Coughlin: 'I'll take full responsibility' for Jackson's punt return

Tom Coughlin described it as the lowest feeling one can know in the coaching business.

The New York Giants, with a chance to grab first place in the NFC East, suffered one of the worst meltdowns you’ll see in professional football. By now, everyone has seen DeSean Jackson picked the ball off his own 35-yard line after a low, line drive punt from Matt Dodge, and burst 65 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play.

It was inexplicable.

But it was only the final act in a game the Giants led 24-3 at halftime and 31-10 in the fourth quarter.

“I’ve never been around anything like this in my life,” Coughlin said. “It’s about as empty as you get to feel in this business, right there.”

It’s the kind of loss that can get coaches fired, that’s for sure. The Giants not only botched the punt – Dodge was instructed to put the ball out of bounds – they allowed an onside kick. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick shredded the defense in the fourth quarter too.

“Obviously very, very difficult to discuss or talk about,” Coughlin said. “There aren’t a lot of words to – even for our team, for them to take a hold of other than the fact that we have two games to play, we’ve got to win two games. The explanation for this I think: 24-3, 31-10, the game is never over until it’s over and we talked long and hard about their fourth quarters.

“I’ll take full responsibility for that last play: the young punter was told to punt it out of bounds and he got a high snap and didn’t feel like he could and we all learned the hard way again. At that point in the game with (Jackson) back there, you don’t punt into that.”

The snap was high, but Dodge should be athletic enough to make a play there. He panicked.

“It’s a team game. There isn’t any one guy,” Coughlin said. “It should have never come down to that. Without a doubt it should have never come down to that, but it did and at that point in time with (12) seconds, you’re going to punt the ball out of bounds, you’re going to get one play and you defend the one play and you go into overtime. It didn’t have to end the way it did either.”

The Giants (9-5) are still in decent position. They’re sixth in the NFC playoff picture right now. Green Bay (8-6) and Tampa Bay (8-6) trail them for the final wild card spot. The Giants play the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday with the winner have an inside track at the wild card. New York closes the regular season at Washington Jan. 2.

“We’ll bounce back,” Coughlin said. “We’ll bounce back.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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