Two weeks ago, everybody was praising the New York Giants and their ability to get things done with major injuries to their secondary, a group of young linebackers, a revived front four, and the improved efforts of Eli Manning. Then came two straight close losses — one to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10 and another to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night — and now, things are less than happy in Big Blue.
At 6-4, the G-Men are still very much in the fight for the NFC East, but don't tell head coach Tom Coughlin that. The notoriously grumpy (at the best of times) coach was apoplectic after his team lost to the Eagles on a long late drive led by Vince Young, who was starting for the injured Michael Vick. This caused him to rip his players in a way that resembled Dennis Green's legendary "They are who we THOUGHT they were!!!" speech.
"My question to them was, 'Why?' " Coughlin said, when asked what he told the players in the locker room. "What did it take to understand what the Eagles were going to be like coming in here? You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to know that team is 3-6, back to the wall, they're going to play their butts off.
"To get where we want to go, we're going to have to play harder. And better. And we didn't."
The Giants played very much unlike themselves in this game — they either threw or took the bait on several skirmishes with the Eagles, played without discipline on the offensive line at times, and were unable to respond and rally to cover up Eli Manning's mistakes. Brandon Jacobs "led" the Giants in rushing against Philly's formerly weak run defense with a mere 21 yards on 12 carries, and Jacobs' cutback speed was embarrassingly slow.
"They had guys in gaps," Jacobs said. "I just hit holes. I just got the ball and took what they gave me. There was nothing more I could have done in there. I went out there and laid it on the line. It was absolutely pathetic. It's the worst I've ever experienced in my seven years of playing. We usually are in the top two, top three in the league [in rushing]. And now, we are 30th.
"Ultimately, it's my fault, because I'm the one carrying the ball," he said. "But I just hope we get it right."
Coughlin also referred to a play in the first quarter, when two Eagles defenders were flagged for hitting Eli Manning late on an interception return. Guard Chris Snee (Coughlin's son-in-law) retaliated, but all that did was cancel any benefit of the first penalty.
"You'd think your team would rally around that," Coughlin said. "We didn't do that. We had someone try to retaliate, which didn't help any more than take away a 15-yard [personal foul] penalty. I would expect the team to rally at that point, but I didn't see that either.
"I'm really disappointed. Coming out of San Francisco, the talk was — by the players — that we'll fight, we'll play hard, we'll do all that. I didn't see that. I saw the penalties. I saw the skirmishes."
He should have seen the errant throws. Though Manning made a couple of wonderful throws late in the game to get the Giants their only touchdown of the game, he completed just 18 passes in 35 attempts, threw one pick, and came close to throwing more. The Eagles' pass defense is still a schematic disaster, and the Giants will face several teams down the stretch whose secondaries are more able to take advantage of mistakes.
Still, the most disturbing part of this loss to Coughlin — a disciple of the Bill Parcells ground-and-pound school — had to be the Eagles' winning drive. Starting with 11:36 left in the game, Vince Young marched his offense downfield in an 18-play, 80-yard sequence that took almost nine minutes off the clock and took any hope away from Coughlin's crew.
The Giants have the New Orleans Saints, the Dallas Cowboys (twice), the Washington Redskins, the New York Jets and the Green Bay Packers to finish off their season. If they keep playing like this, "finish off their season" is exactly what they'll be doing.
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