Last season, the New York Giants' motto was "finish" and finish they did, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions for the second time in five season. But they're playing with fire this year by letting opponents score first and often.
Perhaps this year's Giants might want to consider starting games the way they finish them. For instance, the G-Men blinked and they were down 14-0 to the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, October 7. But the young Browns couldn't hold off the defending champions, as Big Blue stormed back for a 41-27 victory. The Giants still know how to finish, don't they?
Nevertheless, these slow starts are troubling, if not downright dangerous. Aside from giving up the first 14 points of the game against Cleveland, the Giants have trailed at halftime in three other contests. In one of them, it took a 25-point fourth quarter to save them from defeat against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 16. They lost the other two to division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia. Rest assured, it's not part of coach Tom Coughlin's gameplan to fall behind.
"Well, we don't plan on it," Coughlin told Giants.com. "We talk about starting well, starting fast and that's what the idea was (against Cleveland). But we did talk about finishing, too, and we did finish."
Fortunately, the Giants have the best closer in the business in Eli Manning, who led seven fourth-quarter comebacks last season to bring his career total to 21 (he now has 22). But the Giants can't ask Manning and the offense to bail them out every week, and they can't ask Manning and Co. to do it against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, October 14 at Candlestick Park.
The 49ers know how to put leads on lock. They boast the National Football League's top defense and have a points-differential margin of 81, also tops in the league. So a strong start by New York, not necessarily a fast one, will be key to beating San Francisco. The Giants don't even have to take an early lead, just as long as they don't fall behind by a couple of scores and let the 49ers' defense dig in.
If the G-Men play well early, don't be surprised if Manning finishes what they start. However, if the Giants start slowly, make mistakes and let the 49ers get out in front, they're the ones who'll be finished.
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who proudly wears his Rodney Hampton jersey on Sundays during the football season. He grew up in Queens, N.Y. rooting for the Giants despite being surrounded by Jets fans. Adam follows back Giants fans on Twitter @PegCitySports.