EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Being 0-4 for the second time in his coaching career hasn’t cost Giants head coach Tom Coughlin his sense of humor.
The two-time Super-Bowl winning leader of the New York Giants was ready Monday when asked about receiver Victor Cruz’s postgame criticism of his decision to punt one day earlier on fourth-and-less than a yard from the New York 30 with the team down 10-7.
The ensuing punt was returned 89 yards for a touchdown by Dexter McCluster, and the Chiefs never looked back in a 31-7 win on Sunday.
Coughlin downplayed the criticism as frustration and said he challenged his best receiver on Monday to duke it out.
“I gave him a chance to say something today, and I won’t tell you what we said,” Coughlin quipped. “I asked him if he wanted to fight.”
Cruz wasn’t in the locker room Monday to discuss the playful exchange.
“That’s between he and I, but it was in good humor,” Coughlin said. “ I didn’t ask him what his thinking was. I don’t understand why you guys are making so much out of something like that. It’s kind of comical.”
The punt return came one play after Cruz came up about two feet short of a first down on a third and 17. The officials originally marked the ball at the Giants 31 and ruled a first down. Chiefs coach Andy Reid challenged the spot, and the call was overturned.
Coughlin didn’t hesitate to punt.
“Come on. Come on,” Coughlin said Monday. “The ball is at the minus 30. It’s the third quarter and it’s 10-7 and we’ve had little or no success with our short yardage. We’re 0-2 (on fourth down) on the year. I’m not concerned.”
After the game, Cruz had complained the Giants needed to take a risk and make something happen down late in the third and sporting an 0-3 record.
Quarterback Eli Manning said Coughlin made the right call. He also understood Cruz.
“Every player wants to go for it on fourth down,” Manning said. “You had a big play. You’re close. You want to go for it. I have a lot of times where I’d say the same thing in the moment or afterward you feel you could have gone for it. It could have been a big difference if you make it, but if you don’t .”
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