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Upon Further Review: Goals for stretch run


Coach Ben McAdoo recaps Sunday's loss after viewing the Game Tape:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – With four games remaining in the season, the Giants' offense isn't what it once was, or what it was expected to be. But Ben McAdoo believes time and opportunity exist for that to change.

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The offense sputtered again yesterday, when the Giants lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field, 24-14. The score is a bit misleading, because the Giants scored their final touchdown with 26 seconds remaining. The defeat ended the Giants' six-game winning streak, though at 8-4 they remain firmly in the NFC playoff race.

But can they successfully cross the finish line with an offense that is ranked 26th in total yards, 31st in rushing yards, and with a team that is tied for 23rd in scoring?

"Right now, we believe we have the players and the scheme to make a run at this thing," McAdoo said on a conference call. "We know we need to get back to work, we need to get some pads on this week and if that's the smart thing and the right thing to do based on the injury report and player health, we'll do that. We need to play good football on Sunday."

That would be when the 11-1 Dallas Cowboys visit MetLife Stadium for a prime time game. Dallas has a three-game lead in the NFC East race with four games to play. Their only loss was to the Giants, 20-19, way back on Sept. 11.

But the Giants almost certainly need a more productive offense for their challenging four-game stretch run, that includes a home game with 8-4 Detroit and visits to division rivals Philadelphia and Washington.

The loss in Pittsburgh was the fifth time this season the Giants scored fewer than 20 points. The Giants are one of five teams that have yet to score 30 points in a game this year. Through 12 games, they are averaging 327.4 total yards and 77.5 rushing yards. At the end of the 2015 season, those figures were 372.3 and 100.6 season, which ranked eighth and 19th, respectively. The Giants are averaging 20.4 points a game. Their per-game average last year of 26.3 points was sixth in the league.

Why didn't the Giants simply pick up at the high level with which they ended last year?

"Like I said going into the season, you can't switch and expect to be the same type of outfit in the past," McAdoo said. "Each year is a new year and you have to earn it and up to this point, me included, we haven't earned it. We have to find a way to be more consistent moving the ball, eliminate the setbacks and the unforced errors and take advantage of our opportunities."

The current numbers suggest the Giants won't attain their goals without substantial improvement. But they have the confidence they will get better at this late stage.

"We're good enough to compete," quarterback Eli Manning said in his postgame news conference yesterday. "It was just a matter of a couple of plays difference or a couple of inches' difference today. Not getting possible touchdowns and coming away with no points. They say it's a game of inches and it's true there. We have to improve and get better at some things. We have to get better on third down, but we're good enough to compete. Defense is playing well. Offense, we're going to make our plays and hit some big plays. We just have to take advantage of when we get down in the red zone and score points."

The Giants twice traveled inside the Pittsburgh 10-yard line yesterday without scoring a point. They did score touchdowns on their other two trips into the red zone, including the late score.

One perplexing aspect of the offense is the difficulty getting the passing attack on track. Yesterday, Victor Cruz was not targeted once, and publicly revealed his frustration following the game. In a victory last week in Cleveland, Sterling Shepard didn't have a pass thrown his way. In those two games, Odell Beckham, Jr. was targeted 27 times, including 16 yesterday.

McAdoo was asked today about being committed to getting all three receivers involved.

View photos from the sidelines as the Giants take on the Steelers at Heinz Field

"That's a good question," he said. "I'm sure you're referring to Victor's (Cruz) comments. When you have been as inconsistent as we have on offense, it's a challenge. Victor, like everybody else, including myself, wants to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So my door is always open for any of these guys that want to come in and have a conversation.

"Victor played, I believe, 26 snaps and Roger Lewis played 23 and we had one reception between the two of them."

McAdoo was asked about possible frustration among the offensive players.

"I think there's a heightened sense of awareness that we need to get better and we need to improve, and we need to keep working at it," he said. "When we see the film, we see there are opportunities there. Again, the unforced errors and the setbacks when you're playing inconsistent football on the offensive side, they're hard to overcome. That's where we are right now."

They can't stay there and hope to be where they want to be when the season ends.

*McAdoo said Jason Pierre-Paul, who left the game in the first half with a groin injury, "is still in the process of being evaluated and we will know more sometime tomorrow afternoon." Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (quad) is sore, and wide receiver/return specialist Dwayne Harris has an ankle injury.

*Asked if running back Shane Vereen might be activated off injured reserve to play against the Cowboys, McAdoo said, "we will take Shane back as soon as we can get him back, but that is more of a medical question. If it was up to me, we would have him out there rolling already."

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