Say what you want about the New York Giants, but when it comes to their belief in themselves, they’re about as stubborn as a team can be.
They have to be, as following their heartbreaking 24-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, any chance that the Giants might have had at becoming the first team to overcome an 0-6 start to make the playoffs has significantly dwindled.
What keeps the Giants’ hope alive is that they’re still mathematically alive for a playoff berth, even though they’re presently 12th in the NFC seeding.
The reality of the situation, however, is that the Giants probably weren’t that good to begin with, and that they're probably chasing down fool's gold.
While general manager Jerry Reese always says, “You never want to say ‘never,’” there comes a time when one has to simply have to accept reality.
That reality for the Giants is that they had their chances to make some noise in the NFC East long before Sunday's game vs. Dallas.
At the moment, they're sitting in third place in the division with a 4-7 record, just ahead of Washington (3-8), a team that they'll face twice in these final five weeks, the first game coming this weekend on Sunday Night Football.
“We are what we are,” head coach Tom Coughlin said on Monday during his day-after press conference. “We’ve created this situation for ourselves.”
|New York Giants' Remaining Schedule|
|Date||Opponent||Opponent's Current Record|
|Dec. 1||at Washington||3-8|
|Dec. 8||at San Diego||5-6|
|Dec. 22||at Detroit||6-5|
Indeed they have, as they have taken a smidgen of all the poor qualities—injuries, play-calling, execution, poor cap management, questionable personnel transactions, etc.—shown by the league's perennial bad teams to create a perfect storm resulting in mediocrity.
Despite all that's gone against them, Coughlin and the players have insisted that their season is not over, despite their devastating loss to Dallas.
"It’s not going to be over until the five games are over," Coughlin said, somewhat defiantly. "The one thing that all of you would like to try to figure into this is (we) don’t have anything to play for. We’ve got a lot to play for."
The irony of this “us against the world” mentality that the team seems to have adapted is that after nearly four months, this Giants team has failed to figure out how to come together when it counts the most, which is on game day.
If they can solve that problem, then maybe they can achieve a level of respectability that has eluded them this year.
|Current NFC East Standings|
San Francisco 27, Washington 6
Anquan Boldin caught two touchdown passes, and kicker Phil Dawson had two field goals as San Francisco dismantled Washington 27-6 on Monday Night Football.
His team's points came in the second quarter, as two Washington red-zone drives stalled, forcing them to settle for field goals.
On Sunday night, the Giants will visit Washington.
|Giants Current Injury Status (as of Monday, Nov. 25, 2013)|
|Player||Injury||Most Recent Status|
|CB Corey Webster||Groin/Ankle||Inactive, Week 12|
|RB Brandon Jacobs||Knee||Active, Week 12|
|CB Terrell Thomas||Knee||Active, Week 12|
|DE Jason Pierre-Paul||Shoulder||Active, Week 12; re-injured|
|WR Hakeem Nicks||Abdomen||Inactive, Week 12|
|FB John Conner||Hip||Active, Week 12|
|CB Trumaine McBride||Hip||Active, Week 12; Re-injured|
|C Jim Cordle||Knee||Injured in game|
|New York Giants|
Along with the four-game winning streak coming to an end, New York’s mini string of avoiding any significant injuries that could cause players to miss playing time also came came to a halt.
Center Jim Cordle told reporters on Monday that he suffered “a slight tear” of his patella tendon in his left knee.
While Cordle, who said that none of the major ligaments were damaged, doesn’t need surgery right away, he did indicate that at some point after the season he might need to have the knee medically repaired.
Until then, he is planning to get treatment and hopes to be able to play again this season.
In the meantime, Kevin Boothe is expected to remain at center if Cordle can’t go, and James Brewer will remain at left guard.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who went into the game with a sore shoulder, was spotted by Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger emerging from the stadium’s X-ray room following a scan of his ailing right shoulder.
Coughlin admitted on Monday that Pierre-Paul’s shoulder, which the defensive end has been trying to play through for a few weeks, was an issue.
“I think there’s no doubt it’s a factor, no doubt,” Coughlin said.
With the way things have been going with receiver Hakeem Nicks this season, there's no telling what unexpected twist Week 13 will bring.
Last week, when asked if he thought his latest ailment would keep him off the field, he said, “No, it’s Dallas, man.”
Nicks ended up being scratched from the game despite being limited in practice on Thursday and Friday following the revelation of an abdominal issue that he said had been bothering him "on and off" this season.
Coughlin said that Nicks, who at one point was concerned that he might have a sport hernia, didn’t fight the team’s decision to hold him out last Sunday.
That’s a curious turn of events given how adamant Nicks was about playing on the preceding Thursday.
“I really don’t have any other information to give you,” said Coughlin about Nicks' status moving forward. “He’s being treated and hopefully we’ll be able to see where he’s at come Wednesday.”
In some on-going injury news, running back Brandon Jacobs’ managed practice schedule seems to be doing his knee just fine these days. Jacobs finished the game with nine carries for 75 yards, including a long of 37 yards.
After cornerback Corey Webster practiced two days in a row, albeit on a limited basis, he expressed hope that he'd make his first game appearance since Oct. 27 at Philadelphia. However, the Giants declared Webster out of the game against Dallas on Friday.
With Trumaine McBride having re-aggravated the groin injury that limited him in practice last week, Webster could very well be active this coming weekend against Washington.
What Must Improve
Performance in the Red Zone
When a reporter asked Coughlin during his Monday press conference about the issues the team has had scoring from the red zone, the Giants head coach corrected him.
“The green zone,” he said.
Coughlin can call the area inside of the opponent’s 20-yard line whatever he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that, this season, the Giants have struggled with scoring touchdowns inside the opponent's 20-yard lines.
Against Dallas, New York converted one of three red-zone attempts, settling for two field goals. What was especially maddening is that on both field goals, the Giants drive fizzled on the Cowboys’ 5- and 3-yard lines, respectively.
The problems have varied each week, but the biggest issue against the Cowboys seemed to be the play selection.
Witness the Giants’ throw-your-remote decision to, with 3rd-and-goal on the Cowboys' 10-yard line in the second quarter, have running back Andre Brown run a draw that picked up just five yards.
“That was another one of those alert kind of deals where you have something called and you also have a run built in,” Coughlin said when asked about that play. “We ended up going to the run.
“If that’s the way that goes, that’s our fault," he continued. "The thinking is to get the ball into the end zone.”
If the thinking is to get the ball into the end zone, it might behoove the Giants coaches to stop trying to be too cute with the play calls, especially down by the goal line.
The closer a team is to the end zone, the less ground a defense has to cover. Thus, if a running play takes too long to develop, as was the case with a draw, chances are very high that the defense is going to be able to make the read and make the stop.
I’ll have more on the Giants play-calling from this game later in the week, but suffice it to say, some of the decisions made by the offensive brain trust left a lot to be desired.
Cut Down on Penalties
In Week 1, it was the turnovers. Last week, it was the penalties—12 of them to be precise, 11 of which were accepted—that helped doom the Giants against the Cowboys.
The worst part, though, is that three of the penalties were the result of extra aggressiveness.
Per the data at NFL Game Statistical and Information System (login required), the Giants have had eight unnecessary roughness penalties called against them this season, their second-most popular penalty behind their 12 offensive holding calls.
The Giants also have three "roughing the passer" penalties this season, two by Mathias Kiwanuka, who against Dallas was flagged for his second RTP call this season.
The worst thing about Kiwanuka's penalty, which came on 3rd-and-6, was that it negated a turnover that the Giants had recovered. Instead, the Cowboys finished the drive by scoring a touchdown to make it 21-6 at the time.
Another aggression penalty was charged to safety Antrel Rolle, who bodyslammed Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray out of bounds on the same scoring drive as Kiwanuka’s "roughing the passer" penalty.
In all, those two infractions gave the Cowboys 21 cheap yards and contributed to a scoring drive that theoretically should have ended when safety Will Hill recovered Dallas' fumble on the Giants’ 27-yard line.
“I just feel like you’re not going to win a tight football game when you have that kind of actual disregard for the rules,” said Coughlin.
Improve Team Discipline
Considering that Coughlin is a detail-oriented coach, it was surprising to hear him admit that he was unaware of the trash-talking coming from his locker room last week.
That was followed by safety Antrel Rolle backing up Pierre-Paul’s statement during his weekly radio spot on WFAN, saying (h/t Tom Rock, Newsday), "If JPP says there will be blood, then there will be blood."
Finally, there was the guaranteed win issued by cornerback Terrell Thomas during a spot with SiriusXM Radio on Friday in which he said (h/t Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com), “No doubt, we’re going to win this game,” and that "You can tell them, put it on a bulletin board—it doesn't matter because we have to win this game."
Coughlin, who is now fully aware of how some of his defensive leaders stirred the pot and who also is no doubt aware of how the Cowboys mocked the Giants for running their mouths, plans to address the issue with the entire team on Wednesday.
“I don’t believe in that stuff. Talk is cheap; play the game,” he said. “I don’t see anything that gets accomplished by the verbalization part of it."