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With Backs Against The Wall, Brian Daboll Chose To Punt

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21: New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll on the sideline during the NFC Divisional playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on January 21, 2023 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There was very little chance the Giants were coming back. Very little. Almost none. The Eagles had dominated, and they were ahead 28-7 in the fourth quarter. The Giants were going to lose no matter what Brian Daboll did.

But still. It had been 28-0. The Giants had “won” the third quarter 7-0, and followed up an 88-yard touchdown drive by forcing a punt, then driving 35 yards. But then it was fourth-and-6 at their own 42. There was 13:21 left in the game—in the Giants' season. And Daboll, the Giants coach, decided to punt.

He decided to punt!!!! Are you kidding me? He was down 21 points in the fourth quarter. Is there a bonus if your team keeps the game a little closer but your season still ends? Do you get another draft pick or something? What was Daboll thinking?

“They hadn't scored yet in that half, I'm counting on the defense, maybe just so backed up, to maybe get a three-and-out. Then they had a long drive,” Daboll said postgame. “Probably could have went for it. Really weren’t executing well enough to, either.”

This is a fascinating explanation. In Week 1, the Giants scored a late touchdown to move within a point of the Titans. Daboll went for two, Saquon Barkley scored, and the Giants won. Here’s how he explained that decision: “We’re gonna be aggressive. That's what we want to do. That's the mindset I want the players to have. If it didn't work, I can live with it. I thought that was the right decision.”

Especially when you have Saquon Barkley, it’s easier to convert two yards than six. But a divisional playoff game is much more important than a Week 1 game. The Giants were probably going to lose. But Daboll’s decision made it certain. The Eagles didn’t give the ball back to the Giants until there was 5:16 left in the game, after they kicked a field goal. Like, come on. You gotta go for it there.

Then again, maybe he was a little gun-shy. He had gone for it on fourth down in the first quarter and Daniel Jones was sacked. The New York Post said Daboll “gambled big.” The New York Daily News said the team “never recovered” from that fourth-down “gamble.” In September he was bold, but in January he was a gambler. OK, the local tabs care more about results than process. But punting here was a failure of both.

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