How’d you like to be stranded in Green Bay with Tom Coughlin Sunday night?
In the last five quarters, he’s watched his team give up 73 points. His defense has allowed 765 yards in those seventy-five minutes of football – and that’s not counting the punt return heard ‘round the world.
His vaunted pass defense got shredded yesterday for over 500 yards and four touchdowns by Aaron Rodgers, two weeks removed from a concussion. His own quarterback threw four interceptions, and both of his featured running backs lost fumbles. It was a total team effort that turned a 14-14 game in the second quarter into a 45-17 defeat.
Coughlin’s frustrations were bad enough that he threw the challenge flag on Brandon Jacobs’s third-quarter fumble on the sideline, the product of a perfect punch-out from behind by linebacker Clay Matthews after a twenty-yard chase. The coach was blindly hoping that one of the Packers trying to recover the ball might have had his foot out of bounds while touching it. They hadn’t, it was the Giants’ second challenge, and so he didn’t have one when a clearly erroneous call gave the Packers an interception while it was still a two-touchdown game.
There aren’t a lot of good nights to be stranded in Green Bay, but this would be one when the team might prefer to avoid Coughlin’s glare by walking to Waukesha.
The blizzard that blanketed the eastern seaboard kept the Giants and Jets from returning to the New York area after their games in the Midwest. The Jets, though losers to Chicago in a shockingly entertaining 38-34 shootout, knew within minutes of the final gun that they were in the playoffs, thanks to Jacksonville’s loss in overtime to Washington. In a goofy season that’s run the gauntlet – or maybe the gamut – from Hard Knocks to prettyfeet, it was somehow appropriate that the Jets’ beleaguered offense shone brightest in defeat while backing into the postseason.
The snow gave the Philadelphia Eagles an unexpected two nights off at home when their Sunday night game was postponed to Tuesday. The break was made sweeter when the Giants’ loss gave Philly the NFC East crown. The Eagles still have a shot at the number-2 seed; they need to win their last two home games against Minnesota and Dallas, while the Bears lose in Green Bay next week.
The Giants will be pulling hard for Chicago in that NFC North matchup; they have to win at Washington and hope that either the Bears defeat the Packers or that New Orleans loses both of its last two games (Monday night in Atlanta, next Sunday at home against Tampa Bay). Quite a fall for a team that appeared to have a home playoff game sewn up – with potential for a first-round bye – before the fateful fourth quarter in the Meadowlands last week.
The biggest loser of the weekend was San Diego, beaten in Cincinnati by the 3-11 Bengals. The Chargers left themselves no margin with their 2-5 start, and now the team with the third-best point differential in the NFL will have to watch the postseason on TV.
While a team that’s outscored its opposition by 114 points in fifteen games is going to miss the playoffs, another that has allowed 107 more points than it scored is still alive – Seattle, who will win the NFC West if it defeats St. Louis at home next Sunday night. That’s the fifth-worst differential in the league, for a team that needs only to beat its 7-8 divisional rival at home in order to host a first-round playoff game. Somewhere Pete Rozelle, that legendary champion of parity, is smiling. Vince Lombardi, meanwhile, is spinning furiously.