Tom Coughlin said the postgame locker room following the Giants 36-25 loss to the Seahawks produced "about as miserable a feeling as we've had here in a long time."
Small wonder. Take two turnovers deep in Giants' territory and the last of Eli Manning's three interceptions that produced a 90-yard clinching touchdown return by Brandon Browner, and you had the makings of an utterly deflating day at the Meadowlands.
Unfortunately, that last pick came off the hands of Victor Cruz, the first-year receiver who has become a big-play player. Cutting into double coverage at the 10 with less than two minutes remaining and the Giants down by four, Cruz slipped slightly as he tried to haul in Manning's throw.
The ball bounded off his reaching hand and into the arms of Browner, who returned it 94 yards for the final touchdown.
"As soon as I went to grip it in, I got hit and it went in the air," said Cruz, whose earlier fumble at the Giants' 25 led to a tying field goal in the fourth quarter. "I got my feet out from under me, but I still felt I had the body motion to make the play. It's tough."
The situation may never have come to that throw, however, if Will Beatty, who had a tough day, not jumped prematurely on first down from the 4. Instead of pounding it in with Ahmad Bradshaw (Brandon Jacobs sat with a sprained left MCL), the gameplan had to change.
What's really tough is that the Giants failed to play up to an eminently-beatable Seattle squad that came in 1-3 and lost starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Instead, the Giants' defense let Charlie Whitehurst conduct a go-ahead, 80-yard touchdown drive as if there were no defenders out there.
Thus went a chance for a third straight fourth-quarter comeback victory. But as Eli Manning said, a team can't live and die by comebacks. They need consistency, something both the offense and defense are searching for at this point.
"We can't play mediocre," Manning said. "We can't afford to make mistakes. We just can't afford to be down and come back. Eventually it's going to bite you and we can't make the plays we need."
The resulting loss put the idle Redskins in first place of the NFC East at 3-1, with the Giants falling into second at 3-2.
Here's the good and bad of the day.
Jake Ballard: The tight end's 12-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was highlighted by his second effort, on which he carried two Seahawks into the end zone after catching the ball at the 2. it was his second reception of the drive, the first going for 28 yards to the 15.
Osi Umenyiora and Rocky Bernard: Two plays after Seattle DE Raheem Brock stripped Eli Manning at the 11, Umenyiora forced a huge fumble at the Giants' 13, which was recovered by Michael Boley to prevent another first-quarter Seattle score. Later in the second quarter, Bernard stripped Marshawn Lynch and recovered the fumble at the Giants' 3 to prevent the Sehawks from going up by two touchdowns.
Hakeem Nicks: His 19-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first half to even the score at 14 was a thing of beauty. He beat CB Walter Thurmond at the 5, and then laid out in the end zone to grab Manning's throw for his third touchdown of the year.
VICTOR CRUZ: Nicks apparently isn't the only playmaking receiver on the team. Cruz again proved in an eight-catch, 161-yard effort that he's capable of the big play. He reeled in a tipped pass off S Kam Chancellor one-handed in double coverage and raced the last 25 yards untouched for a 68-yard, go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. It marked his third touchdown, tying him with Nicks for the team lead. But his fumble one possession later set up the Seahawks for the tying field goal. Cruz made up for that, though, with his 41-yard, below-the-knee grab against Walter Thurmond at the two-minute warning, and a 19-yard catch-and-run to the Seattle 4. Unfortunatley for Cruz' up-and-down day, he ended it on a down note as he slipped while trying to catch Manning's next pass, and Browner brought it back for a touchdown.
Kenny Phillips: He took a really bad personal foul penalty in the first quarter when he hit Zach Miller in the head on an incmpletion near the goal line, giving the Seahawks a first down on the 11. That set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Tarvaris Jackson to Ben Obomanu.
GIANTS RUN DEFENSE: They let up a 47-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch in the first quarter as they failed to knock him out of bounds as he ran the sideline. That marked the fourth run of 20 or more yards against the league's 21st-ranked run defense, and the unit gave up 145 yards for its third straight 100-yard game. Not a good sign.
BALLARD: He giveth and he taketh away. In the third quarter, his missed block on DE Anthony Hargrove resulted in DJ Ware getting dropped in the end zone for a safety that gave the Seahawks a 16-14 lead.
PASS DEFENSE: Not only did the Giants let Charlie Whitehurst march the Seahawks down the field after taking their first lead of the game with less than five minutes to go, but a busted coverage left WR Doug Baldwin open by more than five yards against Aaron Ross for Whitehurst's 27-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass with 2:37 remaining.
THIRD-DOWN OFFENSE: How does 1-for-12 hit you? Not so good, right?
PENALTIES: The Giants were flagged seven times, but Ballard's illegal procedure call at the Seattle 7 forced the Giants to settle for Lawrence Tynes' 26-yard field goal and a 25-22 lead, keeping Seattle in easy reach. And then there was Beatty's false start that moved the ball back to 9 the snap prior to the final interception and touchdown return.
RUSHING OFFENSE: With Jacobs out, the Giants rushed for just 69 yards on 25 carries (2.8) and DJ Ware was thrown for a safety. G Chris Snee had a rough day up front as the season-long running woes continued.