The way the defense ran out of gas at sea level Sunday, it makes you think about what could lie in store Thursday night in the mile-high altitude of Denver.
Now, look, it's not like the Giants are going to be playing at the summit of Everest. But there is a difference between playing in Denver, altitude 5,280 feet, and the Meadowlands. The air is a bit thinner. And heaven forbid, if the game is close at all in the fourth quarter and the Broncos start up with a no-huddle offense, it makes you wonder whether this struggling defense will have the stamina to keep up.
Tom Coughlin was confident today that his team could stand up to the environmental factors, and said the medical staff will take measures to make sure of it.
"There is always the thought of that and there have been a few incidents of players that have had difficult times with that from previous conditions," Coughlin said. "I have asked (VP of Medical Services) Ronnie Barnes to work up a procedure for us to relate to the players. Hydration, lots of rest, no alcohol, that type of thing.
"We will have stuff on the sideline. Oxygen on the sideline. I have personally been involved in coaching teams that have played there in the past and we never had a real issue."
Eli Manning didn't expect a major issue. He raised the tempo against Atlanta, and will probably try to maintain the quick-paced game against a Broncos defense that San Diego whacked for 32 points.
"I don’t think you can be concerned with it," Manning said. "You just have to go out there and see if there is a difference. And I don’t think you can be thinking about it while you are playing. You just have to go out there and just go play. There is not a whole lot that you can take in to factor once you are out there on the field."
By the looks it, the Giants' defense could have used a whiff of good old O2 or ammonia in the fourth quarter as the pass rush fizzled and the coverage waned. The altitude of Denver would appear just an additional worry.
The Giants lost their last two meetings out there, 31-20 in 2001 and 27-13 in 1992. But that was more a function of teams that ultimately finished 7-9 and 6-10. And most of those losses came around sea level. So Coughlin is probably more preoccupied with the types of defenses Bill Sheridan is calling than anything atmospherically.
Whatever Sheridan ordered in the fourth quarter, it didn't work.
"Some how, some way, there were enough opportunities to make plays to stop the drive or at least create a long fourth down situation," Coughlin said of the final stretch of regulation, where the Falcons scored two touchdowns in the last six minutes to send the game into overtime. "We weren’t able to do that. There are obvious concerns there.
"We have played back to back teams that get the ball out really quick. They do a good job of that. I think in some situations it’s a matter of our guys were in the right place; they just didn’t make the play on the ball. Those things are being discussed and shored up. Hopefully we can do a better job of that."
Coughlin hinted that the overall scheme could be a problem, too. But the players also have to take it upon themselves to, as Coughlin often says, play above the Xs and Os."
"Well, there is still a lot to be done," Coughlin said. "I don’t know if you separate that out. Scheme, yes, but within the scheme you would hope there is a comfort level where the player is in position to be able to make some plays from his alignment spot."
If that doesn't happen, it won't matter if the 6-4 Giants play at the bottom of a mine or on the moon. They'll remain a team in trouble.