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Special teams struggle against returns


When Tom Coughlin presents his list of areas for improvement to the team on Wednesday, there will be "a bunch of them." He assured as much during Monday's press conference before the players' scheduled day off.

And somewhere below "stop the run" and "run the ball" there will be the word "cover." It will probably be circled, highlighted, and capitalized, based off the performance against Pittsburgh and the head coach's tone when asked about it.
In Sunday's 24-20 loss, the Giants allowed three returns of more than 50 yards.

"People out of position, people blocked, not making the tackle, not positioning ourselves to trap the return man, whether it be punt return or kickoff return," Coughlin said, assessing the shortcomings. "A lot of poor play with regard to that."
The longest was a 68-yard return by rookie Chris Rainey on the opening kickoff of the second half, while Emmanuel Sanders had a 63-yard punt return of his own. Sanders was filling in for Antonio Brown, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury.

"After Brown left the game, he came in and he looked like Brown has been looking, to be honest with you," Coughlin said. "He did a nice job. Don't take anything away from them. But we didn't tackle, we didn't cover. We had a bunch of guys hanging around the 25-yard line rather than penetrating, making the play on the ball, figuring someone else is going to make the tackle. No. You have to make the tackle."

The defense, however, limited the damage both times. After Rainey's return, the Giants forced a three-and-out, capped by a Justin Tuck sack. And on Sanders' long play, punter Steve Weatherford saved a touchdown by tackling him at the 12-yard line before Michael Coe sniffed out Pittsburgh's fake field goal attempt four plays later.

"For them to come away with no points should have been enough for us to win," said Coughlin whose team hasn't allowed a kick return for a touchdown since 2007 or a punt since 2010. "We didn't and we feel very badly about that, but it's time to move on."


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