JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This one may go down as the lowest moment of the Tom Coughlin Era with the Giants. In fact, it might facilitate the end of it.
The Giants blew a 21-point lead over the pitiful Jaguars, handing them two touchdowns on recovered fumbles and allowing them to march down the field for the winning field goal with 28 seconds remaining in a 25-24 loss at EverBank Field.
The Giants' seventh straight loss -- against a team that entered 1-10 -- left them shocked and nearly speechless. That was appropriate, given that they had very little to say on the field in the second half Sunday.
"I don't know an English word to explain the way we feel,'' running back Rashad Jennings said. "That's not how you win games. That's not how you play professional football. Forget win, lose, draw; you come out and you keep playing.''
The Giants (3-9) have gotten into a nasty habit of giving games away. They handed Seattle a win on turnovers, couldn't score on first-and-goal from the 4 late against the 49ers and let Dallas erase an 11-point deficit and score the winning TD with 1:01 left. And now this.
Safety Antrel Rolle said it's becoming "repetitive.'' Linebacker Spencer Paysinger said it has become a "trait'' of this team. Eli Manning said he's not sure how the Giants can stop it.
"We just don't have it quite figured out how to win the game,'' Manning said. "I don't know how you teach that.''
Perhaps you change teachers. The previous three losses were to playoff contenders with established traditions of success. But this one? When John Mara analyzes the direction of the franchise at the end of the season, this one may be inexcusable.
Maybe Coughlin's best idea on how to win the game came in a facetious remark about the inability to hold on to the ball or the lead in the second half.
"We could have knelt on the ball in the second half and had a better chance to win,'' he said.
At one point in the second quarter, the Giants' offense had three touchdowns and the Jaguars' offense had 4 yards. Jennings, a former Jaguar, scored on runs of 2 and 17 yards and Preston Parker caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Manning.
But after the Giants took that 21-0 lead with 6:30 left in the second quarter, the Jaguars kicked a 28-yard field goal late in the half and scored a gift touchdown early in the third quarter. After Geno Hayes sacked Manning to force a fumble in the end zone, Jennings and Daniel Fells each had a chance to recover it for the Giants but J.T. Thomas III wound up with the ball to bring the Jaguars within 21-10.
The Giants' Josh Brown missed a 43-yard field-goal try -- his first miss of the season -- and the Jaguars drove 67 yards in six plays to make it 21-16 with 1:55 left in the third. Blake Bortles' 30-yard pass to Marqise Lee made it a one-score game, although the Jaguars failed on a two-point conversion.
That would have brought them within a field goal, but the Jags did better than that. When Manning hit Larry Donnell on a short pass on third-and-15 early in the fourth, Johnathan Cyprien forced a fumble that Aaron Colvin returned 41 yards for the Jaguars' second defensive TD. They again missed the two-point conversion but still led 22-21 with 12:56 left.
After picking up a first down at the 14, the Giants had to settle for Brown's 33-yard field goal and a 24-22 lead with 3:26 left -- Coughlin said he knew they needed a touchdown there -- and the Jaguars responded with Josh Scobee's 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds left. Manning lost a fumble on the Giants' final offensive gasp.
The seven-game slump is the longest by the Giants since 2004, when they lost eight straight. That was Coughlin's first year, and during that skid, he turned the team over to Manning, his rookie quarterback. It was considered growing pains then. This feels more like death throes.
"We came down here feeling like we can win,'' Coughlin said. "You have to play four quarters. We're playing two, maybe three sometimes. But for whatever reason, the other guy figures out what he's going to do and we have trouble responding to that. It's a disappointing loss.''
One that could alter the future of the franchise.
Notes & quotes:
RT Geoff Schwartz, who spent most of the year on injured reserve with a dislocated right big toe, left the game early with a left ankle injury. He was carted off the field and replaced by James Brewer, but Brewer left the game in the second half with a concussion. That left the Giants with RG John Jerry playing right tackle and Dallas Reynolds at right guard . . . DE Robert Ayers Jr. left the game in the third quarter with a pectoral injury . . . RB Rashad Jennings left with an ankle injury in the fourth . . . WR Rueben Randle did not play in the first quarter, apparently as a form of team discipline. Preston Parker started in his place.