NFL

Giants take 4-game losing streak into bye week

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)

If you're wondering what's gone wrong with the New York Giants, look at the final three-plus minutes of their 21-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers. The offense failed to ice the game after getting a first-and-goal at the Chargers 4 and the defense then gave up an 80-yard game-winning drive as New York lost its fourth straight game. So is it time to put a fork in the Giants (5-4) with seven games remaining after their bye week? Not yet. Sure, the path to the playoffs is going to be hard with five of the remaining seven games coming against teams at least two games over .500, including three with division leaders and one against the Philadelphia Eagles, who crushed the Giants a couple of weeks ago. What's important to remember is that Tom Coughlin's teams usually play their best when everybody has written them off. Have doubts? Remember 2007. The Giants got on a roll late in the season and never stopped. Last year after Plaxico Burress shot himself in the thigh in a Manhattan night club, the Giants came up big against Carolina late in the season to clinch home-field advantage for their fourth straight trip to the playoffs. This team is just as talented. "That is the mentality we always have in this locker room and that is why it is still an optimistic room," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "Even though we took some tough hits, we know the guy standing next to us is going to put us in position to win. We know nobody is going to fold and that is an inspiring thing." The problem is the Giants didn't get the job done on Sunday in a game they did everything but win. New York held the ball for almost 38 minutes, limited the Chargers to 226 total yards - with 80 of those coming on the final drive - and won the turnover battle. The final 3:14 killed them. Instead of going into the bye week with a 6-3 record and being in good position, the Giants fell apart after Terrell Thomas' 33-yard interception return put New York in position to lock up the game. Guard Chris Snee, Coughlin's son-in-law, got called for a holding penalty on first down with a take down of Luis Castillo, nullifying Brandon Jacobs' run to the 1-yard line. Pushed back to the 14, the Giants got conservative. A flanker screen to Hakeem Nicks netted nothing and Jacobs ran for 5 yards on each of the next two plays, setting up a meaningless field goal by Lawrence Tynes. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride admits in hindsight different play calls might have been advisable, but going for the end zone would have been risky the way the Chargers were lined up. Still, all the Giants needed was a stop by the defense on a day that San Diego did not put together one long drive, that is until it mattered. The pass rush that had Philip Rivers moving all day never got to him on the game-winning eight-play drive despite four blitzes. The Chargers covered the final 39 yards in two plays, and both featured major mistakes by the defense. Weakside linebacker Michael Boley faked a blitz from the right side and then turned to his outside while dropping into pass coverage. That allowed Darren Sproles to get inside of him and Rivers found the halfback in the seam for a 21-yard gain. The game-winning 18-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson came on a play in which safety Michael Johnson didn't give Corey Webster help over the top and Jackson caught the deciding TD with 21 seconds to go. Defensive end Justin Tuck said the Giants aren't feeling sorry for themselves, knowing they tossed the San Diego game away and also coughed up one to Arizona two weeks before that with four turnovers. They are going to work harder. "I don't expect to lose too many more this year," Tuck said. The one area that Coughlin plans to focus on in the bye is his so-called green and red zones. Green for the offense, red for the defense. The Giants offense is 28th in the NFL in scoring touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line. They scored 15 touchdowns on 36 attempts, or 41.7 percent. The only team that has had more green-zone chances is the undefeated New Orleans Saints with 41. The defense's red-zone numbers are pitiful. New York has allowed 22 touchdowns in 29 opponent possessions inside the 20-yard line, or almost 76 percent, which is last in the NFL. "It's just of a matter of making plays and for whatever reason we have not had success," Tuck said. "I don't know. We haven't changed much what we do in the red zone and we had a lot of success last year. We just got to keep chiseling away at it and hopefully we'll start getting some breaks." The bye should help the defense. Tuck has been bothered by a sore left shoulder for weeks. Boley (knee) and defensive tackle Chris Canty (calf) both returned to action last week and cornerback Aaron Ross, a starter who has not played all season because of an injury to his left hamstring, returned to practice this week. Offensively, Jacobs is getting back into form pounding the ball and receiver Steve Smith leads the league with 61 receptions. The week off should help halfback Ahmad Bradshaw, who has been bothered by foot and ankle injuries all season. "I know we have the ability to respond and get back to playing great football," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have character guys, guys who understand and are committed to doing whatever it takes to get back to winning. I don't have a doubt that we're capable of turning it around and making a run. We have always been a team of runs. We've gotten hot before, and cold. We just have to know this is the time to get hot again."
Tagged: Giants

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