Commentary

Coughlin accepts blame for meltdown

Head coach's job may be on the line if team continues to lose games in this fashion

Updated: September 27, 2010, 4:02 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin marched up to the podium and said it was his fault.

The head coach who has probably spent most of his coaching life preaching discipline wanted all the blame for the New York Giants' lack of discipline in an embarrassing 29-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

However, it wasn't the head coach who tried to be Brett Favre and throw an inexplicable left-handed pass into the end zone that resulted in an interception. Coughlin didn't fumble the ball at the Tennessee 5-yard line to squander another scoring opportunity. He also didn't commit 11 mind-numbing penalties and he sure didn't miss two field goals.

One week after Brandon Jacobs lost his helmet into the stands in Indianapolis, the Giants lost their heads and suffered a colossal meltdown.

How much of a mess were the Giants? Coughlin's team on Sunday would have made the cast of "Jersey Shore" look like a bunch of disciplined monks.

The Giants turned the ball over three times, twice inside the 5-yard line. They missed a pair of field goals and had six personal fouls called against them, including an illegal chop-block that resulted in a safety. They watched their special teams continue to hurt them as Tennessee turned a 10-10 halftime tie into an utter debacle.

"The part of the game which is so frustrating to me is the turnovers and the penalties and that is my responsibility," Coughlin said. "The way in which we play between the lines is my responsibility and I'm taking full responsibility for that. This is a game we should have won and we didn't win."

Defensive end Justin Tuck, one of the three team captains, put the blame on the players.

"That is horse----," Tuck said of Coughlin taking the heat. "He hasn't done anything different. So why are we disciplined in other games and undisciplined in this one."

If the Giants continue to lose games in this fashion, Coughlin will pay the ultimate price and lose his job. The Giants (1-2) simply are not good enough of a team to survive moronic penalties. Their margin for error is about as short as one of their punt returns and that is virtually nothing.

"We are just not good enough as a team right now," said defensive tackle Barry Cofield. "We can get better, we can get worse or we can stay the same. We are not good enough to overcome mistakes. We are not good enough to overcome penalties. As construed right now, we are not good enough."

The sad thing is that the Giants actually accomplished much of what they set out to do in their game plan. The defense rebounded from last week's humiliating outing against the Colts and held the most explosive running back in the league, Chris Johnson, to 70 yards on his first 27 carries. The Giants limited Vince Young to 118 yards passing.

Offensively, the Giants outgained the Titans 471 to 271 in total yards. But they couldn't stop gashing themselves with self-inflicted wounds.

"Physically? We came out and whupped that football team," Tuck said.

Mentally, the Giants came up small. It is virtually impossible to win with two turnovers in the red zone and nearly a dozen penalties. They left as many as 20 points on the field.

Start with the first quarter, in which Manning threw two interceptions. The first one went off the hands of Hakeem Nicks and into the defense's hands. Not the end of the world, especially since Manning did this three times in the season opener and the Giants still beat the Panthers.

But with 5:24 left in the quarter, Manning did something that was incredibly un-Manning-like. Instead of acting like his big brother, Manning channeled his inner Favre and lobbed a left-handed pass for Kevin Boss while scrambling on third-and-2 at the Tennessee 2-yard line. The ball was deflected and picked off by former Rutgers standout Jason McCourty in the end zone.

When Manning has a mental lapse, the Giants are in for a long day. Just about the only good thing going for the offense is the fact that it has a heady veteran quarterback.

Oh, but it got better.

After tying the game at 10-all at the half, the Giants' special teams surrendered 45 yards on the kickoff to start the third quarter. The defense stopped the Titans, who then punted and downed the ball at the Giants' 1-yard line. On third-and-10 from the 1, Manning completed a 43-yard pass to Mario Manningham only to have it wiped out by a Bradshaw illegal chop-block that resulted in a Tennessee safety.

Kicking the ball back to Tennessee, the Giants watched the Titans score a touchdown six plays later to go up 19-10.

The Giants fought back and made it down to the Titans' 6-yard line only to see Bradshaw cut back on a run toward the end zone and fumble to cost the Giants more points. Tackle Dave Diehl then was whistled for an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Despite all this, they were still down only nine and here they came again, driving to the Tennessee 21 early in the fourth.

But the Giants were flagged for a delay of game on a field goal attempt. The New Meadowlands Stadium practically moaned "really?" in unison. Now fourth-and-12 from the 26, Tynes missed a 44-yarder wide right with 13:34 remaining.

"It was just so many sloppy things that happened," said Manning, who threw for 386 yards but no touchdowns. "It is just tough to think about some of the mistakes that happened. Not blocking the right guy on certain things, tipped balls, fumbles, interceptions, penalties, and there is not really an answer for it.

"It is one thing if you go out there and you just get beat and they are better than you, they outplay you, or they out-scheme you. Those things sometimes you can handle and you can learn from it, but I don't know what you learn from. All we learned is that we can do a lot of good things and we made stupid plays that we can't overcome." Perhaps most disturbing is who committed some of the stupid plays. Veterans like tackle Kareem McKenzie lost their composure. Five of the personal fouls came after the whistle. McKenzie had two unnecessary roughness penalties called against him in the span of seven minutes in the fourth quarter. Coughlin benched him and safety Antrel Rolle, who was flagged for a personal foul for retaliating and hitting a Titan in the helmet after saying he was struck in the face mask twice.

By the time Rolle committed his personal foul with 5:19 left, the game had spiraled out of control for the Giants. Johnson -- who finished with 125 yards and 55 coming on one late drive in the fourth -- scored a touchdown two plays later to seal the game.

Last week, Rolle sounded the alarm around the team when he said the team lacked leadership and passion in the Colts' loss. He said he saw nothing but fire on Sunday from his teammates. If anything, there was too much emotion.

"In a perfect world, you can say there would be no personal fouls or things of that nature," said Rolle, who admitted to losing his cool on his personal foul. "But this world is not so perfect as we all know. "Those are things that can be corrected at the snap of a finger and they will be corrected."

Rolle also said that the Giants were too "controlled" last week. On Sunday, the Giants looked like an insane asylum with zero control at times.

More losses like this and their head coach will need a straitjacket.

"They are held accountable," Coughlin said. "They have been told they do not have the freedom to hurt our football team, to take actions which hurt our team. Penalties lose games and they have been told that. They all know what the repercussions are of losing the turnover battle. It is frustrating but it is my fault, my responsibility, put it on me.

"We did play better football. We gave the game away that we should have won and I will take the responsibility."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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