to go up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.
The Giants couldn't do anything right after that. Lawrence Tynes missed a 30-yard field goal, the offense was stopped on fourth down three times and the defense was never able to make Matt Ryan uncomfortable.
Turning point: You could easily say it was Manning's interception at the start of the game or Tynes' early miss that set the tone for the Giants.
But you can also make an argument that Julio Jones' 40-yard touchdown catch on rookie Jayron Hosley sealed the game. Even though the Giants were shut out in the first half, they only trailed 17-0 and there was still hope for a second-half comeback.
But Jones ran past Hosley for a touchdown with 11:31 remaining in the third quarter to put the game out of reach and completely deflate the Giants.
Giant regret: The Giants could not convert on three third-and-shorts in the first half.
On a third-and-3 at the Falcons' 12, Manning threw an incomplete pass to Domenik Hixon. Tynes then missed his 30-yard attempt.
In the second quarter, the Giants had a third-and-2 at the Falcons' 33 when Kregg Lumpkin gained just one yard on a run. Tom Coughlin opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 with 6:08 left in the half, but David Wilson was stuffed for no gain.
Later, with 1:23 left, the Giants handed off to Lumpkin again on a third-and-1 on Atlanta's 11-yard-line but were stopped for no gain. After a timeout with 1:14 left, Coughlin went for it again down 17-0 but Manning could not connect with Victor Cruz.
What if? The Giants were pretty much out of this game from the start. Coughlin had hoped his team would respond emotionally, not only because of its slim division lead and the potential playoff spot that was on the line, but also because this was the first game after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
If they had taken care of business against a team they owned 24-2 in the wild card a season earlier, the Giants likely would be in the playoffs. Instead, the Giants lost sole possession of first place in the NFC East and eventually were on their way to missing the postseason.
Tell us where you think the Atlanta debacle ranks among the Giants' most costly losses of the season below.
2dDan Graziano and Adam Caplan