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Giants' late-game decisions far from 'safe'

Ramses Barden's penalty blew up the Giants' bold plan. (Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE)

"We tried what we thought was a safe call."

That's what Tom Coughlin had to say about the fateful pass attempt late in the fourth quarter Sunday that resulted in offensive pass interference on Ramses Barden and, seconds later, a long missed field goal by Lawrence Tynes.

The Giants were in position for a game-winning field goal as the clock wound down -- a 1-yard Ahmad Bradshaw run put New York on the Philadelphia 26 with about 30 seconds left. Rather than run the clock down and try the 44-yard field goal or call a short-yardage play to pick up a couple more yards, the Giants opted to go for the kill shot.

But Barden was covered well by Nnamdi Asomugha and, in a fight for position, absolutely mugged the Eagles' cornerback.

The resulting penalty pushed New York back to the 36, where QB Eli Manning again tried for a long ball as Philadelphia brought pressure, this time to Domenik Hixon. It fell incomplete, Tynes missed from 54, and the Giants left a win on the table.

"The pass interference was one of those things that when you saw it happen, you shake your head," Coughlin said. "(It was) the worst thing that could happen."

In defense of that call, the odds of being flagged for offensive pass interference there (or anywhere) are relatively small. At what point, though, does the risk of a play call far outweigh the possible reward?

The Giants took over possession with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, down by two and out of timeouts. They still managed to march to the Eagles' 26 -- well within Tynes' field goal range. At that point, they had accomplished what they set out to on that final drive: to give themselves a chance at a game-winning kick.

And then they got greedy.

Manning had had success over the middle all night, and when the Giants lined up for what turned out to be the deep pass to Barden, there was more than enough time to run another play inbounds, spike the football to stop the clock, and kick the field goal. Instead, Coughlin opted to go for the home run, despite having an unfavorable matchup in Barden (at least the third or fourth option in an ideal situation) against Asomugha.

Then, to make matters worse, the Giants piled on the questionable decisions. Manning essentially threw one away on the next snap, then New York opted to try the field goal with 15 seconds left, rather than risk being tackled inbounds on 3rd-and-19.

Coughlin's moves took Andy Reid off the hook, too. The Eagles left the door open for a Giants' game-winning kick when they settled for a field goal moments earlier, after driving inside the New York 5. On 2nd-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Reid handed off to Bryce Brown -- not LeSean McCoy -- and on 3rd-and-goal from the 2-, called an awkward rollout to the left for Michael Vick, which resulted in a sack.

While Reid played it ultra-conservatively, Coughlin pushed the boundary too far in the other direction.

If you have trust in your kicker (as the Giants should in Tynes) and you have trust in your quarterback to make a correct decision late (as the Giants should with Manning), then the deep pass to Barden is impossible to explain. The offensive pass interference might have been the "worst thing that could happen" (though, a sack or interception wouldn't have helped either), but the best-case scenario is that Barden catches the ball for a touchdown and the Giants win.

That's all well and good, except that the Giants already had a win in their grasps. Coughlin outthought himself, unnecessarily rolled the dice ... and it wound up biting the Giants.

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