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Offensive surge can't make up for defensive struggles



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** Eli Manning today took a philosophical approach to losing a game in which he threw six touchdown passes and the Giants scored 49 points, their highest total ever in a defeat.

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"That's just football," Manning said on a conference call, a day after the Giants lost to the Saints in New Orleans, 52-49. "Somedays the offense, everything is clicking; somedays, the defense is clicking. It's a team and we've got to help each other out. We knew we were going against a good offense in the Saints, they're going to be high-powered at home, they're going to score some points. That's just the way it's going to be. We knew we were going to have to be productive offensively. As good as we were, we could have been better, we left some plays out there on the field and some possessions where we had three-and-outs, and could have been even more productive, even as well as we did play."

Manning was outdueled by Drew Brees, who threw for seven touchdown passes. New Orleans escaped with the victory when a late 24-yard punt return and 15-yard facemask penalty set up Kai Forbath's game-winning 50-yard field goal as time expired.

While the offense had one of its most productive games of the season, the defense was unable to stop the Saints all afternoon. New Orleans gained 608 yards, including 505 through the air, and scored those 52 points, which made today's review of the game tape a painful experience for the defensive players.

"It hurts," safety Brandon Meriweather said. "If you ask anybody else and they tell you it didn't, then that means that their heart wasn't in it. Anytime you go out and you have a good game plan and they throw for seven touchdowns, that has to hurt."

But blaming the defense for the defeat was not part of the Giants' postmortem.

"It's very important for everyone to understand we win and we lose as a team," coach Tom Coughlin said. "There is none of this pointing the finger, there's none of that. I don't believe in that. … Our objective last week was to raise the level of our execution on all fronts, in all three phases, knowing full well that when you get to this time of the year, you better be playing your best football as you go through these more difficult games versus divisional, non-divisional, conference, non-conference opponents. You have to be playing your best football or approaching that. So that was our goal.

"We did not accomplish that, obviously. We had some difficulty on the defensive side of the ball, no doubt, and some errors did occur. But we played hard, and their passing game was very sharp. They had the ball right on the money, right where they needed to. They did rush ball when they needed to, as well. But I can tell you that we continued to battle."

In the NFL's updated statistical rankings, the Giants are last in the league in yards allowed (428.3 a game), passing yards allowed (316.1) and sacks (nine). But Coughlin believes that unit will improve in the season's second half.

"You go back to fundamentals, you go back to some basics that obviously we struggled with a little bit," he said. "A couple times we didn't line up properly or quickly enough. Our communication sometimes was not as good as it should've been. I thought our guys basically did a nice job in a domed stadium, especially one of that nature, where the noise level is such, but I thought we handled that very well.

"I just think there were a couple empty sets that they threw at us, (and) we were late to the line. I think that happened a couple times in the game, and those are the things that bother me the most. Get yourself lined up, get your eyes where they belong, play the technique you're supposed to play, be ready to be a reactionary football player on the snap of the ball, definitely know what your assignment is, whether it be zone or whether it be man, and try to be at the right spot at the right time. So those are the things when issues arise, you've got to deal with them. So we will make sure those things get ironed out."

The 4-4 Giants have alternated wins and losses the last four weeks. In some games, the offense plays better than the defense. In other games, it's the defense that steps up. One of the Giants' primary goals in the season's second half is to be consistently good.

"We're going to play in some close games and we've just got to find ways to get better," Manning said. "Just have great preparation for the next team we're playing (the Buccaneers Sunday in Tampa), and just find ways to win. However way it comes up, you never know in this game which way it's going to be. If it's going to be a high score and a low score or what plays or what series is going to make the difference. You're giving yourself an opportunity to win, and so we've just got to take advantage of those situations."

"I think we have a lot of veteran players that understand football," Meriweather said. "And at the end of the day, we are going to pull it together. I wholeheartedly believe that. I'm not worried about taking one step forward and one step back."

The good news for the Giants is they remain the NFC East's first-place team. And with eight games still to play, the players are confident they will improve their performance.

"We're still in a good spot in the division," Manning said. "We've got a good bit of football left to play. All we can worry about is getting ready for Tampa this week, and go down there and trying to play our best football."

That would be a good start.

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