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How the New York Giants faded out of the playoff race

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The first touchdown play New York Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo ever called was on fourth down against the Lions from the 1-yard line.

The series, which took place early in the first game of the season, included three high-point fades, broken up only by a third-down stretch run to the left by Rashad Jennings.

During the broadcast, the analysts were less than amused.

"How about this play selection?" Jon Gruden said after the second-down fade, just a few moments after calling the first-down fade -- a play he could see coming from a mile away. "First and goal from the 1, two high-point fades!"

McAdoo's insistence on the play was eventually rewarded, but almost certainly laid the groundwork for a string of plays Sunday that eliminated any hope the Giants could have at reaching the playoffs.

Even Tom Coughlin, after watching the eerily similar set of play-calls roll out, was hoping for a second chance.

"In hindsight," he said Sunday, "we should've run the ball."

This past weekend, McAdoo did not break up the fades with a run. He did, however, call the exact same type of play out of the same formation (shotgun, two wide receivers left, tight end to the right on the line, single receiver wide right) on first down. The only noticeable difference was that Victor Cruz was replaced in the slot on the left side by Preston Parker. Corey Washington was replaced by Odell Beckham as the lone wideout on the right side.

Both times, the ball went to the right, and both times the ball fell incomplete.

McAdoo also used the same call on third down Sunday as he did on fourth down during that Week 1 loss. Against Detroit, it was a touchdown pass to Larry Donnell. Against San Francisco, Donnell dropped the ball upon landing.

"That's how we've scored a bunch of times. I have a problem that they didn't score," Coughlin said.

Once again, the analysts were puzzled. Before the third-down fade to Donnell, John Lynch said: "I think going to the fade again would be a little much."

And yet ...

This was not a series that defined the Giants this season. Even if they did win, they would have needed a monumental collapse somewhere else atop the NFC East to make a serious run. But it is interesting to keep an eye on for the future, especially when a new coordinator with so little tape available on him goes back to the well in such a glaring way.

One can argue that the matchups were there. McAdoo got the single coverage he was looking for. In the past he has talked about his comfort level with calling the same play over and over. But at best, is a fade not a 50-50 chance? Would it not be worse? That is on top of the fact that, according to the New York Times Fourth Down Bot, any play from that distance has a 34 percent chance of succeeding.

"We did have some runs in the second half -- not a lot, but we did have some decent runs," Coughlin said Sunday when asked why the Giants didn't even attempt a run. "But we're trying to score right now."

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