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Updated: Nov. 30, 2006, 4:30 PM ET

 

Pressure is on Giants

By Len Pasquarelli

ESPN.com

Archive

 

In a league where it's prudent to revisit any franchise's playoff pulse in two- or three-week increments, the latest measure of the New York Giants' heartbeat after three consecutive defeats is notably faint.

 

 

 

You can't, though, say the same thing for the Giants' collective blood pressure.

 

 

 

Place a blood pressure cuff around the arm of just about anyone in the New York locker room, it seems, and the elevated systolic and diastolic readings are those of a team about to explode. The irony is that the Giants appear more like a group poised to implode.

 

 

 

Tom Coughlin and the Giants have lost three straight games to drop to 6-5.On Nov. 12, the Giants were 6-2 and facing the Chicago Bears at home for a game that was supposed to define NFC supremacy. Three weeks later -- after a second-half collapse against the Bears, an uninspiring effort in a loss at Jacksonville, and the unthinkable meltdown at Tennessee last Sunday -- hardly anyone appears conscious of the fact that a victory over the visiting Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon nudges the Giants back into first place in the NFC East.

 

 

 

Least cognizant of that, it seems, are the Giants themselves.

 

 

 

If the past three losses have represented the slow and confounding deterioration of a team once regarded as possessing Super Bowl potential, this week has been the equivalent of a freight train rumbling downhill with its brake lines purposely sliced. And there have been plenty of engineers, given that the team has more agendas than a congressional appropriations hearing, grabbing for the controls but still not trying particularly hard to avoid a train wreck.

 

 

 

Certainly, there have been enough public collisions to signal a team in dire straits. One can only imagine what has transpired internally. In the office of coach Tom Coughlin, it's likely that the flies on the walls have, by now, donned headsets to cancel out the din. Unfortunately, the Giants seem to have turned a deaf ear to Coughlin as well.

 

 

 

Ravaged by injuries and with a defense minus six starters, including its two Pro Bowl ends, the Giants could use their burgeoning attrition rate as a convenient excuse. To their credit, they have not. And maybe that's because the deeper wounds that have struck down the Giants are the self-inflicted ones.

 

 

 

Yeah, the performance of quarterback Eli Manning has been miserable, as he has completed a pedestrian 51.6 percent of his passes over the last six games and thrown six touchdowns passes but eight interceptions in that stretch. And tailback Tiki Barber hasn't found the same kinds of holes he did earlier in the season, or to listen to him, hasn't been afforded ample opportunity to find them. The defense has been hampered by injuries and sprung numerous holes. And, for sure, some coaching decisions and play calls on both sides of the ball have been dubious.

 

 

 

But if the Giants continue their slide, it's just as likely to have been what occurred off the field, even more so than what's transpired on it, that will have proved their undoing.

 

 

 

The same gang that ran off former coach Jim Fassel is now, clearly, trying to do the same with Coughlin. Not even the names have been changed in an attempt to protect those culpable. There are just enough agents provocateurs in the New York locker room, most with ready access to a competitive media contingent, to undermine coaching authority. And, truth be told, Coughlin hasn't always helped himself, either, beseeching players to keep grievances in house and then airing dirty laundry himself on occasion.

 

 

 

Maybe we were naive, but until talking with players and media and some assistant coaches this week, we weren't aware to what extent the vultures were circling Coughlin's head. Having seen the Giants first-hand in two of their three straight losses, it was obvious there were problems on the field, but those have now been superseded by the loud rumblings off it. Still, we just figured the normally conservative Giants front office would view the player unrest as just a few malcontents and deal with them in the offseason.

 

 

 

The problems, however, run deeper than that. There is a perception now that, while everyone sits straight and with eyes focused during Coughlin's meetings, players are making faces at him the minute he turns to leave the room. If you're the principal, how long can you retain a teacher who is regarded with such a dearth of basic respect? And so with some chagrin, because we still think Coughlin is a top-flight coach, it seems fair to acknowledge he's in trouble.

 

 

 

New York lost its final eight games of the season in 2003. It began the Coughlin era in 2004 by dropping its eight of its last nine games, winning the finale. Losing out the rest of the way this season would mean a pair of eight-game slides on Coughlin's watch and that would almost mandate some action.

 

 

 

It has been a painful year of transition for the Giants. The team lost its co-owners, the sainted Wellington Mara and the highly-regarded Bob Tisch, in a three-week span last season. General manager Ernie Accorsi will retire at the end of this season and Barber has announced this year is his last. That's a lot of upheaval for a franchise always viewed as a pillar of stability in the league.

 

 

Should the franchise be forced to change coaches, it would be another, well, Giants step backward. But when the league-owned network and Web site are both reporting that Coughlin could be coaching for his life this Sunday against the Cowboys, one can't help but take notice.

 

Only a few weeks ago, everyone felt The Big Blue was headed toward a special season. The flickering pulse of the Giants right now, though, suggests it could be a Big Blew It season instead.

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I love when he says "I'm glad ESPN is listening to FAN". :LMAO: I'm not really sure what the big deal is about him popping off on that reporter. It's not like anything he said wasn't true. Or is it the way he said it is what's got everyone up in arms? I mean, he's an athlete, not a politician.

 

 

Oh, and consider this thread pinned....nice finds, JGF.

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I love when he says "I'm glad ESPN is listening to FAN". :LMAO: I'm not really sure what the big deal is about him popping off on that reporter. It's not like anything he said wasn't true. Or is it the way he said it is what's got everyone up in arms? I mean, he's an athlete, not a politician.

Oh, and consider this thread pinned....nice finds, JGF.

 

 

I don't maybe it was the fact it was a woman he called out and made her move to the front. She quoted verbatim what he said ...you said it admit it, I guess. On the other hand it's probably damage control.

 

Thanks Bronx! Espn.com was having a field day with us tonight.

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Giants put on harmonious front after outburst

 

 

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Associated Press

Posted: 14 hours ago

 

 

 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The New York Giants say they are a team in perfect harmony, even if they can't quite sing that way.

 

A day after defensive end Michael Strahan ignited a controversy when he dressed down a television reporter who questioned him about critical remarks he had made on a radio show, several of the Giants entered the locker room Thursday singing the Twisted Sister anthem, "We're Not Gonna Take It."

 

 

It was an obvious jab at the battering the team has taken in the media in recent weeks over divisive comments from players like Strahan, Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey.

 

In contrast to the tension produced by Wednesday's blowup, the locker room on Thursday was a bastion of good vibes. Sarcastic choruses of "We Are The World" rang out from one end as a horde of reporters gathered around Barber's locker. Kick returner Chad Morton drew howls with a sight gag involving a surgical glove that is best left undescribed.

 

Leaving aside the fact that none of the Giants (6-5) should quit his day job and embark on a singing career just yet, this latest mini-controversy may be the right tonic for a team that has lost three straight games and hosts NFC East leader Dallas (7-4) on Sunday.

 

"We want to thank the media again for keeping us in check, letting us know that we're a horrible team, that Dallas is going to come in here and beat us 42-0," linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "We're going to keep that in the back of our minds Sunday."

 

Pierce echoed the sentiments of several players who said on one hand that the recent controversy did not faze them and was not a distraction, yet in the next breath said they would use it as motivation against Dallas.

 

"People think our team is being torn apart, but it's not," running back Brandon Jacobs said. "Everyone loves everyone around here. It's water under the bridge. We've got a game to play. Kiss, hug, do what you've got to do and let's go out and be first in the division."

 

Burress was called out by Strahan on his weekly radio show for giving up on a pass by Eli Manning that was turned into a game-turning interception in Sunday's 24-21 loss to Tennessee. The lanky wide receiver said Thursday that he and Strahan discussed the matter and put it to rest, though Burress conceded he was disappointed Strahan did not come to him directly with his complaint.

 

"If you're gong to take things personally, you're not going to last too long in this league," Burress said. "I don't take things personally. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I don't let things like that bother me. It's not going to affect me, my livelihood or the way I play. You've got to let it sort of be a fuse to your fire."

 

The Giants may have indirectly contributed to lighting a fire under Dallas, which has won four of its last five games. In a 36-22 Monday night win at Dallas on Oct. 23, New York forced Cowboys coach Bill Parcells to pull quarterback Drew Bledsoe at halftime and replace him with Tony Romo.

 

In his first real NFL action, Romo threw three interceptions in the second half but also threw two touchdown passes and displayed quick feet. Since then, he has been the hottest quarterback in the NFL with 10 touchdowns, two interceptions and only six sacks in five games.

 

The Giants offense, meanwhile, has struggled mightily under Eli Manning, who has been woeful in the three losses with two touchdowns and six interceptions.

 

The Giants and their followers can take heart in the fact that Manning is 3-1 in four career starts against the Cowboys, though he has not put up tremendous numbers in those games.

 

"We just have to play consistent football and not make mistakes," Manning said. "This is a crazy game and you go in spurts. We are not finding ways to win and we are not playing our best football. During the fourth quarter, where we have usually been at our best, we are not, so we just have to get that back."

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Clock ticking on Tom

 

Loss to Big D could spell doom for Coughlin

 

BY RALPH VACCHIANO

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

 

 

With Giants losing their last three games, Tom Coughlin needs Big Blue to turn things around today vs. Cowboys to keep playoff picture and job alive.

 

Tom Coughlin was supposed to be the coach of the Giants for the next decade. That's what the Mara and Tisch families envisioned when they hired him three years ago. They craved stability and were convinced that he was the man to provide it.

Now, they're not so sure.

 

That's why, in many ways, the 59-year-old Coughlin will be coaching to save his job this afternoon when his Giants (6-5) take on the Cowboys (7-4) in a huge NFC East showdown at Giants Stadium. His contract expires after next season, but the Giants would prefer not to have a lame-duck coach working in the final year of his deal. So in a little more than a month, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are going to have to make a decision about Coughlin's future.

 

And at the moment, that future is far from secure.

 

According to several sources in the organization, the odds still remain in Coughlin's favor. Craving that stability, and knowing how much their late fathers liked and respected their coach, neither Mara nor Tisch wants to fire Coughlin. They'd prefer that he find a way to turn this crumbling season around so they can negotiate a contract extension when it's over.

 

But they know that doing that will be hard if this current three-game slide becomes four or more and the once-6-2 Giants slide right out of contention. The chaos of the last 10 days - which featured Tiki Barber ripping the play-calling, Michael Strahan and Plaxico Burress sniping at each other and Strahan going ballistic on the media - won't help Coughlin's cause either. According to one source, those in management already "Wish he wasn't so hard on his players," and they worry about the possibility of locker-room revolt.

 

That's why, to this point, there have been no talks about extending Coughlin's contract. Though neither Tisch nor Mara will comment specifically on Coughlin's future, that inaction by itself is telling.

 

"I don't think about that," the embattled coach said this week when asked about his future. "I think about what I can do to help us win. That's all I think about."

 

That brings him to today's game, which could be an amazing cure-all for Big Blue - Big Red, actually, since they'll be wearing their alternate, red jerseys. After all the losing, including last Sunday's Music City Meltdown, and all the locker-room chaos, if they beat the red-hot Cowboys this afternoon they'll be sitting in first place.

 

They'd also have a 6-2 record in the NFC, which would be an enormous tie-breaker advantage if they fall back into the wild-card chase. They'd be in position where they'd likely need just two wins in their final four games to make the playoffs.

 

And if they make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 16 years, a contract extension for Coughlin is all but guaranteed.

 

In some ways, then, that makes this a make-or-break game for Coughlin's career.

 

"I don't know if it's 'make or break,' unless he's about to get fired, and I don't think our head man is about to get fired," said linebacker Antonio Pierce. "I think he's doing a good job. Hey, I back the guy. I don't think guys are quitting to the point where you can say he doesn't have control of this team. That's not the case.

 

"We've had guys that just didn't make plays at the right times and guys are making mistakes. (Coughlin) can coach, but he can't play. You can train your dog not to (urinate) on the floor, but if he's got to (urinate) he's going to (urinate) on the floor anyway. You can only control people so much. Some of it is on the coach, but you can't put 100% of what one player does on the field on him."

 

Maybe that's true, but inevitably Coughlin will take the fall - or get a big raise - for what his players do. That's why, if they don't find their way out of this self-created mess, the organization will find itself right back where it was on Dec. 16, 2003, right after Jim Fassel walked into Mara's office and the Giants made his firing official.

 

Just 22 days later, Coughlin was hired, and everyone said it was a marriage that was destined to last.

 

If he can't find a way to win today, that might not be the case.

 

Originally published on December 3, 2006

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Big Blue gets kicked in end

 

Team Turmoil falls at :01 as Cowboys drive for FG

 

BY RALPH VACCHIANO

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

 

 

 

So many times, salvation appeared to be at hand for the Giants yesterday. So many times, they were so close to making all the chaos and turmoil of the past two weeks go away.

But every time they were on the verge of reclaiming first place, something else went wrong. And that left the door open just wide enough for a 46-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica with one second remaining that handed the Giants a heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the Cowboys at the Meadowlands.

 

"We did some things that gave us an opportunity to win the game," said the embattled coach, Tom Coughlin. "And then we didn't finish it."

 

It was, in the words of tight end Jeremy Shockey, "the same old story," one that left the Giants (6-6) two games behind the Cowboys (8-4) with four to play in the chase for a division title. It also was the Giants' fourth straight loss after a promising 6-2 start, leaving their season still perched on the brink.

 

And, as usual, they have no one to blame but themselves. The defense allowed a 42-yard pass to Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the final minute to set up the game-winning field goal. And Dallas only had enough time for that because Giants receiver Plaxico Burress inexplicably called timeout with 1:42 left in the game.

 

The Giants also committed four personal fouls, watched rookie defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka fumble away an interception, passed up a field goal try only to see Brandon Jacobs lose three yards on fourth-and-1, and had to settle for field goals twice after getting inside the Dallas 5.

 

"The opportunities were there," Coughlin said. "It's frustrating to be in the situation we're in and have the game end like it did."

 

Despite everything they've been through in the past 10 days - the sniping between Tiki Barber and Coughlin, the Titan-ic collapse in Tennessee, the bickering between Plaxico Burress and Michael Strahan, and Strahan's media-directed rage - the Giants did play well, for the most part.

 

Eli Manning (24-for-36, 270 yards, two TDs) played by far his best game in the last two months. The Giants gained 126 yards on the ground, and even picked off red-hot Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (20-for-34, 257 yards) twice.

 

Romo, though, made the play of the game with one minute remaining, right after Manning had hit Burress with a 5-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 20. Romo avoided the rush - as he did all day long - stepped to his left and fired a 42-yard strike downfield to Witten, who had found a seam between linebacker Antonio Pierce and safety Will Demps. That put Dallas on the Giants' 26, four plays away from the game-winning kick by Gramatica, who signed with Dallas just last week.

 

"It was a good play by the quarterback and the tight end," Pierce said. "That's all that play was about. It was nobody's fault."

 

The Cowboys wouldn't have had time for that play if Burress had not called timeout with 1:42 left after the Giants reached the Cowboys' 12. Burress said, "I thought I saw Coach Coughlin running up the sidelines calling timeout."

 

Coughlin, however, preferred to let the clock run so the Cowboys wouldn't have had much time after the Giants tied the game.

 

"It was a timeout that I didn't call, but it wasn't something that was critical," Coughlin said. "It wasn't something that I would have liked, but that's not the reason they won."

 

No, there were other reasons. There was the potential game-changing interception by Kiwanuka late in the first quarter, just after the Giants had taken a 7-0 lead. He fumbled 12 yards into his return as he tried to switch hands, and the Cowboys recovered, allowing them to continue their drive to tie the game.

 

And there was the play with 1:13 left in the first half, when the Giants faced a fourth-and-1 at the Cowboys' 24 when Coughlin passed up the 41-yard field goal attempt and sent Jacobs in to pick up the yard. Instead of running up the middle, Jacobs bounced outside and was tackled for a 3-yard loss, giving the Cowboys a chance to set up a 41-yard Gramatica field goal that gave them a 10-7 lead at the half.

 

"I think if we run that play 10 times, we're going to get the first down nine out of 10 times," center Shaun O'Hara said.

 

And finally, there were the two times the Giants got inside the Dallas 5 in the second half. They settled for field goals both times.

 

"We should have had touchdowns, yes," Coughlin said. "They didn't get a couple, either, if you want to check that out."

 

The Cowboys scored more than enough, though, to bury the Giants, who already were buried up to their necks in controversies last week. Now things are even worse, with just four games left to save their season, their playoff hopes and possibly even their coach.

 

"Hopefully we can fix this sometime soon," Pierce said. "We don't have much time left."

 

Originally published on December 4, 2006

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Giants all talk and dumb actions

 

There's no timeout from miscues

 

 

 

 

Tom Coughlin emphasizes discipline, but the Giants have been a mistake-prone team.

 

Carl Banks stood outside the Dallas Cowboys' locker room and talked about Bill Parcells, who coached Banks at the other end of the hall once. Parcells didn't always win here with Banks and the rest of them. It's not as if he was always in control of his players, since one of his other linebackers was Lawrence Taylor. You know his Giants were never as sloppy in big moments as these Giants are, never this loud. And even when Parcells' Giants lost the kind of heartbreaker Tom Coughlin's Giants did yesterday, you never wondered who was in charge around here.

The Giants haven't just been passed by Parcells in the last month. They have been passed by the Jets.

 

"The coach who coached me," Banks said, "used to say a lot of things. And one of the things he said was that the field was 100 yards long, and that if we even came close to having that much penalty yardage, if we were that undisciplined, guess what? We were going to lose the game."

 

The Giants nearly went for 100 yards in penalties (nine for 94) yesterday. That number wasn't the only reason or the biggest reason they lost to Parcells' Cowboys and are 6-6 now. But it speaks to how little they now look like the Super Bowl contenders they were supposed to be this season, and how much they look like second-raters when another game is on the line, this one on the first Sunday in December. With four games to go, Tom Coughlin's Giants are only consistent at this one thing:

 

Finding ways to lose the game.

 

They sure lost to the Cowboys. On their last touchdown drive, Plaxico Burress, of all people, called a timeout when the Giants were driving for the touchdown that would make the game 20-20. Plenty of time at this point. What they didn't want to do on a drive when they finally figured out a way to get the ball into the end zone was leave too much clock for Tony Romo, a quarterback good enough to take Parcells to one more Super Bowl.

 

Think about this: The coach didn't call the timeout. The quarterback, Eli Manning, didn't call the timeout. Plaxico Burress did.

 

"He thought he saw somebody on the sideline signaling for a timeout," Eli Manning said in the interview room.

 

In such a big moment for the Giants, trying to get the game to overtime, the wide receiver who was about to make a swell touchdown catch to tie the game decided he was an assistant coach, in charge of quality control.

 

Burress had already taken his own stupid penalty, one of four personal-foul penalties against Coughlin's Giants. With first place on the line. First Sunday in December. Burress ran about 10 yards after a whistle to put Keith Davis, a Cowboys defensive back, on the ground. For no good reason. He can't even coach himself.

 

"We talked all week ... about keeping our poise, controlling our emotions," Coughlin said in the interview room before Manning got there.

 

The Giants didn't do that. They had all those penalties. They ran Brandon Jacobs wide on a fourth-and-1 near the end of the first half. Another dumb call. They twice had first-and-goal and came away with field goals, at least partly because of inexplicable play calls from John Hufnagel, the outgoing offensive coordinator. Then, after Burress' timeout gave Romo the ball with a minute left in the game, there was one more sloppy breakdown, last of the day, this one from the defense.

 

Romo, sometimes as quick eluding a rush as Michael Vick, scrambled to his left on first-and-10 from his 32. One minute left in the game and all that field in front of him and the last thing you are going to do is give Romo a chance to make a game-breaking, heartbreaking play down the field. Only Romo did just that. He threw one all the way down the field to his tight end, Jason Whitten, who was between Antonio Pierce and Will Demps in a Giants zone. The play went for 42 yards, and now the Cowboys were in field goal range.

 

A few plays later, Martin Gramatica, hired just a few days ago, showed all the leg he used to have from 46 yards and the Cowboys were 8-4 and had first place to themselves. Maybe this is one more team for Parcells - his last - getting hot at the right time. The Cowboys have had some bad losses, even with Romo. They had a terrible loss to the Redskins a few weeks ago. Let's see if they have another one like that the rest of the way, now that Romo has given them this kind of life. Now that he has beaten the Colts and won this kind of game against the Giants on the road.

 

"I've been fooling them a long time," Parcells said, walking toward the bus with his daughter, Jill.

 

He wore a black overcoat and carried his bag and had his arm around his daughter, and he said all the right things about the game, and how it could have gone either way.

 

"My kicker made me look good, though, didn't he?" Parcells said.

 

He was in the area where the buses were outside to his left, the field through the runway to his right. Somebody talked about how he finally seems to have a quarterback in Dallas and Parcells laughed. "He's like Pancho Villa: Sometimes he shoots at the first thing he sees."

 

Parcells hugged his daughter and told her he was only limping because he was tired, stopped across from the Giants locker room now to talk to one more reporter. Cowboys 23, Giants 20.

 

The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC East now. The Giants aren't even the best team in their own stadium.

 

Originally published on December 4, 2006

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Strahan not sorry

 

DE defends his tirade

 

BY RALPH VACCHIANO

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

 

 

Michael Strahan sees nothing wrong with his antics of last week, when he bullied a reporter who asked Giant why he bashed teammate Plaxico Burress.

 

Michael Strahan isn't sorry for all the controversy he created last week, and he has no intention of apologizing to anyone, including ESPN reporter Kelly Naqi.

"Am I going to apologize? No," Strahan said on his weekly, paid appearance on WFAN yesterday morning. "I don't think there's a reason for me to apologize. And if anybody's waiting for me to apologize and they're holding their breath, then I suggest they call a paramedic because it's not going to happen."

 

Addressing the controversy for the first time since his infamous locker-room tirade last Wednesday, the injured defensive end again blamed the media for blowing the incident out of proportion. He said "I stand by what I said" during his "look me in the eye" rant at Naqi, and he sounded particularly bothered that an issue was made out of the fact that the reporter he bullied was a woman.

 

"The male reporters can tell you that they've gotten worse than that," Strahan said. "I don't look at it as a female reporter, or a male reporter. A reporter is a reporter. I don't think anybody wants to be looked at as a male or female, especially in this type of business, such a male-driven business. So it is what it is.

 

"I said what I said. I believe what I said. And it's not the first time I said something like that. This is just the first time everybody decided to write about it because of the situation that this team is in."

 

The controversy began on Strahan's WFAN spot one week earlier, when he discussed how Plaxico Burress appeared to give up on a play in the Giants' 24-21 loss in Tennessee on Nov. 26. While discussing the play he said, "You can't give up and you can't quit, because you're not quitting on yourself, you're quitting on us, you're quitting on everybody."

 

Burress was not happy when that quote was read to him by Naqi four days later. And Strahan flew into a rage when he was told by a Giants PR staffer that she had done so.

 

Yesterday, Strahan insisted there was never an issue between him and the Giants' No.1 receiver.

 

"I never had a problem with Plaxico," Strahan said. "We're smart enough to realize how things go around here, and how (the media) operates."

 

Meanwhile, Strahan said he had "begged" the coaches to let him test his sprained right foot before Sunday's game against Dallas. He warmed up a few hours before the game, but obviously wasn't able to play.

 

"A few things still bothered me to the point where the doctors felt it still needs more time," Strahan said. "It's frustrating because I can walk fine now, I can jog, but the cutting and running is still bothering me.

 

"I'm just hoping to get by this weekend, that's my goal. I'm not putting any time limit on it now or time frame on it now. This thing just takes time to heal."

 

Originally published on December 5, 2006

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Giants brace for wild ride

 

Tom: Playoffs in our control

 

BY RALPH VACCHIANO

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

 

 

Giants follow Tom Coughlin's out-of-control lead on and off field while stadium mates Jets quietly turn things around.

 

 

Eli Manning knows reeling Giants still control their own playoff fate.

 

Exactly one month ago today the Giants were in control of the NFC East, leading the struggling Dallas Cowboys at the midway point of the season. They had survived a brutal, first-half schedule with an impressive 6-2 record.

"We were in the driver's seat," said cornerback R.W. McQuarters. "Right now we're somewhere hanging on the trunk on the back."

 

But they are still hanging on, which is the message Tom Coughlin tried to get across to the stumbling Giants (6-6) yesterday, one day after their heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The division may be lost - the Giants are two games behind Dallas (8-4) with four to play. That leaves them in a scramble for a wild-card playoff berth.

 

"I (pointed that out) today when I first walked into the room, that this race for the playoffs is still very much in our grasp," Coughlin said. "The most important thing for us is we need to be playing our best football right now. Our destiny truly is in our hands. We do have something to say about how this season finishes here."

 

That's amazing considering the way the season has disintegrated. They've lost four straight, and over the past two weeks they've been engulfed in chaos. It's been so bad that there's now a legitimate question about whether Coughlin can hold on to his job.

 

Yet if the season ended today, the Giants would be in the playoffs as one of the two NFC wild-card teams. With a 5-3 conference record and a win over Atlanta on Oct. 15, the Giants even hold some key tiebreakers.

 

Their situation was obviously much better on Nov. 5, but despite their disappointment they all understand things could be worse.

 

"We've put ourselves in this situation," said Eli Manning. "It's not where we want to be, but we did it with the way we played the last month. We feel like we have to win every game right now. That's our goal. We win four games, we're going to be in the playoffs for sure. We win three of four, we'll have a shot."

 

The problem is there has been little evidence over the last month to suggest the Giants are capable of winning three of their last four, especially considering three of those games (at Carolina, vs. Philadelphia, vs. New Orleans) are against current playoff contenders. Coughlin said the Giants did give "a better performance" on Sunday against the Cowboys, but with nothing to show for it their confidence obviously is low.

 

"I see frustration and guys trying to maybe put a square peg in a round hole sometimes," veteran punter Jeff Feagles said. "I've been trying to get across to some of the younger guys that the Steelers were sitting at 7-5 last year and ended up winning the Super Bowl. We've got guys getting healthy. We played a good game (Sunday). I think it's more of trying to get guys back to the attitude and belief that we can go on a run.

 

"The bottom line is we've got a chance. We had a chance three weeks ago when we were in first place. It seemed to me like there were too many people that just didn't understand that."

 

To make sure they understand that this time, Coughlin has admittedly gone soft - or at least softer - on his beaten team. "I've been more encouraging in some of those losses of late," he said, "because I know how down they are."

 

Down, but as Coughlin reminded them, not out. There's still time to save their season and an opportunity to make the playoffs. And in yet another weak year in the NFC, there's still a chance the Giants can do even more than that.

 

"Usually the way it works, it all depends on how you're playing at the end of the season," Manning said. "That's the way it is with us. It all comes down to how we play in December."

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Owners to vote on $300M Giant-Jet stadium loan

 

 

 

 

 

NFL owners will vote Thursday on the Giants' and Jets' request for a $300 million loan from the league, a vote that likely will determine whether their new $1.2 billion stadium in the Meadowlands gets built.

The vote will take place in Frisco, Tex., a Dallas suburb. Three-quarters approval is needed: 24 out of 32 votes. The stadium is considered crucial to the financial future of both franchises, and their ability to compete against teams with new money-making stadiums, because of the extraordinary revenues it will produce compared to Giants Stadium. The teams are asking for double the usual $150 million loan. The G-3 stadium loan program was set up per team, not per stadium.

 

The big-market Giants were at the forefront of television revenue sharing more than 40 years ago because it was for the good of the league. It's expected owners will return the favor all these years later and approve the project. But it's not a given. The additional revenue will drive up the salary cap without all of the revenue shared among the 32 clubs, so this has developed into a big market-small market issue.

 

Asked by the Daily News last week where he stood on the Giants' and Jets' request, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, "We are working with the two clubs, the union and our other 30 clubs on the economic challenges of trying to do that. It is a significant project that has significant economic challenges and we're working with them and trying to find the right solution for all parties."

 

He added, "I do believe stadium construction is important ultimately, but they have to be done correctly."

 

The SportsBusiness Journal reported yesterday that the NFL Players Association has offered to reduce the salary cap by $800 million over the first 15 years of the stadium. It's to the union's benefit for the new stadium to get built because the additional revenue will find its way into the pockets of the players and more than offset the salary cap reduction.

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GIANTS CLING TO THE CARD

BIG BLUE STILL BELIEVES THEY BELONG

By PAUL SCHWARTZ

DON'T LOOK DOWN YET: If the Giants win their four final games, they will qualify for the NFC playoffs as a Wild-Card.

December 5, 2006 -- With a wink and a smile, Giants center Shaun O'Hara tried to convince anyone who would listen that this unsightly slide is part of some grand master plan.

 

"Sure we'd like to be 8-4, sitting on top of the division, looking pretty," he said, "but we did that last year. Didn't work out, so now we're taking a different route."

 

Maybe he's on to something. More likely, he's whistling in the dark. We all know how it turned out for the Giants last season, how their 11-5 record and NFC East title could not prevent a total meltdown in a 23-0 Wild Card playoff loss to the Panthers. Wouldn't you know it that come Sunday, the reeling Giants again meet up with the Panthers, this time in Charlotte, in a game oozing with NFC playoff implications.

 

Yes indeed, that's the nature of a come-one, come-all conference of mediocrity, where a team such as the Giants can lose four straight, drop to 6-6 and nevertheless find itself in advantageous position for a Wild Card berth. That's one of the messages embattled coach Tom Coughlin offered up to his team in the aftermath of a 23-20 loss to the Cowboys that quieted any serious noise about capturing the division title.

 

"I did point out this race for the playoffs is still much in our grasp," Coughlin said. "We need to be playing our best football right now."

 

What the Giants need, what they're getting and what they're capable of remains a jumble of contradictions. They were heartened by an improved product but disgusted by the penalties, red-zone failures and glaring defensive lapses - especially in the final minute - that combined to allow Bill Parcells and the Cowboys to escape the Meadowlands as the hottest team in the conference.

 

A week ago, after collapsing and blowing a 21-0 lead in Nashville, the Giants were in shock, in contrast to yesterday's more realistic tone.

 

"We have to understand what we have to do to get into the playoffs," said Eli Manning, who played his best game in more than a month.

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GRATE MOMENTS

By PAUL SCHWARTZ

December 5, 2006 -- QUARTERBACKS B+ Would have been hailed as a winning comeback performance by Eli Manning (24 of 36, 270 yards, 2 TDs) if the outcome were different. Only blemish was coming up short twice in red zone.

 

RUNNING BACKS B Brandon Jacobs (5-29) had the option of going inside or outside and made the wrong choice on fourth down. Tiki Barber (23-90 rushing, 5-53 receiving) a constant force but needs to find the end zone.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS C No glaring loafing by Plaxico Burress (6-43, 1 TD) but a mindless personal foul penalty for shoving S Keith Davis. Hello, anybody home?

 

TIGHT ENDS B+ Jeremy Shockey (6-65) got things cook ing early with 17-yard TD catch and was a factor throughout. Anyone who says he can't block isn't watching.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE B Plenty of time for Manning to step into his throws and no sacks given up. Some creases created in running game but silly head-butt penalty on LT Bob Whitfield.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE C- Rookie DE Mathias Kiwanuka is going to be really good but this is two weeks in a row with a disastrous play. Excellent INT but then foolishly tried to switch hands with the ball and fumbled.

 

LINEBACKERS C Some tough times in coverage for Anto nio Pierce, who was hit with 26-yard pass interference penalty on first Dallas TD. RB Marion Barber (12-76, 2 TDs) did too much dam age.

 

SECONDARY C+ Will Demps had an INT but blew the cov erage on TE Jason Witten's 42-yard catch to set up winning FG. S Gibril Wilson just missed key 11-yard pass to Patrick Crayton on de cisive drive.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS C- Breakdown in coverage led to Miles Aus tin's 33-yard kickoff return to set up Dallas TD and Austin's 28-yard return in fourth quarter helped spark second TD. Giants return game non-existent.

 

KICKING GAME C- Punting with sore knee, Jeff Feagles did his thing other than 16-yard wobbler in his 300th career game. No problem on two short FGs (23, 22) by Jay Feely.

 

COACHING C No problem here with Tom Coughlin es chewing 41-yard FG in second quarter to go for it. Ripping play-call on fourth down is nitpicking at its worst but it's open season now. Get ting on Coughlin for personal foul penalties is fair game.

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Coaching carousel may not have riders

 

 

Dec 05, 2006 | 2:54PM | report this With Joe Gibbs announcing he will return and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones believing that Bill Parcells may stick around for 2007, this could turn out to be a below-average season for head coaching changes.

 

Yes, Arizona looks like it will fire Denny Green and Pittsburgh believes Bill Cowher may retire. But Tennessee will pick up the $5.4 million option on Jeff Fisher, and probably is leaning toward giving him total control of personnel, too.

 

 

Another guy who appears to be safe is Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. And, if the Giants make the playoffs as a wild card, Coughlin may even get a one- or two-year extension. Coughlin is currently signed through next season.

 

Coughlin is only in jeopardy if the Giants don’t make the playoffs. But it isn’t a certainty that he will be fired if that happens, either. Remember, the Giants aren’t a knee-jerk reaction outfit. Coughlin won the division last season and his team has been wracked by injuries, too.

 

Of course, Coughlin may be asked to make some offensive coaching changes because of Eli Manning’s roller-coaster development.

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Mediocrity means hope in NFC

 

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Associated Press

Posted: 11 hours ago

 

 

 

NEW YORK (AP) - Going .500 gets fans upset, coaches in trouble and players released.

 

Except in this year's NFC, where a break-even mark is looking playoff-worthy. And a winning record makes you a Super Bowl contender.

NFL Week 13

 

When the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Carolina Panthers on Monday night, it created a four-way logjam for the two NFC wild-card berths between those teams, the New York Giants and Atlanta - all at 6-6.

 

So while teams possibly headed for 10 wins in the AFC are wondering if it will be enough to get them into the Super Bowl chase, mediocrity - not parity - in the other conference might well be rewarded with a trip to the postseason.

 

"Well, it's a crazy year, so anything is possible," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "We're just taking it one week at a time; we're not going to worry too much about getting into the playoffs or anything else."

 

History usually hasn't been kind to .500 teams. Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, seven 8-8 clubs reached the postseason, with the 1985 Cleveland Browns actually winning the AFC Central. The other six were wild cards.

 

But recent history has been more positive for such posers, with two 8-8s making it in 1999 (Dallas and Detroit) and two more in 2004 (Minnesota and St. Louis). Indeed, even a 7-9 finish could be good enough in the NFC, which brings St. Louis, San Francisco and Minnesota - all 5-7 and all decidedly average or worse - into the equation.

 

Which raises the question whether the lack of artistry on the field by these teams is offset by the excitement created in cities where next April's draft would, by now, be the main NFL topic.

 

"That's the way the NFC is this year, and because of that every game is like a playoff game," said Philadelphia kicker David Akers, whose 25-yard field goal beat Carolina on Monday night and created the four-way tie at 6-6.

 

"It was a playoff atmosphere out there," Akers said. "Next week is going to be the same thing, because each game is so critical to win going down the stretch. You never can tell and if you don't give up, maybe good things will happen for you."

 

Really good things, such as division championships and byes, definitely will happen to teams with more wins than losses in the NFC. The Bears are 10-2, own the North title and could clinch home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs this weekend.

 

Dallas, New Orleans and Seattle all are 8-4 and, with wins Sunday, could secure at least wild-card spots. Of course, the Cowboys host the Saints, so one of them won't get that prize right away.

 

But as long as they get another victory, they all should be playing in January.

 

Of the 6-6 teams, who has the edge - even if they wind up 8-8?

 

Maybe nobody. All four teams play each other twice. Atlanta finishes by hosting Carolina and visiting Philly. The Panthers are home for the Giants this Sunday. New York follows that by hosting the Eagles, and Philadelphia finishes at home against the Falcons after three straight road games.

 

All are struggling - that's how you get to 6-6, after all - and show few signs of putting together a winning streak this month.

 

Carolina (four) and New York (five) already have had such strings, but the Panthers also have had three two-game losing streaks and the Giants are mired in a four-game skid. At least the Panthers don't have the turmoil on and off the field that has plagued the Giants.

 

Nor does Carolina have the string of injuries plaguing New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

 

"We're still in there, but it makes it harder for us," Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker said of the 6-6 gridlock. "We have to play lights out now. We've been here before and that's what we have to get across to the younger guys and let them know there's a sense of urgency."

 

Not to mention a sense of mediocrity

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Giants take offense

 

Plax latest to huff over Hufnagel

 

By RALPH VACCHIANO

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

 

 

Plaxico Burress hauls in TD but laments offense's red-zone woes.

 

It was more subtle than Tiki Barber's past criticism of the coaches, but Plaxico Burress threw a mild jab in their direction when he was asked about the play-calling in the red zone on Sunday.

And it was nothing the Giants coaches haven't heard many times before.

 

Asked about the Giants' ineffectiveness in the red zone in their 23-20 loss to Dallas (two field goals, one touchdown in three second-half trips), Burress explained the plays they ran were based on what they had seen the Cowboys defense do in that zone on film. The plays didn't work, he said, because the Cowboys "mixed it up a lot. We got a lot of coverages that we really didn't expect to get."

 

Then he delivered the familiar punch line: "They were just kind of a step ahead of us all night."

 

That wasn't exactly an endorsement of offensive coordinator John Hufnagel's ability to adjust his game plan on the fly. And it's a criticism several offensive players have delivered privately, too. Some, such as Burress, Barber and tight end Jeremy Shockey, have made it publicly. In fact, Burress said the same thing after the Giants' loss to Carolina in the playoffs last year ("It seemed like they were two steps ahead of us from the start," he said then).

 

But the 55-year-old Hufnagel, in the third year of his first job as an NFL coordinator - he last served as an offensive coordinator for the CFL's Calgary Stampeders from 1990-96 - isn't without his supporters on the team. The outside world may be waiting for Tom Coughlin to step in and take over the play-calling, but the inside world isn't.

 

"No, we don't need that at all," Eli Manning said. "(Hufnagel) has a good plan. He understands what I like and what I don't. He listens to me. We have a good relationship. And I think he's calling good plays."

 

"I think the problem with our society today in America is everybody wants to know 'Who's to blame?'" added center Shaun O'Hara. "That's hogwash.... We're still moving the ball. What hurt us? Penalties. It's as easy as that. But everybody wants drama."

 

It is worth noting, as several players did, that the Giants are still 11th in the NFL in offense (337.7 yards per game), 15th in passing (205.2), seventh in rushing (132.4) and ninth in scoring (22.4points). Even in the last six games - the meat of their offensive slump - they're averaging 17 points and 264.8yards.

 

And last year, by the way, Hufnagel presided over the NFL's No.4 offense (361.7) and the league's third-highest scoring team (26.4).

 

"That doesn't happen by accident," O'Hara said.

 

Still, there is that ever-present undercurrent of unhappiness with his frequent abandonment of the run, his inability to feature Shockey early in games, and his strange aversion to using the 6-4, 256-pound Brandon Jacobs from inside the 5 against the Cowboys.

 

That's why the follow-up question to Burress' comment was "Do you like Hufnagel's offense?" His first answer was "Wow. You hit me with that one? What are you trying to start?"

 

Given a second chance to answer, Burress said, "The offense is fine to me." He even took Hufnagel off the hook, saying when the offense struggles "you can't say it's him. It's more of us letting him down."

 

As Hufnagel probably knows, there's been a lot of that going around.

 

 

 

WILD TIMES: Was the Philadelphia Eagles' come-from-behind victory over Carolina on Monday night a good thing for the Giants or a bad thing?

 

Like everything else in the muddled NFC wild-card chase, it's hard to tell. If the Giants win in Carolina on Sunday, it was great because they'd then have a huge advantage over the Panthers (one game, plus the tiebreaker). But it could turn out to be awful if the Giants lose on Sunday because, with four teams now at 6-6 (the Giants, Eagles, Falcons and Panthers), a 2-2 record in the last four games might not be enough. The Giants may need to go 3-1 to make the playoffs.

 

Regardless, the Giants-Eagles game on Dec.17 - which was switched to a 4:15start, thanks to the NFL's flexible scheduling - is now shaping up as the game of the year.

 

 

READY FOR REESE: The Tennessee Titans are thinking about trying to hire Giants director of player personnel Jerry Reese as their GM if Floyd Reese is fired or resigns after the season, according to a report on NFL.com. It's not likely to happen, however, because Jerry Reese believed to be the front-runner to replace Ernie Accorsi as the Giants GM.

 

 

The Clipboard

 

Hot Seat: Who isn't on it right now? And they're all sitting on Tom Coughlin's lap.

 

 

X's and O's: Six plays from inside the Dallas 5. No runs by 6-4, 265-pound RB Brandon Jacobs, their goal-line specialist? Yuck.

 

 

Whispers: A lot of players believe that DE Michael Strahan (foot) will be on the field this Sunday in Carolina. Of course, some believed that last week, too.

 

Originally published on December 6, 2006

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Games you will watch

 

Giants at Panthers: The Giants sure did throw a great Blame Party last week. They had kegs of blame, bottles of blame, blame mojitos. They played Pass the Buck and Pin the Tail on the Scapegoat.

 

Then, predictably, they played on Sunday like they had a blame hangover. All of that finger pointing and chest thumping can cause a headache and cotton mouth, and the Giants appeared to be drunk on their own rhetoric as they committed dumb penalties and made mental errors against the Cowboys. "We talked this week about being smart," coach Tom Coughlin said after the loss. "About thinking — thinking — about the circumstances and the situations." Unfortunately, the Giants are now leading the league in talk but rank 32nd in thinking.

 

As their season unravels, all eyes are on Coughlin, who has spent the last two weeks waving his arms and bugging his eyes on the sidelines like a lunatic. But while Coughlin has looked like a wild man on the sidelines, he has tried to reach out to his wayward flock in the locker room. "In the last couple of weeks ... he's started a dialogue with guys," Tiki Barber said of his all-time favorite coach. "He's asking input from the veterans and the leaders. I think it's made a difference, it really has." Coughlin's new, democratic approach has fostered unity. The Giants are ready to go down together.

 

The Giants catch a break this week as they face a Panthers team in a similar situation: they're in the midst of a losing streak; they are making some dumb mistakes, and their once-promising season could go down the tubes if things don't turn around quickly. The Panthers can't run the ball, allowing opponents to assign extra defenders to Steve Smith. Defensively, they are still trying to adjust to the losses of Dan Morgan and Ken Lucas. They won't be able to cover Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress, so Eli Manning will be able to build on the personal success he had against the Cowboys defense last week.

 

Take the Giants this week, but don't think that they're "back." Without Strahan and with the locker room in turmoil, they're just another .500-caliber NFC team.

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