After its 17-10 loss Sunday night to the Eagles, New York Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin called his team's rushing performance "pathetic." He was being far too kind. In a pick-as-many-superlatives as you want type of loss, Big Blue played by far its worst game of the season against a reeling rival it should have vanquished.
Entering the game, 3-6 Philly had been by far the NFL's most disappointing team this season. Virtually on life support, it came into the Meadowlands with quarterback Vince Young, whose only pass attempt all year was an interception. Jeremy Maclin -- its most consistent receiver to date -- was inactive and, Riley Cooper -- yet to catch a single pass all season -- was starting. After a come-from-behind Dallas win earlier in the day, the Giants absolutely needed to hold their precious one-game lead in the NFC East.
But then came 29 team rushing yards, including a disgusting 1.8 average from Brandon Jacobs, who has become softer than whipped cream. Then came the Giants' inexcusably kicking to DeSean Jackson yet again to allow a demoralizing 51-yard punt return. Then came Jake Ballard with his two dropped passes that still have heads scratching, and of course, then came Philly's near nine-minute, 18-play touchdown drive to put the game out of reach with oh yeah, Vince Young at the helm.
For a team that just two weeks ago sat atop the division with a 6-2 record, coming off a miraculous last second road victory in Foxborough against the Patriots, Sunday night's loss was perhaps more confusing than disappointing. The Giants managed to pick off Young three times, yet somehow gave up 391 yards -- 391 yards! -- to an Eagles offense that failed to put up 300 yards against 3-6 Arizona last week. While the league's second-leading rusher LeSean McCoy totaled 113 yards on 23 carries, he was actually deemed ineffective for the entire night save for his 60-yard explosion at the end of the game. Yet even still, as hard and fast as the Eagles played, the Giants played soft and scared.
Deon Grant continues to be a human piñata at safety. A sound run stopper, he is equally unsound in the passing game; too slow to cover anybody in space, constantly coming late both over the top and underneath. Cornerback Corey Webster continues to miss a litany of tackles -- see DeSean Jackson -- while giving up the big play -- see DeSean Jackson -- seemingly every game. The addition of rookie corner Prince Amukamara -- back from injury -- will undoubtedly help, but isn't likely to offset the inadequacies of a pass defense that ranks a measly 18th in yards against.
On the other side of the ball, this is an offense that is as boring and unimaginative as it can be lethal. While Eli Manning makes plenty of clutch throws late in games, he is too often flushed out of the pocket because his offensive line -- once thought to be a strength of this offense -- simply cannot protect. Right guard Chris Snee (while admirably playing through flu-like symptoms Sunday), has struggled all year long against speed rushers and Will Beatty has not been able to protect Manning's blind side consistently enough to allow even the most basic of three-step drops.
More importantly though, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has been a complete disaster for two consecutive weeks now. His over-commitment to the run has been puzzling, and general refusal for any type of gadget play downright odd. The Giants have an emerging star in Victor Cruz who destroys people on the edge, so why not run an occasional reverse or basic end-around to possibly ignite a moribund rushing attack? In the NFL, there is nothing worse than a predictable offensive play-caller that refuses to put his weapons in space. And of course, there is Mr. Coughlin himself, who still has a job despite coaching a team that plays undisciplined, uninspired football that makes the same mindless mistakes every week and lacks any sort of killer mentality. It's hard to put a loss on the head coach, but Coughlin -- dumbfounded look and all -- is making it much easier than it should be.
As bad as things looked Sunday, fans may point to the fact that this remains a 6-4 Giants team in first place, one that is expected to get Ahmad Bradshaw back in the lineup next week. However, for a team as chronically ossifying as New York has been in the second half in years past, consider that they will now travel to New Orleans, followed by a home game against undefeated Green Bay and another Sunday night showdown in Dallas. Meanwhile, the Cowboys, winners of three straight and also 6-4, now face Miami and Arizona, while the suddenly confident Eagles sit just two games back with very winnable games against Seattle and the Dolphins in two of the next three weeks.
As it stands, this is still a Giants' club that controls its own destiny, but then again, cannot afford anything but a first place finish in the division. The uber-deep NFC will unlikely permit a 9-7 football team into the playoffs, and, if history is any sort of a barometer, that is precisely where this typically torporific team appears to be heading.
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