Upon Further Review: Playoff chances

Posted Dec 24, 2012

The Giants' playoff chances have taken a big hit following the loss in Baltimore

Eli Manning today managed to think of a scenario to make the Giants feel worse than they already do.

“I guarantee you the worst feeling will be if all those teams lose, and we lose,” Manning said on a conference call today.

He was referring, of course, to the Giants’ longshot playoff hopes. In order for them to claim the NFC’s sixth seed, the Giants, now 8-7, must defeat the 4-11 Philadelphia Eagles in MetLife Stadium and Minnesota must lose at home to Green Bay, Chicago must fall in Detroit, and Dallas must be defeated or tied in the prime time game at Washington.

“The scenario is possible,” Manning said. “It’s not like a bunch of huge upsets have to happen.”

So staying alive is one incentive the Giants have entering the Eagles game. Perhaps a stronger motivation is their desire to play better football. After an impressive 52-27 victory over New Orleans two weeks ago, the Giants have lost back-to-back games by a combined 67-14 (34-0 last week in Atlanta and 33-14 yesterday in Baltimore).

Coach Tom Coughlin is far more concerned with ending the season with a well-played victory than wondering what the Vikings’ chances are of beating Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

“My reaction is really nothing other than I was focused on our game and I still am,” Coughlin said. “Whatever the scenarios represent, that’s fine. That should give us continued motivation, in terms of what can happen, and stranger things have happened, obviously. I would like to be playing better football than we’re playing right now and it’s going to take that in order to win our last game of the year and even give ourselves that opportunity. I have our focus completely geared on our business and we’ll work as hard as we can to rejuvenate our team, try to put ourselves in position where we can win a game and be 9-7.”

That’s no easy task, because the Giants have played poorly pretty much across the board. They gained a total of 442 yards in the two losses; the Ravens gained 533 by themselves yesterday. The Giants combined for 21 first downs and held the ball for about 21 minutes in each game, their lowest figures in back-to-back games since they lost at Washington and – ironically – at Baltimore on Dec. 5 and 12, 2004, Coughlin’s first season as head coach.

Defensively, they allowed the Falcons and Ravens to convert 69 and 61 percent of their third-down opportunities, respectively. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, those are the highest percentages given up by the Giants in consecutive games since the 1970 merger.

They have faced halftime deficits of 17 points in consecutive games for the first time since the final two games of the 2009 season, when they were routed by Carolina and Minnesota.

No one seems to have an answer as to why the Giants are suddenly playing poorly. Coughlin noted after the game yesterday that the team lacks confidence.

“I have to agree with him on that,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “The pedigree of this group is very, very good and for us to be getting beat the way we’ve been getting beat these last two weeks, obviously there’s something lacking. Is it physical talent? You can’t say it’s physical talent because we have the ability, but obviously it has to be something and so the only thing I think you can point to is confidence. It just doesn’t seem like we’re playing with a lot of confidence and it’s showing out there on the football field.”

“We’re not making it easy on ourselves,” Manning said. “It’s just tough sometimes. Things aren’t the same. Not quite as open, not quite as easy, everything is a little tougher. I don’t think there is an exact reason. We’ve got some guys banged up, obviously, who are showing great toughness. You love the competiveness, the hanging in there and being there for the team. It can be tough when you’ve got four or five guys who don’t practice much during the week, if at all, and then show up on game day. Again, you love the toughness, you love the competiveness, you love the team attitude and doing whatever it takes. It’s hard to continue to play at a high level sometimes.”

Coughlin emphasized again today that the players are working hard, during the week and in games.

“I will say this: we tried, there was effort, there was no quit,” Coughlin said. “You could see that by end of the game, we had a goal-line stand and we also had a touchdown late. I thought our special teams represented us the way we wanted to be represented. I thought those guys hustled and worked hard.”

The problem, apparently, is easy to spot but difficult to fix.

“I do know for a fact that we just aren’t making any plays,” Coughlin said. “We went from a team that under normal circumstances made six or eight or even more big plays per game to a team that has maybe one or two. Last night, we didn’t turn the ball over, but we didn’t get any takeaways either. The plays which we try to identify the night before the game, as the plays which spark or ignite, we just haven’t had any. The opponents had them. Like I tried to explain, some of the plays that they made last night were those types of plays, the plays that spark a football team. Balls put in difficult spots for the receivers to catch, and even for the defense to get a piece of. They made catches of that nature last night. They made runs of that nature, they were running a lead draw late in the game that goes for 78 yards. That’s our inability to stop a basic football play. Those things, there are a lot of people playing. Everybody that’s playing, certainly our linebackers have been on the field for a great amount of time last night. You know what? Unfortunately, we didn’t get as much done as we thought we should. We’re not making any plays.”

They will have one more chance to make them on Sunday and salvage what has devolved into a disappointing season.

“I think we’ll be focused and we’ll be ready to play,” Manning said. “It’s the last game. We’re football players, it’s the last game of the regular season. This is our job. It doesn’t matter if you’re 0-15 or you’re 15-0, you prepare and you play. You try to play at the highest level that you can. I’ve got great confidence, from just talking to the offensive guys, we’re going to get after it. We’re going to compete, we’re going to prepare this week and we’re going to plan to go out there and play our best. Whether it’s our last game and if everything falls the way we want it to. Even if it is the last game, let’s end it on a high note. Let’s end it playing better football and at least you have something to be proud of.”

*The Eagles announced today that rookie Nicks Foles, who has been their starting quarterback, broke a bone in his hand yesterday. Coach Andy Reid said he is leaning toward starting Michael Vick.

“It changes the nature of how you have to prepare,” said Coughlin, whose team faced Vick in the Eagles’ 19-17 victory in Philadelphia on September 30. “Obviously, for the two quarterbacks, there’s a different scenario for how you prepare. If that’s the case, then we will focus on Michael Vick.”

*Defensive tackle Chris Canty sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee yesterday.

“We’ll see how it responds,” Coughlin said.

*Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 39 yards after missing a game with a sprained knee.

“Hopefully, there’s no setback,” Coughlin said.

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