Giants Fans Left to Wonder

The Giants became an embarrassing part of history on Sunday at the feat of the Vikings, but they aren't being given a good explanation of what happened.

For years, Mike Sweatman has been properly recognized as one of the NFL's best and most effective special teams coaches.

Pity that Giants head coach Tom Coughlin won't allow access to his staff, because there would be a ton of questions for Sweatman after Sunday's debacle, in which a punt and a kickoff were returned for touchdowns by the Vikings.

Add to that an interception return, and not only were all three Vikings touchdowns accounted for, but it became a piece of embarrassing history because never in the NFL had a team hit the "triple crown" that way in a single game.

Mewelde Moore took the punt back, 71 yards in the third quarter. The third quarter was also when Koren Robinson sprinted 86 yards for a touchdown with a kickoff. And in the second quarter, free safety Darren Sharper cut in front of wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who was double-teamed, stole an Eli Manning pass and went 92 yards — with only Manning providing desperate and futile pursuit.

"That was poor," said Coughlin, the ersatz stand-in for Sweatman. "When you have wrapped your arms around a guy (see: rookie linebacker Chase Blackburn on Moore), you should be able to bring him down. How we can play like that with so much on the line is beyond me."

The Giants special teams — granted, without star David Tyree, who missed his third game with an elbow injury that evidently is more serious than first announced — allowed 158 yards on four kickoff returns, including the 86-yarder, and 87 yards on three punt returns, including the 71-yarder.

"Kick coverage guys were leaving their lanes," said one participant in the parade of errors. "The Vikings were making good blocks, and when they got just one block, we had vacated a lane, and that was all they needed."

Oddly, the Giants defense now has not allowed a touchdown in almost 14 quarters, or not since the early moments of the third quarter against Denver on Oct. 23. The non-touchdown string has reached 208 minutes, 26 seconds of playing time.

NOTES

  • The Giants had five turnovers against Minnesota (four Eli Manning interceptions and a fumble by Willie Ponder with the game's opening kickoff), and Manning took the blame for the picks. "Not one of them was somebody else's fault," he said. "It was all on me. Bad decisions, bad passes."

  • On the other hand, the second-year quarterback Manning did throw a touchdown pass for the 10th consecutive game. He has tied Phil Simms (who did it twice) and Charlie Conerly and now has the team all-time record of 15, set by Y.A. Tittle (1962-64), in his sights.

  • DT William Joseph will be out for at least a month with a dislocated right elbow. The arm will be put in a cast. Joseph had 19 tackles and two sacks for the season, and the 2003 first-round draft pick had finally started to play up to his pre-NFL reviews. In all likelihood, he will be replaced by veteran Fred Robbins, who has been in the rotation but not starting.

  • DT Kenderick Allen and DE Justin Tuck, who were both out Sunday with injuries, could return to play this week, coach Tom Coughlin said.

  • WR Amani Toomer caught his 40th career TD pass, and his six grabs moved his career reception mark to 499. But the records paled when viewed after a last-second defeat. "This one," he said, "just doesn't feel very good. It is going to burn for a while."

  • P Jeff Feagles, who now has 1,404 career punts and is the only man in NFL history to surpass 1,400, was critical of his special teams. "We gave up two scores and the interception gives them a third, and that's the game right there. It's not like the end of the world, but we played like crap today."

  • K Jay Feely, too, was down on his special teams. "The kickoff returns just kill you," he said. "It was a bad kick, bad coverage and we let them seize momentum with it. Special teams should be helping this team, but we cost our team the game instead."

    Feely missed a chip-shot 28-yard field goal but he made two (48 and 35) and now has made 19 of 21 attempts. He has an overall point total of 84.

  • RB Tiki Barber has seven TDs (six rushing, one receiving) and his career high is just 11 (2002). "Yeah, great, another record," he said. "We lost a game we definitely should have won. So I'm not thrilled with the prospect of another record."


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