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Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Drive of the game: 'Woulda, coulda ...'

By Ohm Youngmisuk

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The drive of the game this week has left Tom Coughlin sleepless and full of regrets.

Eli Manning nearly pulled off another come-from-behind victory, but the Giants got a bit aggressive at the end instead of playing for a field goal, and then Coughlin went conservative.

Here’s a look back at the Giants’ last drive Sunday night:

• The Giants had 11 plays, but three of them were nullified by pass interference. Trailing 19-17 with 1:49 remaining and no timeouts left, at the Giants’ own 35, Manning threw an incomplete pass intended for Victor Cruz, and then had trouble handling a low shotgun snap from David Baas -- who was playing with a swollen hand according to Coughlin -- before somehow throwing it away.

• On 3rd-and-10, Manning hit Cruz for nine yards. On 4th-and-1, Manning threw to Ramses Barden, who drew a defensive pass interference penalty on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to give the Giants a first down at the Eagles’ 35. The Giants were in business with 1:03 remaining -- plenty of time.

• Two incomplete passes later, Manning threw to Barden again on 3rd-and-10 and the tall receiver drew another pass interference penalty, this time on Nnamdi Asomugha. It's encouraging to see Manning looking for Barden in such huge circumstances.

• The Giants now had 1st-and-10 at the Eagles’ 27 with 49 seconds remaining. They ran Ahmad Bradshaw for one yard.

• The clock was now down to 25 seconds left when Manning looked for Barden again -- this time down inside the 5-yard line -- with single coverage, toward the right corner of the end zone. But Asomugha had the inside position, and Barden wrapped his hand around Asomugha’s helmet in an effort to make a play and keep the Eagles corner from intercepting the ball. The refs threw the flag on Barden for offensive pass interference, and now the Giants were staring at 2nd-and-19 from the Eagles’ 36 with 21 seconds to go.

“The thought of running and then clocking the ball was a definite thought,” Coughlin said Sunday night after the 19-17 loss. “And quite frankly, that’s what we were doing on the next snap. But we never got to that.”

Coughlin explained that the play to Barden had been a productive play before, but the Giants ended up with the worst-possible scenario outside of a turnover.

"I think I just could have thrown the ball differently," Manning said. "Probably just throw it back-shoulder with the way the corner was playing, so you don’t put Ramses in a situation where he is worried about the absolute worst thing that could happen is an interception. Then (it’s) game over, you don’t even have a shot. So I just could have put the ball in a better spot."

• On the next play, with 21 seconds remaining, Manning threw an incomplete pass for Domenik Hixon. There was now 15 seconds left. Instead of running a sideline play to try to gain more yards and get out of bounds, Coughlin decided not to risk it, and attempt a 54-yard field goal instead.

"It’s risky," Manning said of trying to run a sideline play. "They’re going to play probably a two-man technique where it’s going to be tough to hit anything on the sidelines and they’re going to probably tackle you inbounds."

"You can say if you throw a little five- or six-yard pass, you could probably spike it," Manning continued. "But you just don’t know if that’s available and you don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of maybes in that situation. I think if you run another play, you risk the possibility of not having an opportunity to kick the field goal and win the game."

Coughlin certainly felt that way at the time, but he had second thoughts on Monday.

“If I were to do it over myself, would I be as conservative with the 15 seconds? Not this morning,” Coughlin said in his Monday afternoon news conference. “This morning, I throw it to the sideline or something of that nature and take a chance on that. What happens if you get a sack there or you try to fit one in tight, whether you catch it or not, you get tackled inbounds, game over."

“Would I be that conservative? Not today,” he continued. “But last night I chose to do that knowing full well the clock was not in our favor. We had no timeouts, I fully expected the type of coverage that would take the throw to the sideline away from us. But I am not going to know that is not the case because we didn’t try it.”

• Tynes attempted the field goal and had enough distance on it, but it went wide left. However, Eagles coach Andy Reid called a timeout to ice Tynes just before the snap. So Tynes, whose career-best was from 53 yards away, got another opportunity with 10 seconds left. His second attempt fell just short.

Coughlin noted that the snap and hold did not go smoothly, affecting the mechanics of the kick. But if the Giants were five yards closer, the kick would have been good.

“It’s always a woulda, coulda, shoulda, you know?” Coughlin explained Sunday night.

Tell us what you thought of how the final drive ended, who you are upset with, and what you would have done, below.