Giants' antics during losing streak disgraceful
They had everything lined up exactly the way they needed. The division was there for the taking. Following the Giants victory over the Dallas Cowboys on October 23rd, they seemed to be in good position to claim their second consecutive crown. Dallas benched starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe in favor of the young and inexperienced Tony Romo, the Washington Redskins were a non-factor, and the Philadelphia Eagles were barely hanging in with Donovan McNabb, who they ultimately lost for the season due to injury.
Although the Giants had their own injury problems, this is part of life in the NFL. You have to figure on losing some players and prepare for that with good depth. But not only did the Giants lose a bunch of players on their defense, they started doing what is worse than struggling with having important players sidelined. They began making headlines in a negative way with their mouths. Coupled with losing games, that is a death sentence in this town.
It started with star running back Tiki Barber announcing that he intends to retire at the conclusion of the season. That is his decision, and he is allowed to make up his own mind. But what occurred afterwards seemed to take on a life of its own. Barber was ripped by some people in the media, mainly ESPN's Michael Irvin, the former Dallas wide receiver who knows a thing or two about being a distraction.
Barber felt compelled to state his case and respond. What resulted from this was probably more of a distraction than his announcement in the first place. The focus was on Barber and not the team, and coincidentally, the unraveling began shortly thereafter. Barber also made some public comments that he was not getting enough carries, and there was some back and forth banter between him and head coach Tom Coughlin about how this was resolved between the two of them.
The first sign of trouble was in the squeaked out win at home versus Houston. Defensive end Michael Strahan injured his foot and is still sidelined. But the Big Blue Wrecking Crew needed a fourth quarter comeback to get by the lowly Texans.
In their next game, the Giants hosted the Chicago Bears in the national spotlight on NBC. Two plays made this game turn out completely different. The Giants were surprisingly leading in the second quarter when the Bears faced a third and 22. A simple hand-off to Thomas Jones should have resulted in an upcoming punt. But Jones broke through the Giants line and was able to gain a first down. Chicago ultimately scored on the drive and the momentum swung their way heading into halftime.
Later in the game, The Giants attempted to kick a 52-yard field goal. What should have been no surprise to the Giants special teams is the possibility of Chicago attempting to return a short attempt, which they have already done this season. Needless to say, Devin Hester fielded the ball in the end zone and was able to return it all the way for a 108-yard touchdown. Even though there was plenty of time remaining on the clock, this game was over for all intents and purposes.
The Giants then went to Jacksonville for a Monday Night Football installment and had a bad game, going down 26-10. Another road game the following week in Tennessee seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered. Playing a weaker opponent starting a rookie quarterback, there was no excuse to lose this game. Especially when you figure in that the G-Men were leading 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
The wheels began coming off as the Titans chipped away, and there was plenty to be angry about. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress appeared to give up on a route that resulted in an interception by Pacman Jones. To make matters worse, he made a feeble attempt to bring Jones down, who brought the ball back a few more yards than he should have. Later on, a fourth-down play looked even worse than that, but at least there is an explanation. Titans' QB Vince Young was back to pass and Giants' rookie DE Mathias Kiawanuka had him wrapped up. Instead of bringing him down for the sack and the game being all but over, Kiawanuka let go of Young, who scrambled for the first down, which extended the drive. Tennessee ultimately scored the game-tying touchdown, and in post-game comments, the Kiawanuka stated that he thought that Young threw the ball away and didn't want to get penalized for 'roughing the passer.' The way the referees have been flag-happy when it comes to the quarterbacks being hit, it's hard to completely fault the young pass-rusher.
On the ensuing drive, Giants quarterback Eli Manning made a bad decision on a pass to the right sideline, which Jones made a great play on for his second pick on the day. Perfectly scripted, the Titans kicked the winning 49-yard field goal before time expired. After the game, Coughlin stood at the podium and made it clear that Manning should never have thrown the pass on the Giants' final drive that was intercepted.
Critics began questioning the coach's methods of going against his own statements that dirty laundry should not be aired publicly; citing the entire Barber/not enough carries controversy. Well, Barber had multiple chances to put the Tennessee game in the bag by running the ball and moving the chains. He was not able to that and the Giants had to punt the ball away. And there is also the difference of Coughlin being the coach. The man in charge should have different rules as the players when it comes to making statements. It is part of his job to correct mistakes and get his team fired up, and the individual players should not be questioning their coaches' decisions in the press.
If you thought the circus was packing up and leaving town, it only snowballed during the week. Defensive end Michael Strahan questioned Burress' reaction to the first interception on WFAN radio. When Burress was asked what he thought of Strahan's statement, he said that he did not know about it. Later, Strahan said that he previously had spoken to Burress and explained everything to him. A contradiction lies somewhere here, and Strahan chose to question the ESPN reporter about the whole issue and accusing her of inflaming it. What did I miss here? Strahan says Burress appeared to quit on the play (rightfully so, because that is exactly what he did), and then gets angry at a reporter who asks Burress a legitimate question about it.
Even though the Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, at least they played as a team and fell short on a Martin Grammatica field goal with one second remaining. They fell to 6-6 and their losing streak is now at four. They are still in playoff contention and can right the ship if they can start concentrating on football and not what is being said amongst themselves.