The Giants felt they let one slip away Sunday.
Atop the list of missed opportunities was that for the first time all season Big Blue stymied an opponent’s main offensive threat. Niners running back Frank Gore came into the contest riding a franchise-record five consecutive games with at least 100 yards, but ended Sunday’s contest with zero yards on just six carries. Gore bowed out early in the second half with a knee injury, but even when healthy he was ineffective.
“I felt good at the fact his presence didn’t hurt us,” head coach Tom Coughlin said of Gore. “During the course of the day, holding them to 77 yards instead of the 138 they were averaging was great. We did get hurt in the run game after the second turnover but by and large we did a good job with that.”
New York’s defense was stellar against the run, but overall they played as uneven a game as they’ve had all season — most notably in the red-zone (or what Coughlin calls the green zone). Too many times, according to Coughlin, Big Blue was forced to kick field goals instead of tallying touchdowns. The Giants (6-3) didn’t score their first touchdown until the third quarter and were hampered by missed opportunities.
“We did lose the turnover battle and that hurt us. Plus, being 1-of-4 in the green zone,” Coughlin said. “We talked about not getting just field goals because that would be an issue … ultimately we waited too late to do what we wanted.”
For the first time in over a month, quarterback Eli Manning couldn’t find that fourth-quarter magic. Manning wasn’t spectacular, but was more than effective enough to keep the Giants within striking distance. He led two touchdown drives of 80 or more yards and had the Giants in position to go for the tie in the waning seconds before his fourth-down pass was batted down at the line if scrimmage.
Regardless of the ending, Coughlin said his quarterback came into Monday’s meetings focused and ready to get back to work.
“Absolutely, he comes in the same way every day [win or lose],” said Coughlin. “I call it a balance of analysis. He’s straight forward and wants the answers and he’s not afraid to be wrong on a certain play, [because] all he wants to be is improving on every play. He’s always the same … I never worry about Eli.”
Coughlin also insisted that he doesn’t worry about the rest of the daunting second-half schedule and is not even thinking about past collapses.
“I don’t know why this keeps coming up. You’ve got to take each year one at a time and each week one at a time. We didn’t play well and it had nothing to do with [thinking about] the second half [collapses],” said Coughlin. “We play the Philadelphia Eagles this week, so I don’t get involved with the ‘what-ifs.’ You waste a bunch of time worrying about that stuff … you can’t change the schedule, so you can only worry about what’s in front of you.”
What’s in front of the Giants next is the hated Eagles. The Eagles have their own problems, specifically the alleged “Dream Team” having a nightmarish season. Now word is that quarterback Mike Vick broke two ribs and his status is questionable Sunday.
Coughlin said he hasn’t started the gameplan yet, but added his team will be ready to bounce back in a big way.
“We have a good group of fighters. We didn’t play well, but we kept fighting, kept battling. As long as you have that you can correct the little things and get them straightened out,” Coughlin said. “But they’re playing hard [regardless]. This is a good group of guys who enjoy playing with each other and I have no doubt they’ll be ready.”
Big Blue notes
» Coughlin said he’ll know more about the availability of the walking wounded later this week. Amongst the banged-up players are cornerback Aaron Ross (quad), linebacker Michael Boley (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), who didn’t even make the trip to San Francisco. Coughlin hopes that Boley, who is listed as “day-to-day,” returns quickly because of the responsibilities the veteran has: “It’s not just one individual, as everyone is important. [But] Michael is important because he’s our Mike [middle linebacker] and our communicator. We want to get him back as soon as possible.”
Coughlin on Bradshaw’s availability: “We’ll see. There’s no sense speculating, but he’ll have to go out and practice. He’s had a good couple of weeks of rest but we won’t know until he gets out there.”
» Coughlin also didn’t want to speculate on the Eagles’ quarterback situation, adding that preparation will earnestly happen on Wednesday: “I haven’t even begun to gain or gather any information about Philadelphia. But I’ll say they’re a talented football team and we’ll prepare as hard as we can for them this week. We’ll deal with that situation soon, but I have not begun that yet … but in this case you have two gifted quarterbacks [Vick and Vince Young] who can do the same things. We’ll plan accordingly.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.