Tom Coughlin has long said that it is easier to correct mistakes after a victory than following a loss. Well, the Giants got their win last night, 28-16 over the St. Louis Rams in MetLife Stadium. And as Coughlin acknowledged on a conference call today, the 1-1 Giants have several shortcomings to address before they face the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday in Lincoln Financial Field.
"We have a lot of work to do," Coughlin said. "We are, without a doubt, a work in progress."
Coughlin cited inconsistency on offense, particularly rushing the ball (the Giants averaged 3.1 yards a carry), allowing a 29-yard punt return by rookie Greg Salas and coming up short on a fourth-and-one with 2:08 remaining. "If we make the first down there, we just kneel down, St. Louis being out of timeouts," Coughlin said.
But what will perhaps most get the coaches' attention is the Giants' pass defense. Second-year quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 331 yards and completed 10 passes of 17 or more yards.
"We gave up some big play passes, which in the National Football League, you can say what you want, I guess that's going to occur on occasion," Coughlin said. "It's occurred a little bit too much for us in the first two games of the season."
Actually, it's an issue that's been in play since last season. Bradford's performance marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Giants allowed the opposing quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards (joining Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Washington's Rex Grossman twice). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in their history the Giants have given up an individual 300-yard passing performance in four consecutive games.
In the second half last night, Aaron Ross, who has started at right cornerback since Terrell Thomas tore his ACL in a preseason game on Aug. 22, was replaced by Michael Coe. Soon afterward, Coe was the closest defender when Donario Alexander scored the Rams' only touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Bradford.
Coughlin was asked if he is "alarmed" at Ross' play.
"I just think that you have to learn and you have to get better as a result of it and you have to go forward," Coughlin said. "There are many mistakes out there on the field that we have to correct and we will do that in a positive way because we won, but nevertheless, they all need to be addressed and we will do that. Not just on the defensive side of the ball but the offensive side of the ball as well."
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Giants have the NFL's third-ranked run defense (66.5 yards a game) but 24th-ranked pass defense (283.0). In those two games, they have surrendered 11 passes that were at least 22 yards long, including four that were more than 30 yards. Last night they gave up a 68-yarder when they failed to tackle Alexander after he went to the ground while catching the ball.
The Giants have had a decent pass rush, sacking Grossman and Bradford a total of six times in the two games.
So what, exactly, is happening in the pass defense?
"I think there were a couple things," Coughlin "One was perhaps being in good position but not playing the ball in the air and another time we were not in very good position. We were in a trail position more than in a good, competitive, stride-for-stride position. I think there are a couple of things without a doubt, from a technical standpoint, we can work on and we can improve and the players will see it on tape. I think they will try to make the best adjustment as they can to accommodate that.
"You are talking about a big, tall receiver who got off the line of scrimmage a little bit too quickly on three occasions and was able to go up above us and get the ball. There were a couple of occasions where we played it very well. Aaron made a couple nice plays on the sideline on one that was a fade stop ball that was a behind the shoulder ball that he defended very well. There are some technical things that can be improved on when in fact the players do get a chance to look at a limited amount of snaps from this game yesterday."
Of course, the only number that really matters is the final score and the Giants came out on top largely because the defense allowed only one touchdown in four Rams trips into the red zone.
"We held them to one touchdown and three field goals so overall they might have gotten more passing yards than we would have liked but we were still effective in stopping them from scoring touchdowns," safety Antrel Role said. "And at the end of the day that's the only thing that really matters. We have to work more on finishing plays. But as far as the overall defensive standpoint, I think we held on pretty strong."
Offensively, Coughlin looks for continued improvement on third down. They were five-for-15 on conversion attempts against the Rams after finishing one-for-10 in Washington. But they came up short on their first six tries last night before turning it around.
"We have been concerned the whole time in preseason as well as the first two games," Coughlin said. "The fact is that we got a little bit better last night so I think the arrow is up. We had some protection errors. We had some situations where we thought we had the right thing called and as it turned out, we had people in pretty good position for the throw and the catch but we weren't able to get it off. The combination of not converting and having some protection errors and just not making, at the right moment, the proper throw or catch or whatever the reason may be, that percentage is not where we want it to be. We are constantly aware of that and working on it."
As Coughlin pointed out, the Giants have much to work on before they take the field in Philadelphia.
*Coughlin was unable to provide detailed updates on wide receivers Mario Manningham (concussion) and Domenik Hixon (knee).
"As far as I know, all of the tests, all of the protocol for a concussion, are being conducted (on Manningham) today," Coughlin said. "He was much clearer when he left the stadium last night. He was much more bright-eyed this morning when he was in, but nevertheless, he's going through the entire battery of tests that are part of the protocol for someone who leaves the game with any type of head injury. We'll wait and see what the doctors have to say today when he finishes his exam.
"(Hixon is) going to have all of the tests done in regard to his knee as well. I don't have any information at this point in time, but he too is going to be completely checked out."
*Defensive end Osi Umenyiora hasn't played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 19, but Coughlin is hopeful the two-time Pro Bowler will make his 2011 debut in Philadelphia.
"We certainly hope to see that Osi will be ready to go," Coughlin said. "We hope to have him on the practice field. Tomorrow is not going to be a full speed practice. It will probably be Thursday before that takes place, but hopefully Thursday Osi will be ready to practice. If there is not a setback, then I would expect that."
*The Giants don't know if they will face Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday. Vick suffered a concussion in the Eagles' loss in Atlanta on Sunday night.
"I expect Michael Vick to play and if he can play, I am sure he will," Coughlin said.
Vick is very difficult to prepare for and play against, but the Giants defenders relish the challenge of facing him. Justin Tuck was asked if he would like to see Vick on Sunday.
"Yeah, why not?" Tuck said. "I mean, that guy is a tremendous athlete. Obviously - as he goes and that offense goes - you always want to beat teams at their best. Me, personally, I would love for him to play. I think he brings out the best in us, too. Maybe we go down there and he's not in there and we think we got this thing won. If he's playing, we know we have to be on our toes. We all know that Philadelphia is a great football team. We're going to have a great game regardless of if Vick plays or not."
If Vick can't play, Vince Young (inactive the first two weeks) or Mike Kafka will start.
"Our coaches will do a good job getting us prepared for both scenarios," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Vick is a one-of-a kind quarterback. It's prepare for a regular football team or prepare for Vick. As long as you have preparation for Vick, you can go back to playing what you could consider a regular quarterback."