Sunday, November 29, 2009

There's Still Hope

When the Giants reconvene today to start preparations for Dallas, they shouldn't do so with a loser's attitude. Despite what happened in Denver -- and there's no downplaying the enormity of how that loss was accomplished -- reality states that they're still 6-5 and well in range of at least a wildcard spot.

Now, they lose to Dallas, it's a different story. They get blown out by the Cowboys in another Denver-like effort, it's an entirely new book, this one with a sad, sad ending. But for now, the Giants should head into the preparation week with full focus after, hopefully, three days of soul-searching. They'll need to dig down deep to get this thing turned around, but it can be done.

"Well we have a five game schedule," Tom Coughlin said. "One game at a time with these outstanding divisional games coming up and then two other extremely good opponents in addition. We always take them one game at a time. We have to see how we come back now and rally back from a loss which none of us are proud of.

"Certainly we will utilize every aspect of motivation that we can to get our guys back on track and realize you are one game away from turning some of this around. But it is going to take a real consciousness effort to change the nature of the way we played the other day and turn it into the kind of physical team we aspire to be."

The one thing the Giants can hang onto is the nature of the NFC. Aside from New Orleans and Minnesota, nobody's running away with anything. Not even the NFC East. Dallas rose to 8-3, two games ahead of the third-place Giants Thursday, but does anybody truly believe they're incapable of falling on their faces down the stretch? Philadelphia, in second place and next on the Giants' three-game divisional stretch here, lost to Oakland a few weeks ago. OAKLAND! And Washington is Washington.

After that, it's Carolina, who should be nearing the end of the John Fox era, and then the Vikings, who might offer the Giants one quarter of Brett Favre after having wrapped up the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

See how it can all work out? A lot of stuff is going to be happening around the division in the next five weeks, much that can benefit the Giants. Of course, none of it counts unless Coughlin's group shapes up.

Here are a couple of suggestions to that end.

Eli Manning: Get back to the short passing game using liberal doses of Kevin Boss. And for heaven's sake, stop changing the darned play. Get the snap off quickly so as to keep the defense off balance. Live with the play Kevin Gilbride calls once in a while, and keep in mind that there are no perfect play calls.

Brandon Jacobs: This is more directed at Gilbride. Enough with the stretch plays. Get Jacobs going forward from the start. Send him toward a hole and let him hit it and battle for the yards, and let him inflict the punishment a battering ram-type running back should. A steady dose of Jacobs, running downhill, would probably provide a much-needed boost for an offensive line that appears trapped in an emotional quagmire. Give them a chance to do what they do best -- physical run blocking -- and you'll eventually see results.

Osi Umenyiora: A little less yelling, a little more playing. He didn't make a single tackle against Denver, and he's averaged about two plays per game for the longest time. Somebody tell him it's okay to make three, four, five plays. No time to be humble here. The lights are on. Hog the spotlight.

Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard: Anybody home? This rotation was supposed to be the rock of the defense, impenetrable and fearsome. Instead, no push on the pass rush, and opponents run up the middle at will. With the full realization that Robbins and Cofield are coming off serious knee surgeries and Canty is probably still suffering from that calf injury, the fact is they're still out there playing. Time to suck it up, let it all hang out. If they re-injure themselves seriously enough for a trip to the IR, at least they'll have gone down fighting.

C.C. Brown, Aaron Rouse, Michael Johnson, Aaron Ross: That's the back line of the defensive middle. If this was baseball, the hitters would be slamming every pitch off the centerfield fence because there's nobody there to catch anything. Everybody wants to blame Bill Sheridan for the faulty gameplan and communication problems. But there is such a thing as playing above the Xs and Os, as Coughlin likes to say. Nobody's doing that. It wouldn't hurt to play a little instinctually. Unless, and this might just be the case, they have no instincts. If that's the case, then they at least need to get the gameplanned assignments down. And I'm sure a little more studying would help, too.

Notice how there isn't one mention of gimmickry or trickery here. It's basics, fundamentals. Execution. If that doesn't work, then the season is truly lost.

But it's not yet. A lot of teams would sign for 6-5 right now, no matter how they got there.

The Giants just have to realize that.



  1. Ernie, good points as usual. It's an especially depressing Sunday, especially with the Ickles ready to possibly crap out against the 'Skins.

    Five things I hope change, because the status quo won't do.

    5. More Clint Sintim. I just have a feeling...

    4. Less Barry Cofield. Can't wait for Jay Alford's return next year. Chris Canty will do for now.

    3. Give Ramses Barden the one play we got him for -- red zone, high pass in the corner -- and give him a chance.

    2. I still haven't seen an explanation of why TE Michael Matthews isn't on this team. Strong run blocking off the edge. Sure, he has Hedgecock Hands, but all we got from him were results in the run game: as a rookie in '07 and again last year. Has anyone seen Darcy Johnson or Travis Beckum?

    1. When things are really bad, TC has to be willing to change momentum with a trick play, i.e. a fake punt or FG. (Was he napping during the Gary Reasons fake punt in SF, 1990?) If Jim Zorn can do it, so can TC. Let's face it: the percentages rise because no opponent has ever, ever seen TC do this.

  2. At the end of the day, everyone says that if you protect the quarterback, you win games. This Giants team has been built on preventing teams from doing that. They never had great linebackers or a great secondary overall (although Webster is very good). They pressured the quarterback and forced offenses into mistakes.

    With a strong defense, the Giants could run a balanced attack offensively and run the ball no matter what. If they got stopped a few times, the defense would keep them in the games.

    I have no idea why one of the best pass rushing defenses in the game turned in to a bunch of powder puffs in a year. The Giants are middle of the pack in terms of sacks and yards allowed per rush. They are slightly better than middle of the pack vs the pass.

    The Giants have 3 guys who are legitimate 10 sack a year threats in Tuck, Osi and Kiwi plus Robbins and Boley who are decent at getting after the QB. Did other teams figure them out? Did they change something scheme-wise? Did they get old? Are they all hurt? I'd love to see a serious analysis of all of this by someone who understands all of this better than I do.

    For me, that's where it all begins and ends. Eli and the offense can put up enough points for this team to win 11-12 games and make the playoffs. The Giants are not a playoff team if they get into shootouts week in and week out.

  3. Similar to what was said above, I think the majority of the problems come down to poor line play, on both sides of the ball, and poor playing calling, making the situation worse.

    If the season continues like it has, the Giants have to shake some things up in the off season, or next season will be even worse. I really think Gilbride especially needs to find a new home. He is wasting the talent on offense that Reese has put together. Surely Reese must see this, right? Or am i way off base?