When you call something a "one-game season," the implication is that you're willing to pull out all the stops in an attempt to get a victory in that game. We'll have to ask Tom Coughlin how he defines the phrase, because the way he coached on Sunday made it clear that there were limits to what he was willing to do to beat the Chargers.
The most glaring example of that came at the end of the fourth quarter after a Terrell Thomas interception put the Giants on the four-yard line. They picked up a holding penalty to push them 10 yards back, but that's not enough of a reason to allow the offense to go into a shell and not even try to score a touchdown that would have put them up 10 points and made a Chargers victory highly unlikely. They settled for a field goal and a six-point lead that Philip Rivers erased with a crisp, efficient two minute drill.
There were other smaller moments throughout the game that also showed Coughlin wasn't quite in it to win it. The Giants needed one yard to get a first down on the Chargers 21-yard-line on the first drive of the game, but settled for a field goal try that was botched. It may be a defensible decision to try the kick, but going for it sends the message that you're trying to win and that you believe your defense can help you win.
Every punt and kickoff of the game was designed to give up chunks of yardage instead of forcing Chargers returners to beat them with strong returns. Like the other examples, it comes directly from the conservative, we're trying desperately not to lose school of football, a school that results in losses more often than not.
You can call this second-guessing all you want, and argue that the defense should have stopped the Chargers on that final drive or that nine penalties and awful offensive line play contributed mightily to the loss. The score was closer, but there's plenty of the same evidence of the weak team that was routed in three straight weeks on display. All of that's true, but it doesn't change the message that was sent from on high.
All week long Coughlin challenged the leaders of his team to step up and take responsibility for ending the losing streak. It's a two-way street, and Coughlin's failure to do what it took to end this game when the moment was there either means he doesn't practice what he preaches or that he's got no confidence in his team's ability to do what's required of them. Neither explanation does much to inspire happy thoughts about what's coming when the Giants get back from their bye week.