New York (6-4) at Tennessee (3-7)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Nashville, TN
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 4:15 pm EST Sun Nov 26, 2006
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin chewed out his team after its latest loss. Tiki Barber fired back—again.

The Giants will try to put aside their latest controversy Sunday when they attempt to regroup and avoid a third straight loss as they visit the Tennessee Titans.

New York (6-4) must win this game to move back into a tie atop the NFC East with Dallas, which beat Tampa Bay 38-10 on Thanksgiving Day.

The Giants had fallen into a first-place tie after a lackluster 26-10 loss Monday at Jacksonville. Coughlin’s screaming voice could be heard through the closed doors in the locker room after the game.

“Tom had every right to be upset with us, to be mad at us,” quarterback Eli Manning said after the game. “We’re not playing well. … Everyone was angry.”

Barber said Wednesday the coaches abandoned the running game after he was limited to season lows of 10 carries and 27 yards rushing. It marked his fewest yards since Nov. 30, 2003, when he was held to 20 against Buffalo.

He spent most of the second half blocking as Manning threw 27 of his 41 passes.

“We got away from it early and never got back to it because we felt like we weren’t executing or finding any type of rhythm, but we never got back to it,” said Barber, who entered last weekend as the NFL’s leading rusher. “I felt insignificant for the first time in my career—I should say this season—and it was frustrating.”

It’s not the first time Barber, who has indicated he will retire after this season, has criticized Coughlin and the staff. He said the Giants were outcoached after a 23-0 loss to Carolina in last season’s playoffs.

“We have to find a way to correct it,” Barber said Wednesday. “That’s the bottom line. I talked about this earlier in the season; if you don’t have balance, you can’t win in the NFL. A disproportionate amount of teams that win, win it by running the football.”

Barber’s comments may have served to take some pressure off the struggling Manning, who has been intercepted four times in New York’s last two games.

Coughlin, though, believes Manning is not solely responsible for the sputtering offense.

“Look at the number of dropped balls the other night. It is not just Eli,” Coughlin said. “When you talk about nine dropped balls in a football game, you are not talking about a very good performance.

“So I think it takes a lot of people getting their game back to where it should be. And certainly the quarterback position is one of them, but it is not him alone.”

Manning has been particularly bad at the start of games. He has a quarterback rating of 63.1 and a completion percentage of just 52.0 in his first 20 attempts of a game compared to a 98.8 rating and 67.3 completion percentage in his subsequent attempts.

“No, I’m not losing my confidence,” Manning insisted. “I’m going to still go out there and throw it and be confident in my game and in our players and what we are doing. So you go through phases where you are not playing quality football. And that is what we are going through.”

Compounding New York’s recent woes is its lengthy number of injured defensive players. Defensive ends Michael Strahan (foot) and Osi Umenyiora (hip), linebacker Brandon Short (quad) and cornerback Sam Madison (groin) have all been out and reserve defensive end Justin Tuck (foot) and linebacker LaVar Arrington (Achilles’) have been lost for the year.

Umenyiora and Short are the closest to making their returns.

The banged-up defense will be facing a Tennessee running attack that is averaging an NFL-best 166.2 yards over the last six weeks. The Titans ran for 209 yards in last week’s 31-13 victory at Philadelphia.

“I think, obviously, running the football is a team thing,” Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. “When you run the football, it helps everybody. We have been working on it and fortunately we are getting results.”

Titans tight end Ben Troupe was lost for the season due a broken ankle suffered in the victory. They’ll use Ben Hartsock, who was claimed off waivers Oct. 25 from Indianapolis.

The game will renew the rivalry between Fisher and Coughlin, who coached the Jaguars from 1995-2002. Fisher went 10-7 in those games, including a 33-14 victory in the 2000 AFC championship.

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