Is it quitting time again for reeling Giants?

N.Y. comes to Baltimore Sunday on 5-game skid, drawing comparison to '03

December 09, 2004|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Soon after New York's 31-7 loss to the Washington Redskins Sunday, words like "embarrassing" and "inept" floated out of the Giants' locker room. Minutes later, two of the team's top stars questioned the team's offensive play-calling.

The Giants have seen this closing act before. Only a year ago, New York lost its last eight games to finish 4-12, and also finish off Jim Fassel as head coach. The Giants (5-7) have currently lost five consecutive games, and opened similar questions that were asked at this time last season.

Has this team quit on first-year coach Tom Coughlin like it did on Fassel, and will the Giants lose nine straight to surpass last year's losing streak?

"I'm confident our team will look at the circumstances we're in and give a great effort, come out swinging," said Coughlin. "Everyone needs to improve at this time of year, everyone needs to be a team that is ascending, and that's what we're tying to do with this football team.

"We are in the process of doing that," said Coughlin, when asked about changing the environment of the Giants. "There are certainly bumps in the road, and winning helps accomplish that. We haven't won in a while, so obviously fighting our way through some things, confidence is a factor. There is no doubt about that. Everyone wants to succeed, it's just a little bit more difficult for us right now. No one said it was going to be easy, so the process is ongoing."

But no one said it had to be like this either. The Giants have not scored more than 14 points in any of their past four games. They can't run, or stop the run, which is a losing combination in the NFL. They have a promising young quarterback in Eli Manning, who has struggled in three straight losses as the starter.

Coughlin, a disciplinarian, is one of the best in the league, but his strict regimen is also known for burning out players late in the season. He prefers his players to arrive five minutes before meetings. While in Jacksonville, he reportedly banned his assistant coaches from wearing sunglasses during training camp practices.

He has rules to govern his original set of rules.

"We've worked too hard to quit. I don't think we have any quitters in here," said Giants cornerback Will Peterson.

Manning said: "We're playing hard, no one is quitting. We're still competing every day, trying to get better at practice. We need to get a win, get our confidence back up, get back to playing good football."

As expected, Manning, a rookie, has struggled. Since replacing veteran Kurt Warner after a 5-4 start, Manning has completed only 38 of 92 passes for 489 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Opposing teams are stacking the line of scrimmage with the intent on stopping running back Tiki Barber, and forcing the Giants to beat them with Manning's arm.

After last week's loss to Washington in which the Giants had only 145 yards of offense, Barber and tight end Jeremy Shockey suggested that offensive coordinator John Hufnagel needed to be more creative in his play-calling, that defenses had started to anticipate their tendencies.

Manning, however, took part of the blame. This certainly isn't close to the offense Coughlin ran in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars used a lot of formations and movement. Manning has seen just about every kind of blitz.

"I think he is doing fine, calling good plays," said Manning. "We've got to execute what he is calling. We've got to start making plays when they're there. There are plays open. It's a matter of me seeing things, guys getting on the same page and being accurate with the ball. I'm feeling better every week, getting more comfortable with offense, game plan, and making better reads. I have to start making plays and then they [teammates] will start gaining confidence in me."

Coughlin certainly isn't second-guessing himself about starting Manning even if it might cost a playoff spot.

"The first year, there are no shortcuts, you have to pay a price," said Coughlin of Manning. "The going is difficult, but the experience is priceless and will pay great dividends."

Defensively, the Giants have been hit by injuries. The unit has lost five players to injury since a Nov. 7 loss to the Chicago Bears, three of them starting linemen, including All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan. The Redskins, who have the 30th-ranked offense in the league, had 379 yards of total offense against New York.

The Giants are No. 26 in the league against the rush, allowing an average of nearly 135 yards. If Ravens running back Jamal Lewis plays Sunday, New York can expect a nice dose of Lewis.

"We've got to play a whole lot better than last week," said Coughlin. "Defensively, we didn't do a good job up front against the run. Offensively, we had trouble establishing the run. Right now, my main concern is how we play, not anyone else."

Next for Ravens

Matchup: New York Giants (5-7) vs. Ravens (7-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 10

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