The Giants can use all of next week to avoid panic. This week will be spent defending questionable play calls that led to their fourth straight loss on Sunday to San Diego.
Leading 17-14, the Giants had a first-and-goal from the San Diego 4-yard line with 3:14 left. A holding call on first down, a screen pass for no gain and two Brandon Jacobs runs up the gut forced them to settle for a field goal.
With the game still in reach, Philip Rivers marched 80 yards down the field on the ensuing possession and lobbed the game-winning touchdown pass with 21 ticks remaining.
“[The Chargers] played a man-under two-deep call,” Tom Coughlin said of the controversial drive. “When you talk about a ball going into the end zone, I don’t know if we get in. It’d be a situation where a pass would have to go underneath and we’d need a run after the catch. No question scoring a touchdown would’ve made a huge difference, though.”
It was viewed as a coach playing not to lose, rather than to win.
“We called the screen and it didn’t go where we’d like to,” said Eli Manning, whose easy-to-read screen to Hakeem Nicks netted zero yards on first-and-14. “If it worked we probably would’ve been more aggressive. We would’ve had it down to the 4- or 5-yard line and could’ve used a run-pass option because Brandon was running well.”
Now it’s the Giants who are nearly running on empty. That 5-0 start is a distant memory, as the Giants trail division leader Dallas by two games in the loss column.
“We’re not in the exact position we want to be, at 5-4, but we’re not in an awful position,” Manning said. “We still have a lot of divisional games left.”
Three to be exact. The journey back to the playoffs starts with 6-3 Atlanta in Week 10.
“For the whole good of the team I think it’s best to get away a little bit,” said Osi Umenyiora. “I’ll stick around some this week, though, and watch some film and get a jump on the Falcons.”
Antonio Pierce had a better solution to ending this current drudgery.
“Just win a game. We got to win a game,” he said. “Then confidence starts to come back some…this team is still very capable of winning a championship.”
-Although Brandon Jacobs averaged six yards per carry, some thought his 11 carries weren’t enough. “I would hope it’d be 15 [carries] or more with six yards per carry but we’ll utilize our backs the best we can,” said Coughlin.
-The number one priority for the G-Men this week is that troublesome red zone. “That’s going to be the number one thing we’ll go over for the defense and number one thing we’ll go over with the offense, in the green zone,” Coughlin said.
-Throughout the league there seems to be a trend of elite pass rushers dropping into unfamiliar zone coverages. Some aren’t fans of this tactic. But don’t count Umenyiora as a dissenter of this philosophy…yet. “Not really [frustrating],” Umenyiora said of defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan’s scheme. “Whatever Bill asks us to do we’ll do. Obviously we’d prefer to rush but sometimes we’re asked to cover when we do overload blitzes. But a Carolina coach once told me at the Pro Bowl, ‘Anytime we see a premier pass rusher in coverage, that’s doing the offense a favor.’”
-Umenyiora, though, still has faith, even if Big Blue Nation is beginning to waver. “Not at all,” he said when asked if there’s any lack of confidence within the locker room. “We still think we’re one of the best teams in the NFL. We just have to go out there and prove it.”
-Pierce agreed but said the loss will stick with him all week. “Can’t be happy about anything because we lost the game,” he said tersely, when asked if he was at least pleased with the defense – save for the final drive.