Commentary

Where it all went wrong for Big Blue

The Giants missed the playoffs again, thanks in large part to these six factors

Updated: January 5, 2011, 2:00 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

They spent the entire offseason talking about making up for last year's debacle. The New York Giants' rallying cry for 2010 was to return to the playoffs.

They fell just short, winning the regular-season finale but losing out to Green Bay for the NFC's final postseason bid.

[+] EnlargeRich Seubert
John Munson/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireGuard Rich Seubert dislocated his kneecap in the finale of a 2010 season in which injury woes never let up.

Here are some of the reasons why the Giants, who lost two of their final three games, missed the playoffs for the second straight year:

Eight minutes

We have to start with the most painful moment of the season -- the final eight minutes of the Philadelphia collapse. Up 31-10, the Giants couldn't finish off Michael Vick and the Eagles.

Tom Coughlin opted not to use the hands team on an onsides kick, which ultimately came back to haunt him. And then there was Matt Dodge's punt to DeSean Jackson, who brought it back for a touchdown to end the game. The Giants went from taking control of the NFC East to spiraling toward their demise.

Self-destruction

As if it wasn't hard enough beating teams in the NFL, the Giants made the task even tougher by hurting themselves with maddening turnovers. The Giants led the NFL in the category and Eli Manning threw the most interceptions with 25. Ahmad Bradshaw lost six fumbles. If the Giants turn over the ball maybe five fewer times, they might win another game or two.

And then there was the game the Giants virtually gave away to Tennessee in Week 3, when they suffered brain-freeze and were flagged for 11 penalties. Add on a win and the Giants are likely in the playoffs.

Injuries

For the second straight season, the Giants were hampered by injuries. Last year, they lost Kenny Phillips and Antonio Pierce to injuries. This season, the Giants did a good job of weathering the storm -- but it took its toll.

Mathias Kiwanuka and Steve Smith were among the 13 Giants who landed on injured reserve. Five of Manning's wide receivers were placed on IR, including Sinorice Moss, who was later waived. And the offensive line was in flux most of the season with injuries to Shaun O'Hara and David Diehl, among others. The Giants used six different combinations on the line, but still managed well.

Injuries are a part of life in the NFL. While the Giants had the depth to survive the injuries, they might have been able to win one more game if Kiwanuka or Smith avoided IR.

Special teams

The Giants' special teams suffered massive blows during the offseason when punter Jeff Feagles retired and returner Domenik Hixon suffered a season-ending knee injury. The unit never recovered. Dodge was a rookie roller coaster the entire season. And no matter who the Giants brought in to return punts, no one could replace Hixon.

The coverage improved as the season progressed, but special teams played a major role in costing the Giants the NFC East in the Philadelphia debacle with the onsides kick and the Jackson return.

Too streaky

The Giants were hot and cold all season and they couldn't get on the right streak when a playoff spot was on the line. They lost two games early in the season but rebounded to win five straight. Then they dropped two consecutive games to Dallas and Philadelphia. A three-game winning streak followed, but when the NFC East and a playoff berth were at stake, the Giants lost two devastating games to the Eagles and Packers.

Defensive breakdowns

The defense was terrific for the majority of the season. The Giants boasted a top-five unit that knocked out several quarterbacks (sorry, Tony Romo) and dominated the likes of Chicago, Houston, Washington and Minnesota. Perry Fewell also did well with his three-safety looks and he revived the pass rush.

But there were moments when Fewell's defense suffered lapses or was manhandled. Sometimes the Giants played solid defense for the majority of a game only to be done in by a few big plays. Felix Jones, LeSean McCoy and Vick all burned Fewell's defense with monster plays.

And then there were the Indianapolis and Green Bay losses in which the Giants' defense was completely overwhelmed by high-powered offenses from the start.

Overall, Fewell was a success in his first year as coordinator as the Giants' defense returned to being an intimidating unit for most of the season. But a few breakdowns cost them the playoffs.

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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